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St. Francis: A Message for Our Times
St. Francis: A Message for Our Times

An Invitation to Cosmic Community

Monday, October 5, 2020

St. Francis: A Message for Our Times

An Invitation to Cosmic Community
Monday, October 5, 2020

Author and editor Robert Ellsberg reflects on Francis’ legacy from a modern perspective:

Jesus left no formal religious rule for his followers. The closest he came was his proclamation of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers. . . . Francis took to heart [Jesus’] spiritual vision [proclaimed in the Beatitudes] and translated it into a way of life. . . . For many men and women since the time of Francis, his particular example has offered a distinctive key to the Gospel—or, as Pope Francis might say, “a new way of seeing and interpreting reality.” [This is what the CAC is about as well.]  Among the central features of this key: the vision of a Church that is “poor and for the poor” [what we call “the bias from the bottom”]; a resolve to take seriously Jesus’s example of self-emptying love; the way of mercy and compassion [as Francis lived by solidarity with and service to lepers]; above all, a determination to proclaim the Gospel not only with words but with one’s life. . . . [1]

In a recent homily given in Assisi itself, Father Michael Perry, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (the name Francis gave us), shared his vision of Francis’ message and legacy for our time:

Brothers and sisters, the call to repentance, conversion, to open our minds, hearts, and lives to a new way of living together on this planet is more urgent now than in any other moment in human history. [As Pope Francis teaches,] conversion requires that we hear “Both the cry of the earth and the cry of the Poor.” [2] But is this not also what Francis of Assisi intended when he prayed that all people, and I would add, all of the created universe, might be admitted to paradise, might come to an experience of what St. Matthew calls the “Beatific way of life,” (Matthew 5:1–11) defined by living in just and right relationship with one another and with all of creation? . . .

In the Canticle [of the Creatures] Francis celebrates God’s loving presence in all of creation. He looks to nature for guidance on how we are to model our relationships with God, one another, and with the natural world. . . . This one [community], this common home, has been created by God and given the vocation to love, serve, and honor the Creator by loving, serving and honoring one another. Humans and the creaturely world have as their vocation the duty to support and complete one another, not to compete against and destroy one another. We are co-responsible with and for one another, especially for the poor and excluded. We are co-responsible for the life of the natural environment, showing gratitude and respecting nature’s proper limits, not pushing the planet to the brink of ecological disaster. [3]

[1] Robert Ellsberg, The Franciscan Saints (Franciscan Media: 2017), xvii.

[2] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home (May 24,2015), 49. Full text

[3] Michael Perry, Homily for the Feast of the Pardon of Assisi (August 2, 2020). Full text

Image credit: Early Autumn (detail), Qian Xuan, 13th century, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Let us place our first step in the ascent at the bottom, presenting to ourselves the whole material world as a mirror through which we may pass over to God, the supreme Artisan. —Bonaventure
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