Praise be Jesus Christ!
October 3, 2013 Transitus of Our Holy Father St. Francis
We each have different reactions to public events, and so I can’t presuppose that everyone would be as excited as I was by Pope Francis’ recent interview in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica. But imagine, our Holy Father phoned an avowed non-believer and invited him to pay a visit and have a talk!
During the conversation, Pope Francis expounded upon his vision for the Church. It’s a church of service, an outward looking church, an inclusive church.
The Church is or should go back to being a community of God's people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God.
[O]ur goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.
To me, this sounds very much like the project of Capuchin-Franciscans.
When pressed by the interviewer, Eugenio Scarfari, Pope Francis admitted what most everyone had already guessed. St. Francis of Assisi was one of his two favorite saints. He said this:
[St. Francis is] great because he is everything. He is a man who wants to do things, wants to build, he founded an order and its rules, he is an itinerant and a missionary, a poet and a prophet, he is mystical. He found evil in himself and rooted it out. He loved nature, animals, the blade of grass on the lawn and the birds flying in the sky. But above all he loved people, children, old people, women. He is the most shining example of that agape we talked about earlier.
Francis wanted a mendicant order and an itinerant one. Missionaries who wanted to meet, listen, talk, help, to spread faith and love. Especially love. And he dreamed of a poor Church that would take care of others, receive material aid and use it to support others, with no concern for itself. 800 years have passed since then and times have changed, but the ideal of a missionary, poor Church is still more than valid. This is still the Church that Jesus and his disciples preached about.
What a challenge this is for those of us who call ourselves followers of St. Francis of Assisi! If we are authentic, we will image these ideals in our lives.
I’d like to invite all of you to read the entire text of the Pope’s conversation. Here’s the link:
Brothers, our Constitutions remind us:
[Let] us strive to imitate [Francis], to cultivate his spiritual inheritance diligently in our life and work, and to communicate it with all people of whatever age. To this end we should frequently read the life and writings of Saint Francis himself, those of his sons [and daughters], especially of Capuchins reknowned for their holiness, apostolic zeal and knowledge, and other books by which his spirit is made known (Chapter I, Article 3, no. 22-3).
In case you are not aware, two recent books about Francis of Assisi have received positive critical reviews among church historians. I would urge you during this season to read one of them. They are:
André Vauchez, Francis of Assisi: The Life and Afterlife of a Medieval Saint, trans. Michael F. Cusato (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
Augustine Thompson, Francis of Assisi: A New Biography (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012).
May you be inspired, as many have been, by these compelling works! And may you be inspired by our good Pope Francis to translate St. Francis’ vision into concrete actions in your lives!