Franciscan Peace

I am not a Franciscan; I have never been formed in Franciscan spirituality. My best friend, though, is a secular Franciscan and I was privileged to be present the day he made his promises several years ago. Because I am not steeped in Francis, I defer to those who are whenever I speak or write about il poverello as they call him in Italy.

Having said that, I watched via YouTube a lengthy video of the Pope’s pilgrimage to Assisi last Friday. It was in Italian, so I had to translate as he spoke, which is always a challenge for me. Thankfully, since Italian is his second language, it is much easier than it would have been if he were a native speaker.  I would like to transcribe excerpts for you below his homily at the Mass he celebrated in St. Francis Square. (By the way, this is the official Vatican translation of the original Italian.) To read the entire homily, log on to:

What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?

The first thing he tells us is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him.

Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus…… The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love,….. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to let the crucified Christ gaze upon us, to let ourselves be forgiven, and recreated by his love……

This is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give…… Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either! It is not Franciscan, but a notion that some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart….

Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created and as he created it, without manipulating and destroying creation; rather to help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be. And above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbour, that the human person is at the centre of creation, at the place where God….Harmony and peace! Francis was a man of harmony and peace. From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world…..

Crucified yet alive; peace and respect. St. Francis gazed on the crucified yet living Jesus, to whom he gave his all and became poor to the world, in whom he found his peace, and through whom he brought peace and harmony to the world around him.

I truly hope all men and women, consecrated by vows to the Franciscan way of life, may find renewal through the ministry of Pope Francis. In his homily, he emphasized that to be a Christian is first of all to “put on Christ” and to live in relationship with him. We are Christocentric, not mondocentric (I just made up that word… what I mean is “world-centered.”) It is in the life of St. Francis that we find a man radically centered on Jesus Christ and from that centeredness he found peace, harmony, joy, and respect for all of God’s creatures.

Let us imitate Il Poverello in the lives we lead in this world so hungry for his example.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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