Thursday, December 21, 2006

St. Francis of Assisi

When I read the story of St.Francis, I feel like going out and buying a crucifix, attending convocation, and becoming a catholic. Today I sat with a student during their study skills class and worked with him one-on-one. He was catholic and for his convocation his priest had asked him to choose a Saint name and to write an essay on why it relates to him. He had chosen St.Francis because this past summer he had visited St.Francis grave in Assisi. We sat reading St.Francis' story together at the table. St.Francis had grown up in the richest of the rich. In a short period in life he had an encounter with his friends where a begger asked him for money. His friends completely ignored the begger and Francis' heart was clenched with hurt for the begger. Almost overnight he was overwhelmed with a transformational experience in which he gave all that he had to the poor. In one fell swoop he lost most of his friends, his parents became unaccepting of his behavior, and he became deathly ill. After a miraculous healing Francis devoted his life to the poor and desparaged of the world.
I sat down to lunch with a student who was searching through a highschool dispute that their peers had been consumed in. In an Asian dominated community, the white students sometimes feel alienated on campus. As a response to this emotion they had started to use a hand gesture between white students as a joke to ease the discomfort of their alienation. Soon a few non-white students caught on to this and felt alienated by this new race-driven group gesture. They felt awkward about talking about it and addressed the issue on a web-page because they wanted to address the issue not necessarily start a race war. When the other group caught on to this, they became defensive, angered by the websites attacks, and did not agree. Now, the two sides seem to be at odds and divided where there had not been much division before over something that neither side meant for it to be.
How do these two situations coinside. Well, in reading about Thomas' life I read this prayer and it almost adressed this situation specifically:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Power and love, how do these two concepts so often butt heads. Injustice and hatred seem to creep into every corner of life. How pleasing this world would be if we could learn to, as Ghandhi proposed, stand truthfully against a wrong without seeking vengence; and even to pardon the injuries others have incurred against us. What if we could learn to speak honest truth in love when we are oppressed and speak constructive humility when we are the oppressors. That we could bring light to the dark, and in such, bring joy to sadness.


garret said...

when i was really in to being catholic in high school. I went to world youth day in rome, and part of our tour took us through assisi. I loved it their and thought about becoming a franciscan (partly because i met this one monk that was this really cool ... he rapped and had a recording studio in Brooklyn), but ever since that day i thought francis was the shit... yes i did just refer to a saint as the shit...

ron gp said...

I couldn't agree with you too more- our church did a steps of st francis pilgrimage right after I started working here. I learned a little bit about him through hearing stories- I have thought about becoming a "second tier" (i think that is waht they call it) franciscan...comitting yourself to justice, peace, and anti-consumerism..amidst other things. We'll have to look more into it. Jon, I know you are in- but, Garret you should think about joining our Obama book group. Afterwards...I was thining it would be cool to do a two month study of St Francis with a group oif peeps. you to you soon!

Gabriel said...

i have just watched "Brother Sun, Sister Moon," a movie by Zeffireli about St. Francis of Assisi. It was so inspiring. the simplicity of life is truly liberating. with being poor God becomes our riches.

Anonymous said...

The porciuncola in Assisi is without a doubt the most spritual place I have ever been in my entire life. There was definitely a connection with benevolent spirits in that tiny medieval chapel. It just goes to show you that bigger is not always better. For example St. Francis was given to sleeping in the woods perhaps even considered a kibd of nystic nut in 13th century Italy and I believe given his vow to poverty
he would be appalled at the larger Gothic Cathedral housing a humble
Umbrian Chapel.