Happy Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!
“Let all of us, brothers, look to the Good Shepherd Who suffered the passion of the Cross to save his sheep. The sheep of the Lord followed him in tribulation and persecution, in insult and hunger, in infirmity and temptation, and in everything else and they have received everlasting life from the Lord because of these things. Therefore, it is a great shame for us, servants of God, that while the saints [actually] did such things, we wish to receive glory and honor by [merely] recounting their deeds.” St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitions, 6.1-3.
Our culture today has the proclivity of doing the great heroes of Christianity the disservice of domesticating them. We tend to portray the saints and even Christ himself as insipid figures, much more akin to the “I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay” culture than the vibrant and radical personalities that they were. So, we remember Jesus as the gentle Good Shepherd while forgetting that being the Good Shepherd called for him to cleanse the temple with a whip, and suffer the agony of the Cross so that rising, he might call his sheep to eternal happiness with him. So too we often hear tales of St. Francis preaching to the birds, bask in the beauty of his Canticle of the Sun, and recall that what this man wanted more than anything else was to be a channel of God’s peace, and to sow love where there was hatred. But we forget the central message of St. Francis’s life, a truth he came to hold so steadfastly that he gave his whole life for it, i.e., apart from Christ there is no peace, no love. What allowed St. Francis to see and so wonderfully proclaim the beauty of God’s creation was the same thing that prompted him to preach to the birds, i.e., his unity with Christ, that was achieved through a radical imitation of him to the point where he left all behind, literally stripping himself bare, so as to afford the rest of the world at least a glimpse of the Divine Love that spares no expense in Its quest to reconcile all things in Christ, as intended from the beginning.
St. Francis, heroic imitator of Christ and great exemplar for Christians, pray for us that we too might hold nothing so dear as making the self-sacrificing and peace-making love of Jesus Christ known and present in our suffering world.
Your servant in Christ,
Tony Crescio is the founder of FRESHImage Ministries. He holds an MTS from the University of Notre Dame and is currently a PhD candidate in Christian Theology at Saint Louis University. His research focuses on the intersection between moral and sacramental theology. His dissertation is entitled, Presencing the Divine: Augustine, the Eucharist and the Ethics of Exemplarity.
Tony’s academic publications can be found here.