The Feast of St Francis
I am a day late on this. October 4th is the real day, and I was reminded of the occasion when reading LutheranChik's blog. St. Francis has always figured rather vividly in my life. He was my Mom's favorite saint, so, using her life maxim that "if one is good, six are better", our home was fairly littered with statues and representations of the good Saint. In the kitchen alone there was a plaque with the St. Francis prayer, a hand carved wooden bust of the Saint that I had purchased for her in Oberammegau, Germany, and a Goebel ceramic version of the Saint seated, with birds at his lap. That was just the kitchen. As I have been going through my Mom's stuff, I have been unable to imagine either selling all her St. Francises or taking them all into my own house, so I have made an adventure about finding homes for them among people who knew her in life. (I must say I did take a small 4" high intricate wood carved statuette, the piece from Oberammegau and the plaque for myself.) It is surprising to me in the best of all possible ways that every gifted statue has been met with such joy from people, as they really are evocative of her. (Did I mention that her name was also Frances?)
When I start thinking about St Francis, I am overwhelmed with images from the Zeffirelli film, Brother Sun Sister Moon (there is actually no comma in the title), with the soundtrack by Donovan (the Scottish singer of hippie-reknown) which was made in the mid 1970's. It is a wonderfully romantic view of Italy and of Francis. We all know the story -- Francis, son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, returns from the Crusades as a changed man, no longer satisfied with the pleasures in the excess of his old life, longing for more spiritual solace. He begins to see the world as it really is, complete with human suffering caused by his father's business. In one amazing scene, he wanders through the towers in which the fabrics get dyed - passing through rooms of red people, blue people, purple people -- all disfigured by dye -- and as he passes through them, he too takes on their colors.
Francis "gets it". He allows himself to really see the world around him, to really feel the pain and the promise among people the world has ignored, and to step out of the role of warrior. The film has him literally strip naked before his father, casting off all the trappings of wealth and priviledge as he leaves town. I suppose by current definitions we could say that St. Francis had a meltdown, a breakdown. We might say that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the horrors of war. And we might be right. Francis had come to experience the reality of
of the dark side of his own and all of our souls. And he chose the light instead.
Because of that, he could teach us what few can -- the power of gentleness, of kindness, of peace.
Francis reduced his life to the bare essentials, and found joy and hope and ministry. Others followed. The rest is history.
Even the creatures of the earth responded to such a transformation. Even they knew they could trust him now.
I am so thankful that there was a St Francis, and that he reminds me that in simplifying my life, I leave more room for God. It is a lesson that I keep needing to hear.