Saturday, October 4, 2008

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

It is well known that St. Francis had a special relationship with all creatures. One of the most famous stories affiliated with Francis and the creatures was that of the infamous wolf of Gubbio.

The wolf had been terrorizing the town of Gubbio to the point that no one wanted to go outside of the city walls. It was killing livestock and people. Francis did not go out of the city walls with intent to take down the wolf with violence. When it charged him and his companion, he made the sign of the cross and beckoned the wolf to come to him, assuring the creature that he meant him no harm. He commanded him to stop his violent ways and took the wolf back to the town where a pact was made between him and the people. He would not harm them and they would feed him which they did for two years until he died of old age.

Some would say this is a legend while others believe it to be a true story. I think there is something of greater importance here to learn from the story. It's not about animals, but in how we deal with other people.

Through the example of St. Francis we can see that no matter how bad another person is, authentic Christian LOVE can conquer all for that is what Francis did - he loved the wolf into submission.

LOVE for others, especially for those who persecute us, is a fruit of love for God. When we truly love Him, we cannot but love our neighbor, even with all of his faults. However, this does not mean that we should tip-toe around truth.

Loving others in spite of their faults not only applies to Catholic politicians who distort Catholic teaching to advance their political aims, but to fellow parishioners, co-workers, and family members who annoy us. The example of St. Francis, and ultimately Christ, was that we must accept the cross of persecution out of love for God, especially to advance truth. It is in this love that we will win more souls for Christ.

Our bishops have shown us that persecution can be fought, which is what St. Francis did when he confronted the wolf on his own turf. A great example today of fighting with love is that of Bishop Jamie Soto in Sacramento, who recently accepted the request to be keynote speaker at the National Association for Diocesan Gay and Lesbian Ministries. The bishop did not exercise false charity by sidestepping truth with regards to the issue of sex in and out of the context of marriage. He stood up and taught the truth, but with great love. This love is seen in his speech, and further, in his wish to remain afterwards to talk personally with those to whom he delivered the address, even if they did not comprehend how it could be love. We must pray for them.

Other bishops have also been speaking up - a fruit that Fr. Z rightly believes is stemming from Pope Benedict's visit to the US. See his article: What Benedict sowed in April, Bishops are reaping today.

Another recent example is that of Bishop Martino of Sacramento, PA who has ordered that his pastoral letter be read at all Masses this weekend for Respect Life Sunday. Out of love and truth, the Bishop speaks forcefully about Catholic teaching on voting and on Catholic politicians.

Yes. The bishops are learning how to deal with the "wolf of Gubbio" in their own backyards. Let's pray for them that they continue to exercise courageous love to strip the Church from all that has ailed her.

If you really want to get to the heart of Franciscan thinking, go with original writings. One book I had was an english version of these writings compiled in one book. It has been reprinted into a two-volume paperback edition and can be found cheapest at Christ the King bookstore online. I had this book in the 80's and left it behind in Europe. I thought it was lost forever until I found that link. Knowing today how translations have been watered down, I can't attest as to whether this book was subject to good or poor translation. I do know that I learned a great deal from it and have ordered it so that I may once again reference the many great writings found in it.


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!