The feast of St. Francis of Assisi has reduced itself, in many quarters, to the blessing of animals. A pity, that. There's nothing wrong with having one's animals blessed. But how many go beyond that to learn about the Gospel from this great saint?
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Assisi today (you can watch rebroadcasts several times today on EWTN, so check your local listings.) Finally, you can often find video-on-demand at the Vatican's website. Go to this page and choose your language in the upper, right-hand corner of the player.
The Holy Father only briefly mentioned animals in his homily, and it was in the context of all God's creation, with man being his central focus. I have not seen the full schedule to know if Pope Francis will even follow what has become the most popular ritual in many parishes today, by blessing animals.
Let's look at a few excerpts from each of the three sections of the released, prepared, homily (if anything off-the-cuff is released later, I'll try to get to it).
First, he speaks about imitating Christ fully, including the crucified Lord.
On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).
Secondly, he talks about how authentic peace of Christ was another central theme in the life of St. Francis of Assisi (follow through below for an excerpt from today's Office of Readings on this part). Returning again to the need to meditate and imitate Christ crucified:
This is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give. Many people, when they think of Saint Francis, think of peace; very few people however go deeper. What is the peace which Francis received, experienced and lived, and which he passes on to us? It is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst and said: “Peace be with you!”, and in saying this, he showed them his wounded hands and his pierced side (cf. Jn 20:19-20).
Now this part was interesting. He debunks a kind of heresy found among some followers of St. Francis. These are strong words.
Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either; it is a notion some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.
Fr. Hardon defines pantheism in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, as follows:
Any of a variety of views that claim that all things are divine, or that God and the universe are really identical, or that there is ultimately no real distinction between God and what believers in creation call the world. (Etym. Greek pan, all + theos, god.)
You can read much more about pantheism, it's many faces, and problems in the Catholic Encyclopedia
I don't have time now, but I'm sure there is going to be commentary on this point later by others who can break this down better than I. I'll try to round that up and bring it here in another post.
Finally, Pope Francis talks about creation in his third point.
“Praised may you be, Most High, All-powerful God, good Lord… by all your creatures (FF, 1820). This is the beginning of Saint Francis’s Canticle. Love for all creation, for its harmony. Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created, and that men and women are called to safeguard and protect, but above all he bears witness to respect and love for every human being. God created the world to be a place where harmony and peace can flourish. Harmony and peace! Francis was a man of harmony and peace. From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world.
Read the full, prepared text of the homily at news.va.
Pope Francis is on a pastoral visit to Assisi today, so there is much more to come than just the homily from the Mass.
Excerpts from the Office of Readings for October 4
There are some things I want to pull out of the Office of Readings for today. In the first reading comes from Philippians 3:17 - 4:9). I'm only excerpting part of it here.
Be imitators of me, my brothers. Take as your guide those who follow the example that we set. Unfortunately, many go about in a way which shows them to be enemies of the cross of Christ. I have often said this to you before; this time I say it with tears. Such as these will end in disaster! Their god is their belly and their glory is in their shame. I am talking about those who are set upon the things of this world. As you well know, we have our citizenship in heaven; it is from there that we eagerly await the coming of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will give a new form to this lowly body of ours and remake it according to the pattern of his glorified body, by his power to subject everything to himself.
The Lord is near. Dismiss all anxiety from your minds. Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude. Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds, in Christ Jesus.
Now for the Second Reading, in full, which underscores much of what Pope Francis said:
|Stigmata of St. Francis,|
From a letter written to all the faithful by Saint Francis of Assisi We must be simple, humble and pure
It was through his archangel, Saint Gabriel, that the Father above made known to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary that the worthy, holy and glorious Word of the Father would come from heaven and take from her womb the real flesh of our human frailty. Though he was wealthy beyond reckoning, he still willingly chose to be poor with his blessed mother. And shortly before his passion he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Then he prayed to his Father saying: Father, if it be possible, let this cup be taken from me.
Nevertheless, he reposed his will in the will of his Father. The Father willed that his blessed and glorious Son, whom he gave to us and who was born for us, should through his own blood offer himself as a sacrificial victim on the altar of the cross. This was to be done not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins. It was intended to leave us an example of how to follow in his footsteps. And he desires all of us to be saved through him, and to receive him with pure heart and chaste body.
O how happy and blessed are those who love the Lord and do as the Lord himself said in the gospel: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, let us love God and adore him with pure heart and mind. This is his particular desire when he says: True worshipers adore the Father in spirit and truth. For all who adore him must do so in the spirit of truth. Let us also direct to him our praises and prayers saying: Our Father, who art in heaven, since we must always pray and never grow slack.
Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance. Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God’s sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father’s children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!
- Diane M. Korzeniewski
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