4 October – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi
Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.
He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.
He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.
While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.
In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.
“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi
– Patron Saint Index
You must have heard of my career as a practising Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.
Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have just written is the literal truth. After that I went to Syria and Cilicia, and was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judaea, who had heard nothing except that their one-time persecutor was now preaching the faith he had previously tried to destroy; and they gave glory to God for me.
Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’
…and yet few are needed, indeed only one.
Many of us tend to be more like Martha – always planning ahead, worrying and fretting about this and that. Over the past few months, while preparing for my long holiday in Spain, I tried to accomplish as much as possible at work so that my team would be able to function as best as possible while I was away. Indeed, at my last debrief with my unit heads, I told them that I would not be checking emails each day (as I usually do when on holiday) as I would be on the road walking most of the time.
The time away proved absolutely refreshing and essential for my spiritual renewal. To my own surprise, I quickly dismissed all thoughts about work and other commitments the moment I got to the airport. I even checked myself out of quite a few group chats, saying that I would rejoin when I got back home. It was rather uncharacteristic of me but I knew that all my physical preparation for my journey would come to naught if I was going to worry about what was happening back home all the time.
And while on my walk, stripped of many of the creature comforts of home, I fould myself enjoying each day as we headed towards our destination. I began to enjoy ‘living in the present’ and being more attuned to the sights, sounds and smells that the Spanish countryside and villages had to offer. Even after we had arrived in Santiago and spent a few days in Madrid, I hardly (I can’t say ‘never’) checked on emails from the office. For the first time in a long while, I wasn’t planning ahead and fussing about what we were going to have for dinner while eating breakfast. I left everything in His hands and trusted fully that He would deliver each and every day.
Brothers and sisters, it is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ‘doing’ of things at work, running errands, completing chores, attending meetings, fulfilling appointments and just generally living the hectic lives that WE choose for ourselves. But in the end, what’s more important is that we must learn and develop the habit of being still in order to listen effectively to Christ speaking to us – in the faces that we meet, the helping hand that we shake, the greeting from an office cleaner first thing in the morning, the ‘free cuppa’ from the pantry – the list goes on. It is difficult to keep calm and carry on while all around us, things are turning topsy-turvy or becoming chaotic. But are they? Or are we simply fretting about things just so that we can keep our minds occupied?
Taking it one step further — are we really that busy at work, at home, even in church, that we can’t spare 15 minutes (at the very least) being ‘busy’ with God?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Dear God, bless us with patience and humility so that we learn to me more attuned to you and to your constant presence in our hustle-and-bustle lives. Teach us to enjoy the present rather than to constantly fret about the future.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for the being so patient with us and for always being there for us in spite of our inattentiveness.