Pope Francis on St. Francis

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and Pope Francis was in Assisi to celebrate his namesake’s feast day. His homily is out on the Vatican website and is both short and worth reading.

This central section struck me in particular:

What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?

1. The first thing he tells us is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him.

Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to let the crucified Christ gaze upon us, to let ourselves be forgiven, and recreated by his love.

2. In today’s Gospel we heard these words: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:28-29).

This is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give. Many people, when they think of Saint Francis, think of peace; very few people however go deeper. What is the peace which Francis received, experienced and lived, and which he passes on to us? It is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst (cf. Jn 20:19-20).

Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either! It is not Franciscan, but a notion that some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be “instruments of peace”, of that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us.
[emphasis added]

9 Responses to Pope Francis on St. Francis

  • A post on TAC about Pope Francis that isn’t Chicken Little running around with his head cut off is a nice change

  • A comment from Greg Mockeridge where he isn’t bellyaching about the blog, now that is refreshing!

  • I haven’t “bellyached” about anything. What I have done is point out how ridiculous your Chicken Little screaming about the Pope’s recent comments, especially when you consider how you 1) Whitewash some of the worst behavior of certain prominent Catholics and 2) Gush like a tween girl at a Justin Beiber concert over the USCCB’s Operation Defining Religious Liberty Down (err, Fortnight for Freedom)) which equates opposition to illegal immigration to an attack on religious liberty.

    Now, one can raise valid criticisms of the Pope’s comments in recent interviews, none of what the pope says comes anywhere near bastardizing Church teaching or the sin of slander.

    When you can muster the guts to clean up your own act and stop defending things that actually do rise to the level of a scandal, you might have a moral right to pitch a bitch about Pope Francis. But until then…

  • Well Greg, you can always go check out Mark Shea’s blog. He’s been incredibly uncritical of the Pope, so maybe he’d be more your speed.

  • Greg and Mark, the two valiant defenders of the Pope! I like it!

  • First of all Paul, I am not the least bit “incredibly uncritical” of the Pope’s comments. If you have read what I said with an honest eye, you would have seen that. What I am saying is this “the pope is gonna take us back to the 1970′s” kind of hand wringing is a bunch Chicken Little crap. To that extent, I agree with Mark on that.

    And Donald, I wasn’t the one who publicly whitewashed some of Shea’s most despicable behavior, you were!

  • I call ‘em like I see ‘em Greg. Your problem with me is that I gave Shea the benefit of the doubt when he publicly apologized for his bad behavior. Since that time I have criticized Shea when I thought he warranted it, but you have an obsession about Shea that I do not share, and as a result I am in your bad guy book. I will soldier on nonetheless.

  • If I am reading the worry correctly; that some might take what Pope Francis has said and twist it to their agenda which is opposed to Catholic doctrine, then might we take comfort in Jesus Christ.

    If this method of Pope Francis is bringing in dialog from wayward society and opens the door to “speaking of the real relationship with Jesus,” then as long as the Holy Father doesn’t change Church doctrine then YES….Let him Sheppard. The disengagement that plagues worldly souls from conversions might be lessened by a simple Leader, namely the poor aspect of Francis.

    I do feel Donald and others angst regarding this engagement of worldly interviews, and the possible blow-back by dubious opportunist, however the gains to be made by conversions I Hope will outweigh the losses.
    Praise be Jesus Christ in HIS Angels and His Saints.

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