Tuesday, October 03, 2006
The Transitus of Our Holy Father Francis
This evening one may solemnly commemorate the death of St. Francis of Assisi. The vigil of his feast day may also be a day of prayer and fasting.
The son of a wealthy merchant, many like to think of him as something of a playboy and romanticized knight. I suppose we can think of his youth in that way, yet it would be incorrect to compare his frivolity to how contemporary rich kids play...I doubt if he was as decadent as Paris Hilton's boyfriends. I think it is safe to assume Francis always remained a virgin. He liked to have fun and hung out with the guys, if you will.
His conversion after taking ill on his way to battle, allowed him to understand the vanity and brevity of life. He fell in love with Jesus. The vehemence of this love caused him to put aside everything and follow the Lord after the primitive example of the first disciples. Like Mother Teresa in our own day, he quickly gathered numerous followers.
Francis was a little saint. That is why I loved him and St. Therese so much in my youth. He was so simple and transparent he would weep at hearing a passage of the Passion read to him. His soul burned with seraphic love to such an extent he was conformed to his Crucified lover.
His III Order today still attracts the simple ones. Sinners seeking to amend their lives through penance and prayer. The 'official' III Order is now called "Secular Franciscans" and there is a tendency to focus primarily on peace and justice issues, while conducting a more academic approach to the life of St. Francis and the intellectualizing of the Franciscan charism. His doctrine has been more or less institutionalized, while his spirit seems to have been dissipated into something more "new age" than authentic Catholic asceticism.
Sometimes I think that is why, many folks, even some of the Friars, delight in the romantic aspect of the Saint's life. Surrounding themselves with bird baths and fountains of the saint with birds flocking all over the otherwise dreadful piece of sculpture representing him. Then there are those Brother Sun and Sister Moon ecological seminars many host in his honor. Yet Francis, in his most authentic image, is an icon of Jesus Crucified. He is in a tattered habit, his side and limbs wounded with the stigmata, his body like gnarled roots, barefoot, trampling the globe representing the world underfoot. He holds a cross, and perhaps a skull, representing the brevity of life and our final end. The authentic image of St. Francis calls us to penance, while urging us to love - to love love, and make love loved.
Yet I digress. This evening commemorates his transitus or death. In imitation of his Crucified Love. On this night, he rose from his death bed, removed his clothes and lay down upon the bare earth to die, covered only with a small cloth. The passion was read to him one last time before he died.
St. Francis of Assisi, father of the poor, example of penitents, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.