FRANCIS: BROTHER AND RECONCILER
Stigmata of St. Francis, 13th century – Limoges Enamel
“We . . . saw him always in such joy, inwardly and outwardly, over all creatures, touching and looking at them, so that it seemed his spirit was no longer on earth but in heaven. This is evident and true, because of the many consolations he had and continued to have in God’s creatures. Thus, shortly before his death, he composed the Praises of the Lord by his creatures to move the hearts of his listeners to the praise of God, and that in his creatures the Lord might be praised by everyone. . . . ”
[A Sense of the Divine: Franciscan Readings for the Christian Year - from ‘The Assisi Compilation, II, 192]
In this October SFP Voices we joyfully celebrate our brother Francis! We are blessed that our Sisters and Associates express their prayerful reflections on what made Il Poverello such a beloved brother and loving reconciler among the people of his day (and ours!) and all of God’s creation. . .
Sr. Vera Crisafulli in the Italian Area speaks about Francis’ life as “a hymn of praise to God for the infinite goodness with which God looked at Francis, loved him, and consoled him. Through Francis’ intense conversation with Christ and his loving ministry to his brothers and sisters, he became a person who was reconciled with himself, with creatures and creation.” Sr. Vera also witnesses to the charism of Francis and Frances alive today in writing about her healing presence to and with immigrant young people.
Associate Barbara Bugg in the US Area affectionately tells us: “I love St. Francis because he loved all of God’s creation. Much has been written about his love of nature, but I think it was more: he was a lover of nature .” Barbara highlights Francis’ free spirit, his constant joy, holy love for ‘Lady Poverty,’ and total trust in God.
Sister Lécia José da Silva in the Brazil Area expresses her thoughts:: “Francis saw God hidden in all creation and considered each creature as a brother or sister, reverencing and loving the uniqueness of each one, becoming a brother and a reconciler.”
United in our Chapter Call to generate compassion and hope in the community of life, Sr. Lécia offers a prayer at the conclusion of her article. Perhaps we may want to make this prayer ours as we enjoy this issue of SFP VOICES. . .
“May our Father Francis intercede for us before Jesus, so that we indeed may become first brothers or sisters who are reconcilers among our peers and, through our fraternity, reconcilers with our neighbors, with the Universe, and with God!”
Praise be to God for our Brother Francis and for each other!
United as your sister in Jesus, St.Francis and Blessed Frances,
|Marilyn Trowbridge, sfp
Director of Communications
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Brother to all Creation, Reconciler, Lover of the Poor
Transitus of St. Francis – St. Mary of the Angels Basilica
sr. Vera Crisafulli, sfp
Sr. Vera Crisafulli at the Missionary Center
With a group of teenagers near Pistoia
With a sharing group in Taizè
Statue of St. Francis embracing the leper
near the Church in Rivotorto
Francis’ life is a hymn of praise to God for the infinite goodness with which God looked at him, loved him, consoled him. Through his intense conversation with Christ and his loving ministry to his brothers and sisters, Francis became a man who was reconciled with himself, with creatures and creation.
What personally moves me about his life is his profound will to ‘give back’ to the Father -- through his brothers and sisters -- the gifts he has received because “. . . all goods belong to God and for all we thank God, because they all come from Him”(Rnb 17). Life does not belong to me, but it was given to me so that I may give it, day by day, to my brothers and sisters as a tool for healing and reconciliation.
“ The Lord gave me brothers and sisters... led me among the lepers and I was merciful to them.”
In the year 1226, Francis stated in his Testament that he had received from God the gift of brothers and sisters, of doing penance and being merciful to the lepers (See 2 Test 1. 14).
In 2Cel 89. 96, the story tells us that Francis exhorted a poor man to forgive his master for having taken his goods. When the poor man refused to forgive, Francis gave him his mantle, saying, “I give you this mantle and I beg you to forgive your master, for the sake of the love of God.” On another occasion, Francis met a poor woman who had an eye illness similar to his. He gave his mantle to her through an intermediary along with the message, “The poor man who borrowed your mantle from you thanks you, and gives back to you what is yours.”
Lover of the Poor
Francis’ compassionate heart challenges me to welcome openly the immigrant young people and adults who are marginalized and whom I encounter in my ministry. I feel called to take on their wounds, listen to them with love and trust, putting my talents at their disposal. This fills my heart with joy and peace and gives me the opportunity to give back to God the gifts I have received from him and to make of my life a song of thanksgiving.
Francis and Frances
Like Francis, Mother Frances lived out reconciliation in the name of God and as “restitution” for God’s gifts. She experienced her smallness, brokenness, sinfulness, but also God’s profound and infinite mercy. The gaze of Christ attracted Mother Frances to the point that she recognized in each suffering brother and sister Christ’s presence, while a fire of divine love burned within her.
In my life too, the experiences of God’s parental love and mercy are paramount. Loving mercy enables me to open my heart to universal brotherhood and sisterhood every day and to reconciliation. Thus, in serving at the Missionary Center of the Diocese in Assisi, I experience the joy of being a sister and healing instrument for the least and poorest portion of humanity. God teaches me to share his own compassion for the immigrants and the hungry crowds. The small acts I do are drops of love that contribute to bring concrete help and the message of the Gospel to so many abandoned brothers and sisters.
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Why I Love St. Francis
An unconventional sculpture of St. Francis enjoying the night sky at his mountain retreat outside Assisi
Barbie Bugg, SFP Associate
I love St. Francis because he loved all of God’s creation … Much has been written about his love of nature, but I think it was more: he was a lover of nature, and maybe even more than that: St. Francis really felt that all God's creations were as much his brother and sisters as the Pope! Maybe more so…
Barbara Bugg exploring San Damiano
with several Associates
In one famous story, Francis preached to hundreds of birds about being thankful to God for their wonderful clothes, for their independence, and for God's care. The story tells us the birds stood still as he walked among him, only flying off when he said they could leave.
Another famous story involves a wolf that had been accused of eating human beings. Francis intervened when the townspeople wanted to kill the wolf. He talked the wolf into never killing again. The wolf became a pet of the townspeople who made sure that he always had plenty to eat.
St. Francis loved ‘Lady Poverty.’ He did not try to abolish poverty, he tried to make it holy. Possessing something was the death of love for St. Francis… he gave away everything so he was able to love everything. He trusted God absolutely, and very simply, and he was absolutely free. Following the Gospel literally, St. Francis preached the Good News wearing a rough sack and walking barefoot….but soon people noticed that this barefoot beggar wearing sacks was filled with constant joy.
He was a simple man, who took a direct and even simple approach to …everything. Even to seeing the Pope: he simply went to Rome in his rags and asked to see one of the most powerful men in the known world. And so he saw the Pope – and got what he came for.
St. Francis sitting among the trees
Near the end of his life, Francis was sick and blind and the Pope insisted that he receive treatment. How did he respond: with obedience – even though the treatment was terribly painful. And then he wrote his beautiful ‘Canticle of the Sun.’
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Francis: Wounded Healer and Reconciler
Sister Lécia José da Silva, SFP
Francis was someone who made a deep impression on the history of humanity in his day and continues to do so in our day; however, we must not forget his human weaknesses. Francis experienced several inner conflicts before answering Christ’s call. Yet he became a great saint. The example of his life invites us to become saints!
The way to holiness is sewn together like a quilt made of our daily bits of experience. We need not be disappointed when a piece tears apart: we must have courage to continuously renew ourselves, without losing heart, beginning anew like it is the first and only day!
I can imagine the many difficulties Francis faced -- ridiculed by society, taken for a fool. That never hindered him -- quite the contrary; this gave him great strength to throw himself into the Father’s arms, without reservation!
What impresses me is the total surrender of Francis to God’s Will, his openness to divine grace, to the point of recognizing the Supreme Creator in all and everything. Francis saw God hidden in all creation and considered each creature as a brother or sister, reverencing and loving the uniqueness of each one, becoming a brother and a reconciler.
Healing and the Franciscan Charism
As a Franciscan, I believe that witnessing to the Franciscan charism of healing and reconciliation truly takes place from the moment in which healing happens within myself and I am reconciled. I have already faced several crises while embracing Religious Life. Those were difficult occasions when I wished to give it all up, to throw everything up in the air! During these times I was unable to see reality. Over time I came to understand what I was going through and gradually managed to liberate myself from so much selfishness, self-protection, jealousy, envy and self-sufficiency.
I still need to rid myself of many things to be free to love and serve God in my brothers and sisters. I believe true reconciliation within myself is a process that will last throughout my life since human beings are a mystery that goes on unfolding until our last breath.
Facing our Inner Wolf of Gubbio
Francis dared to face the wolf within himself to succeed in his reaching out to the other. He managed to forget his own will to see the needs of others, to give himself entirely to them. Many times I have caught myself thinking: “Up to what point would I be able to dedicate myself to others?” We must acquire wisdom and discernment since our human instincts are so strong. While serving others, we may run the risk of seeking to soothe our own demands, inflating our ego and feeding it.
May our Father Francis intercede for us before Jesus, so that we indeed may become first brothers or sisters who are reconcilers among our peers and, through our fraternity, reconcilers with our neighbors, with the Universe, and with God!
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