There is so much to be said about Saint Francis. His feast day is today and so it seemed like a good time to come back to exploring the lives and struggles of people living a spiritual life.
I know we’ve talked about Saint Francis before, but I think it’s important to come back to the stories and people we love. It seems like there are so many new choices and new things to talk about. We seem to focus on keeping thing fresh and new and exciting and different. What new thing do we need? What new thing do we need to hear?
Life is full of choices from cookies to books to beverages to TV shows. Choice things to make our lives more comfortable and safe so we have more time and more security. We’re bringing in more things to build a life and build security.
Ever notice that it seems like the more we have the more we need to feel safe and secure? Our need is insatiable. Our desire for security is impossible to fill, but we keep trying.
Maybe we need to accept that there is no security. There are no promises. That by trying to fulfill the void of insecurity we end up with more stuff and more choices. But not security and certainly not perfection.
And more things creep in. How many convenient channels, apps, and things are we paying for? Do we even know?
The wise choose wisely and stay the course. The wise come back to those who have studied and have been studied. The Teachers who teach us how to live through their experiences of trials and struggles and temptations. I’m pretty sure that 13th century Spain was no more safe, secure, and easy than life is now.
The wise choose words, stories, and Teachers wisely and stay with them.
What does Saint Francis have to teach us? Kindness. Joy. Simplicity. That God’s touch is in everything. He teaches us to embody the teachings of Jesus and to do it with with Joy. He teaches us to…practice.
Notice that it’s not: Lord, make other people peaceful? It’s Lord, make ME an instrument of peace. It is a call to look at one’s self. What can I do to be a better presence in the world? How can I walk with God’s Grace?
How can you not love a saint who loves the squirrels and mice as much as his fellow man?
I have a secret. I have been angry at Saint Francis for a long time. I decided long ago that I wasn’t going to like Saint Francis.
Maybe this is a reflection on change and growth?
You could say that I studied love in college. Literature. You know, Jane Eyre, Persuasion, Les Mis, love poems, love stories…love. Yes, there is more to an English degree than love stories. I don’t want to downplay a degree in English any more than it already is without my help. For now, tho let’s stick with that part of it.
For my Senior Seminar, I took a course called Mystics, Saints, and Gargoyles. It was a course on writings from Sacred Literature and Little Flowers of Saint Francis was one of the texts. What I remember from the class about Saint Francis was that Clare (yes, Clare of the Poor Clares; yes, Clare to become Saint Clare) was in love with Francis and would have followed him to the ends of the earth.
What I focused on was the human love story where he decides to start a monastery and she gets denied his love and gets “locked” into a convent. Sure, it sounded willingly, but I just wasn’t so sure about that. I added all sorts of “hmmphs” and “sure’s” to my version of the story from what I heard. He still gets to walk in the world and she gets sheltered away. I felt like he locked her away to escape his own temptation. I seem to recall, don’t know if it’s true or not, that she needed to speak with him and when he came she stood in the window and he stood the ground, because she wasn’t allowed to leave the convent. It seemed like a very backwards Romeo and Juliet to me at the time.
That’s not how love is supposed to work, so I was very angry at Saint Francis, despite his love of squirrels and mice.
Perhaps, it is a reminder that what God asks of us isn’t necessarily easy. Often times, the path to God is terribly painful. I still like to imagine a love story in all of this. I like to think that perhaps they were soul mates. Perhaps they needed one another to fully awaken to God’s presence. Perhaps they did have very difficult personal choices to make in becoming who they were to become. Perhaps they needed one another to fully grow to become presences of Good in the world. Perhaps the “soul” work was to awaken one another to the divine light within each of them. Devoted instead of to only one another, but to Good work. To God. To Jesus.
Both of them better for it because of one another. They remained friends throughout life (although they rarely saw one another).
In a world with so many choices, we should stop getting distracted, and perhaps work on our own “soul work”. Our “soul work” to awaken to the divine within. To find our path and walk it with faith and truth. To trust that when the story doesn’t turn out the way you think it should or the way you would like it to that perhaps there is another plan and a different sort of soul work to be done.
Perhaps, there are too many choices and directions we could go in. Perhaps, we could spend less time seeking new and exciting ways and focus on just a few good teachers, a few good stories, and turn our hearts to Grace.