Friday, October 3, 2008

St. Francis Day Friday Five

Rev honey at Revgals has offered a very provocative St. Francis Friday Five Questions. I pass on her rather long introduction because it is filled with valuable information on Ss. Francis and Clare.

Today is the day that we remember and celebrate the life of St Francis of Assisi, here is a description of his early life:

Often named the Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment, there is much more to St Francis:

Saint Francis is called the little poor man of Assisi. He was born in the year 1182 in the town of Assisi in Italy. His father's name was Bernadone. Bernadone was a very wealthy merchant of Assisi. Francis was a very good-looking boy. He was merry and soft-hearted. So he had many friends. All the noble men's sons were his companions.

Francis was brought up in luxury and gaiety. He spent a considerable portion of his wealth in extravagant pleasures. He used to drink with the young princes of the land.

One day Francis was joking and laughing with his friends. A beggar came along crying for alms. Francis, who was soft-hearted, gave whatever he had in his pocket to the beggar. His companions mocked at him for his charitable act. Dispassion dawned in his heart. The sight of the beggar set him thinking about the poverty and misery of mundane life. He gave much money to the poor. His father thought that Francis was wasting his money and rebuked him.

Sometime after this, Francis was laid up in bed for many months on account of some serious disease. He was about to die. But the Lord saved him as he had to carry out a definite mission in his life. The nature of Francis was entirely changed. Francis prayed to the Lord for light and guidance as to his future. He had a vision of Lord Jesus. He made a strong determination to renounce his old way of living to tread a life of purity and to dedicate his life to the service of humanity.

As soon as Francis got well, he informed his parents of his determination. They were disappointed. They became angry with Francis. Francis gave up his old ways and habits and set up to serve God. He distributed clothes, goods and money to the poor. His father was very much annoyed towards his son. He said, "Is this the gratitude you show to me ? I laboured hard and amassed wealth. You are lavishly wasting it on these miserable wretches".

Francis' friends mocked at him and teased him. His father turned him out of the house. Francis lived like a beggar. His old friends even pelted him with stones and mud. He bore everything with patience. He wore a coarse dress and ate simple food.

Francis went on to travel from village to village preaching the love of God. He invited people to join him in his life of service if they were willing. Bernard, a rich man of Assisi, was very much attracted by the saintliness of Francis. He joined Francis. He was the first follower of Francis. He placed all his wealth at the altar of God. Eleven others also joined Francis. They distributed all their wealth to the poor. Francis and his followers went all over Italy preaching, teaching, healing and blessing wherever they went.

The gospel of kindness and love of Francis soon spread all over Europe and earned for him the name of St. Francis. People called him the little poor man of Assisi. He lived for ever in the hearts of all men.

St. Francis collected many followers and founded the Order of Mendicant Friars or Franciscans. The members of this Order have to take a vow of poverty, chastity, love and obedience.
St. Francis gave up his mortal coil in 1228.

I would like to dedicate this Friday Five to St Francis of Assisi.

1. Saint Francis experienced a life changing call, has anything in your journey so far challenged you to alter your lifestyle?

When I was in my twenties and a new Christian, I went on a mission trip to the mountains of Mexico. I realized by the standards of the people of the mountains of the area, I was rich although I had been raised lower middle class. About 3 years later I entered religious life and took on the life style of one who vowed poverty, chastity and obedience. I did not pursue that vocation, however; it was not my calling, but I have lived celibacy, poverty and obedience to God ever since. I am aware that even the little I make and have in this country is far beyond what most people of the world have. It is not guilt producing, but it is sobering and reminds me not only to be grateful, but to advocate for those who have not.

2. Francis experienced mocking and persecution, quite often in the comfortable west this is far from our experience. If you have experienced something like this how do you deal with it, if not how does it challenge you to pray for those whose experience is daily persecution?

As a lesbian, I have not escaped mocking and persecution. I presently work in a denomination not my own simply because the powers that be of my home church cannot understand the prejudice that is rampant in the diocese and the harm it is doing to people who merely wish to serve God. It is the lie that we are welcoming and reconciling that I cannot tolerate. I fight the anger it produces. But I would rather be mocked and be persecuted than give up the integrity of who I am and the integrity of the Gospel.

3. St Francis had female counterpart in St Clare, she was influenced by St Francis sermon and went on to found the Poor Clare's, like the Franciscans they depended on alms this was unheard of for women in that time, but she persisted and gained permission to found the order. How important are role models like St Clare to you? Do you have a particular female role model whose courage and dedication inspires you? If so share their story....

I have many female role models from Teresa of Avila to Molly Ivins. It is the women in my life that have made it possible for me to follow a career in the Church. Suzanne Hiatt, one the “Philadelphia Eleven” and one of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church was one of those who helped me. A couple of nuns in the order I belonged to were powerful images of what it mean to be faithful. But often it is the community of women that I have around me that gives me the greatest support and encouragement. It is generally in that community that I bounce off my ideas and theology. It is there that I can give and take enough to help me grow to a better person.

4. Francis loved nature and animals, how important is an expressed love of the created world to the Christian message today?

It is often in nature that I find God. The past few weeks with the change of the colors here in the Northeast, God has been so present in the autumn leaves. Nature is neither benevolent nor malevolent. After witnessing the aftermath of Katrina or perusing the photos from the Hubble Telescope, I am brought to my knees in awe. God is so beyond what I could ever ask or imagine and so I am drawn to embrace a God that is so beyond what I can comprehend and yet honor a God who came as a child.

5. On a lighter note; have you ever led a service of blessing for animals, or a pet service, was it a success, did you enjoy it, and would you do it again?

I have had one blessing of the animals. I do not believe it was especially successful. I have been tempted to do a St. Francis Day Blessing here at my rural church. But the bishop made her visitation last week, and it was too much to do for this week. Perhaps next year.
Please grieve with me. A family in my parish lost their home to fire this week and lost 2 dogs and 3 cats in the blaze. I have been grieving with them.


Sally said...

Oh I am so sorry for the loss of a family home along with much loved pets. I will add that family to my prayers.

Thank you for this honest thought provoking post.

Mary Beth said...

Oh, no. All those losses, and the animals. how horrible.


mompriest said...

0h my, so sorry to hear about the family and their losses...prayers indeed...

And, while I have stayed in TEC I quite agree with you on the "welcoming" is quite a challenge for those who truly desire this and are confronted with those who say we are welcoming to everyone, well, except "you" - whoever that you may be...sigh..

mompriest said...

oops, I knew you hadn't left TEC formally but are doing ministry with the ELCA....I just wasn't clear in my comment...However, I had NO IDEA you came from the Diocese of Ft Worth...yeesh...many blessings for you

FranIAm said...

A beautiful post- but my heart goes out to that family and their losses.

Prayers for all.