Friday, September 30 2022
The Saint Who Launched a Thousand Birdbaths
Francis of Assisi, the saint who launched a million birdbaths, hundreds of thousands of statues, and the occasional service of the “Blessing of the Animals” was, for Chesterton, the one Christian who actually lived the Gospel. Francis was the son of a wealthy textile merchant and as such part of the new Italian middle class that was coming into its own. His father’s wealth and Francis’ own natural charisma made the young man a leader of the youth of his town. Francis gained a rock-star like following by the early 1200’s. He remains famous today not because of his own words and actions so much as because his words and actions conformed so closely to those of Jesus. As a boy Francis dreamed of earning glory in battle. He got his chance at an early age when he enlisted, along with the other young men of Assisi, to fight in a feud against a neighboring city-state. Assisi lost the battle and Francis was imprisoned for a time. Defeat in battle and serious illness in prison caused Francis to turn away from his visions of glory on the battlefield. Francis’ path toward God took a series of turns closer and closer to God, rather than an all at once conversion. However, the course of Francis’ life was profoundly changed by at least two formative experiences. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis saw a beggar outside of St. Peter’s Church. The Holy Spirit moved him to trade places with the beggar. Francis exchanged clothes with a beggar and then spent the day begging for alms. That experience of being poor shook Francis to the core. Later he confronted his own fears of leprosy by hugging a leper. Like trading places with the beggar in Rome, hugging a leper left a deep mark on Francis. Shaped by his experiences with the beggar and the leper, he had a strong identification with the poor. Francis cut himself off from the opulent lifestyle of his father and sought out a radically simple life. By the time of his death, the love of God had compelled Francis to accomplish much toward rebuilding the church. He could look on thousands of lives transformed by his call for repentance and simplicity of life. Yet, Francis of Assisi was simply a man transformed by the love of God and the joy that flowed from a deep understanding of all that God has done for us (Rev. Canon Frank Logue).
Jesus asks us to have the faith of a mustard seed. He goes on to say that we should simply do what we are supposed to do. There are Christian saints that have done just that. St. Francis led thousands to Christ by his simplicity. Jesus Christ gave himself for the sake of others. St. Francis followed in his footsteps. Our Presiding Bishop calls this the Way of Love. Every Christian is called to follow Jesus with acts of love to one another. St. John’s mission is to “Know Christ and make Him known.” Perhaps our mission could be rephrased, “Know the love of Christ and share it with others.” This begs the question, “How are you (we) sharing the love of Christ.” We know the love of Christ by the joy we feel in practicing self-giving love. Following the love of Christ also adds meaning and purpose to our lives. When we follow the “Way of Love” others will feel that love and pass it on to others. Please be generous in sharing your love with others. Follow the path of the Saints and remember St. Francis this weekend. Please bless your pets this Saturday at 5:00 pm in the Garden of Blessings or at the very least, set up a bird bath.
In Christ’s love,