A friend of mine is expecting her first child on October 4. When I learned the due date,
I immediately exclaimed, Thats the feast day of St. Francis! While this friend isnt very familiar
with this saint who has factored so significantly in my life, she does recognize him as the guy with the birds
as he is so often depicted in garden statuary.
That guy with the birds is certainly one of our most familiar saints. Many who themselves
find God in nature relate to Francis recognition of God in all of creation. Others who struggle to live lives of
simplicity in this consumer age turn to him as a model of one who chose a life of poverty over one of wealth. Many are
drawn to him because of the Peace Prayer he is believed to have prayed: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
As a child from a large, hardworking yet poor farm family in a Franciscan parish, I came to know of
and appreciate Francis early on. I knew that the Franciscans who staffed our parish and school had chosen a life of
poverty in imitation of St. Francis response to the gospel call. I decided that there must be something valuable
about being poor. I certainly didnt know what it was, but it helped me build a positive sense of self. As I matured,
my appreciation of Francis did as well. I came to see that the benefits gained from my poor upbringing far outweighed
anything I had to do without during my childhood years.
In 1997, after ministering in a school, retreat center and parish, I came home to
work for the Franciscans at St. Anthony Messenger Press. Three years ago I was blessed with the opportunity of a
lifetime: I spent nearly two weeks in Assisi and Rome on a Franciscan pilgrimage, learning more about the spiritualities
of Sts. Francis and Clare in some of the very places where those spiritualities developed.
In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council calls us a pilgrim
Church (48). As pilgrims, we are on a journey to a sacred place; ultimately our destination is heaven and the fulfillment
of the Kingdom of God. We can be assisted, motivated and inspired along that lifelong pilgrimage by making smaller pilgrimages
to sacred places here on earth. My pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome definitely did that for me. I consider it two weeks of grace
that forever changed me. It wasnt just something I did once; it has become part of who I am.
Ive selected a clip from the video Franciscan Holy Ground: Where Francis and Clare Found God
to share with you (RealMedia
| Windows Media
Use this video for your own reflection on these popular saints. Also, share it with small groups, within an adult faith-formation offering on St. Francis near his feast day
or with youth who are learning about St. Francis/saints/pilgrimage. This would also be a great tool for introducing RCIA participants to the saints as real people,
particularly a saint whose story involves a process of conversion and radical lifestyle change. This video also introduces the tradition of pilgrimage.
Remember, were all pilgrims. You dont have to go to Italy in order to get to our ultimate destination as Christians. But if you ever get the chance