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Some Franciscan Thoughts on the Feast of St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi - artist Alfredo Arreguin, quilter
St. Francis of Assisi has a lot going for him. He's hugely popular with kids, mainly because of his affinity for animals.

He certainly was a rebellious young man, which can appeal to teens. He also had big hopes and dreams for himself, something most young people can understand.

He was in great physical pain much of his adult life. Those of us in that stage of the game know what it's like to hurt so badly and ... still get out of bed and do what needs to be done.

First and foremost, Francis loved Jesus. Whether it was the simple love of an eccentric mystic or the grounded love from which grew a mighty order of men and women service God, there is Francis.

That love, Franciscan author Ilia Delio, is central to understanding Francis and ultimately Christ.

We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ; rather, it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. (Franciscan Prayer.)

Like any good relationship, our relationship with Christ must challenge us. It must goad us into stepping out of sin and selfishness, and into freedom and light. Christ only invites, however; he never demands.

But what does it really takes to become a friend of Christ? What must we do? We must humble ourselves, just as Christ did ('humbling himself to death, even death on a cross'). And what does this humility look like?

Humility looks like service. It looks like the Mom who hasn't had a hot meal in years because she is making sure everyone's food is cut, the baby is fed, leftovers packed away for lunch.

It looks like going to Mass on Sunday, not because you have to, but because you need to.

Humility is admitting you're wrong. Face-to-face with the person you wronged.

Humility is knowing that there is always room at the table for you, so you don't need to worry about where you'll sit.

Delio: Prayer, therefore, leads us to know ourselves in God and God in ourselves, and in this relationship we are led to true humility by which we see clearly the humble presence of God all around us.

Today, on this feast of Francis, let us ask ourselves, "Whom do I love? Or do I love a 'what'?" We might also ask, "Do I truly humble myself in prayer? Or am I just talking at God, with my laundry list of intentions?"

Francis is one of those rare souls who changed the world. What a shame if we missed our opportunity to do the same.

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