04 Oct – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi, religious
Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society. – St. Francis of Assisi
Francis (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. A street brawler and some-time soldier, he was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as a 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 gospels as his rule of life, with Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough cloths, 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: “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 tot he Saracens, composed songs and hymns to God and nature, lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221, Francis resigned direction of the Franciscans.
While in meditation on Mount Alvernia (La Verna) 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 Sep 17.
In the Middle Ages, people who 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.
Francis is the patron saint for: against dying alone; animal welfare societies; ecologists; environmentalists; and peace, among others.
– Source: Patron Saint Index
When the seventh month came, all the people gathered as one man on the square before the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses which the Lord prescribed for Israel. Accordingly Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, consisting of men, women, and children old enough to understand. This was the first day of the seventh month. On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women, and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden dais erected for the purpose. In full view of all the people – since he stood higher than all the people – Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord.
The Levites explained the law to the people while the people remained standing. And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.
Then Nehemiah – His Excellency – an Ezra, priest and scribe (and the Levites who were instructing the people) said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.
He then said, ‘Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready. For this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.’ And the Levites calmed all the people, saying, ‘Be at ease; this is a sacred day. Do not be sad.’ And all the people went off to eat and drink and give shares away and begin to enjoy themselves since they had understood the meaning of what had been proclaimed to them.
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.
Some of my friends have heard me tell them what I think about mornings. I hardly ever say “Good morning” because I am not a morning person. I have never really seen what is so good about dragging my sleepy self out of bed and washing up to go do whatever needs to be done. Sleeping in till the afternoon is something I enjoy doing. So yes, in the mornings, my usual greeting is “Morning”. Just because it is that time of the day.
“Good afternoon”, “Good evening” and “Good night”. Now these are phrases I say often. As the day goes by and at the end of it, we often find ourselves reflecting about events that have passed and can be thankful for it. We bless the day and share this blessing with those we greet. As you read this, you may find it odd how someone who seldom finds cheer about mornings can hail the rest of the day so regularly. If you do, I now join you in that sentiment. All things have their beginnings and no journey is real without one. As the start of each day, mornings should be the very first thing to be hailed.
Today’s first reading recounts the proclamation of the Law and leads to the renewal of the Covenant. This was a starting point for the Israelites and behold how respectfully and joyously they took the event. Gathering together to listen to and learn the Law, prostrating and replying “Amen!” as one. That must have been a sight to witness. Such scenes herald great things. The Levites affirm all this with their calls to feasting and sharing and stating the sacredness of the day. Indeed, what follows is great. I’ll leave you to refer to your bible for the details but it was a time of revival in Israel.
Our Gospel passage features the sending of the seventy-two. Besides the sending of the apostles, this is the only other account of Christ sending people out to minister before the Crucifixion. He gives the disciples very specific instructions about travel and ministering to the towns they go to, including what words to say. The very first of these parrot phrases was to be uttered upon arrival in the town and they were “Peace be with you!”. What a wonderful and proper way to begin a ministry of peace and love than the greet with peace. Those words were as much for the ministers as they were for those they were going to minister to, to remind them of their mission.
Everyday, we may start something new. The impetus on us is to make sure the start is a correct one. How can we know we make the right start? Today we celebrate the memorial of St Francis of Assisi, he who founded one of the most prominent orders in the Church today. He founded his order based on a call by Christ to bring restoration to a Church that was falling into disrepair. Just like Nehemiah who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild it. He was also inspired by a Gospel reading of the sending of the twelve, which essentially says the same thing as today’s reading. Amazing coincidence? Certainly not. He was grounded in a steady foundation and the house that was built on it is equally sturdy.
Yes indeed, my sisters and brothers, the proper way to start is to start by blessing God and with the blessing of God. May we seek to do that in everything we start, continue and end. Till next time: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening and good night!
(Today’s OXYGEN by Aloysius Ting)
Prayer: Lord, bless us in everything that we start and may we bless you in all that we do.
Give thanks to the Lord for: People who pray for us and people we pray for.
Fri, 5 Oct – Baruch 1:15-22; Luke 10:13-16
Sat, 6 Oct – Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29; Luke 10:17-24; Memorial for St. Bruno, priest, hermit, religious founder
Sun, 7 Oct – Hebrews 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17:5-10; Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Disclaimer: The reflections expressed in this e-mail are the writer’s own. They may not necessarily reflect the teachings of the Catholic Church. Nonetheless we should all be able to learn something from it.