The more I learn about Francis of Assisi the more fascinating he is to me. Francis is a popular saint — as exemplified by the many garden statues of Francis with the birds — and one who can be taken for granted. As a child I knew him as gentle man who was kind to animals, something of a medieval environmentalist. In high school we had a blessing of the animals on St. Francis Day on which my fellow students brought their dogs, cats, ferrets, and even a rooster to school for the day and these animals were the centerpiece of a special (outdoor) Mass. My felines were fraidy cats so I did not torment them by bringing them to school which also saved me from having to explain why I was asking for a blessing for my cat Beelzebub.
The Spirit moves in odd ways, so it was seeing the Roberto Rosselini film Flowers of St. Francis at Brattle Theatre a couple of years ago that really made me see Francis in a new light. The film which casts amateurs and real monks as Francis and his followers demonstrates in a series of short stories the piety, the conviction, the dedication of the life of poverty, and the love of God and the outcasts of St. Francis and just how radical he was and continues to be among Christian people. I read the book The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi during Lent this year.
Reading today’s Gospel, I was struck how Francis, Clare, and the other early Franciscans took to heart Christ’s words. This is almost a blue print for the early Franciscans:
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ – Luke 10:3-9
Learn more about St. Francis of Assisi at:
Note: The image of Francis is from Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert which I admired on my trip to the Frick museum.