We celebrate the life of St. Francis on October 4th. His was a story of “from riches to rags”, not a career path much appreciated in our present day and age. Instead of following his father into the lucrative textile business, Francis’ encounters with the poor and the marginalized of his society led him to embrace “Lady Poverty”. He gave up all personal ambition and instead devoted his life entirely to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He also wanted to rid himself of all distractions when it came to his relationship with God, so he literally gave all his material possessions away.
One of the aspects of his life that inspires us was his appreciation for the glory of God revealed in creation. Legend has it that he had the ability to speak to animals and was known to apologize to an ant when he realized that he was about to step on it. Many people keep a statue of Francis in their gardens as a reminder of his love of nature and it is for this reason we choose to hold our annual Blessing of the Animals on a Sunday closest to the 4th.
Many of us also resonate with the prayer attributed to Francis: “Lord, make us instruments of your peace” (Book of Common Prayer, page 833). I think that one of the deepest desires in our lives is for peace. We seek this peace in all manner of ways. Yet, the horror of Monday’s violence aimed at innocent people in Las Vegas, people gathered together seeking peace in their love of music, reminds us how elusive peace can be. That is why the prayer continues. In order to end hatred, that great obstacle to peace, those who long for peace must sow love. Those who understand that conflict destroys peace must proactively work for forgiveness and union. Those living in hopelessness and despair need faith and light in their lives. We must seek to restore these essential elements if a peaceful existence is to be theirs. Finally, and with the greatest humility, we must embrace the fact that, if we are to be instruments of God’s peace, we must honor and cherish others before we honor ourselves, even if we give our lives for the sake of others in the process.
The Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts reminds us that, “Of all the saints, Francis is the most popular and admired, but the least imitated.” There is a good reason for that. Bringing peace into the world does require the utmost humility, and again, that kind of humility is not greatly encouraged in our world today. As we here at Trinity continue to pray about how we might best act as “instruments of God’s peace” in our world, we would do well to embrace the example of Francis. The world needs more of his gentle spirit, now more than ever.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Rev. Robert L. Banse, Jr.