Hello Parishioners of Holy Innocents Church,
This week we celebrate one of the most popular saints in the Church, St. Francis of Assisi. This is a man who resembled Christ in many aspects of his life because whatever he did, he did it with his whole heart. In this way he is a great example for all Christians.
He began life as a son of a merchant and wanted a life of war and adventure. But, after he was wounded in battle, he had a profound experience of conversion. He was aware of God in his life and wanted to live as a poor man. So, having given up all the trappings of wealth from this world, he served the poorest people among him, even those who were sick and disfigured. He was not afraid to preach the Gospel to everyone. He was not afraid of even being misunderstood. He did not fear giving up even the simplest pleasures if he thought they would distract him from his life’s purpose. Francis was a man of great humility and gratitude. He purposefully became poor because he wanted to depend on only God and he was thankful for all that God provided for him.
Much is made of his love for creation. He often called the sun and the moon his brother and sister. He had an obvious, great love for animals. He even professed his love for things we can often detest: death, thorn bushes and fire. But, the reason why he could be so grateful and so in love with these things is that he saw how they relate to God. God created the whole universe out of love, and so, it is all-revealing of who God is. So, even an enemy is someone who should be loved for the sole reason that God created him.
This notion of God’s love is what drove St. Francis to do amazing things. He heard the voice of God ask him to rebuild His Church, so he literally rebuilt a local dilapidated chapel. (This chapel is called San Damiano and can be visited even today.) He then heard the voice of God again and realized his mission was to rebuild the mystical body of the Church. And so, he went out with his followers and preached the Gospel and the poverty of Christ. He travelled throughout Europe and even went to the Middle East where he tried to preach the Gospel to a sultan. (He was sent away despite his best efforts to become a martyr.) Toward the end of his life, Our Lord rewarded him by giving him the marks of His own body: the stigmata.
St. Francis teaches us that the Faith is not something to be kept hidden nor is it something that can be lived out in private. God is more important than anything in the universe and how we live our lives matters to Him. Very often we can be shy about our love for God or wonder if we ever had it. It is people like St. Francis that remind us what it is like to be head-over-heels in love with God as if He’s our first love. For, in truth, He should be our only love.