What could I possibly say about a Catholic saint? At one time my only knowledge of St. Francis of Assisi was that he must have been in cahoots with the bird bath companies. Anytime I saw him, he was standing by a bird bath with bunnies, birds and an occasional squirrel. It did look peaceful. Growing up in my small town there wasn’t a Catholic Church within 30 miles and I did not know any Catholics, except my Mississippi cousins. It had been quite a stir in the 1940’s when my Aunt Sue married Uncle Herman. Our Southern Baptist roots did not know what to make of it all. Grades one through twelve we did have fish every Friday in the school lunch room. When we asked why it was always the same and not sloppy joes, we were told that Catholics eat fish on Friday- so we did.
With this limited background I have been thinking about St. Francis the last months for a couple of reasons. This past fall, Dick Woodward, who had been Bill’s mentor for thirty years, gave us a plaque with St. Francis’ prayer, “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace”. I have read it over and over in the last months as it hangs in our bedroom. Dick quoted St. Francis often with, “Preach the gospel always, and when necessary use words.” It is something to ponder. The second reason this saint has come to the forefront for me was that I recently read a book about him. The book chronicles a pilgrimage of faith by an evangelical Protestant minister who visits his uncle, a Franciscan friar, who lives in Assisi, Italy. It explores St. Francis life and some of the beliefs that changed not only his life, but the society he lived in during the Middle Ages.
I read again the importance St. Francis placed not only on what was spoken, but on how he lived. St. Francis spoke from the beatitudes that Jesus preached on the Sermon on the Mount. In verse 9 of Matthew 5 we read:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (NIV)
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family”.(MSG)
Jesus had a high calling for peace makers. As a child of the ’70’s, I cannot help but have a biased view when I hear the words: peace maker. Peace child, hippies, pacifist, wish washy, no commitment and Un-American are a few thoughts that flow through my mind. I have been thinking lately about the difference between peace lovers and peace makers. Peace lovers want a life without conflict and strife because it makes our lives easier. That is really appealing. Being a peace maker is a whole different ball game. Politicians, counselors, heads of states, churches, families and relationships in general all aim for peace, often to no avail. Why is it so hard? Peace makers have to put down the mantle of being “truth bearers.” I’m not talking about the truth of Jesus and the Bible. He is Absolute Truth and the anchor for our lives. I am talking on a personal level in relationships where “truths” may not be as clear, not black or white. These “truths” cling to what “we think” other people believe, feel, or take action on. In the past it has been easy for me to jump to conclusions about how I might handle someone else’s situation, what I “think” someone meant with their words or how I’m “right”. When Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, we have to put our fallible thoughts and judgements on the altar and ask him to be the reconciler, redeemer and peace in our lives. This is when peace will come for myself and for those who are a part of my world.
St. Francis was on to something. He not only read the gospel, but lived it. My prayer is that I might look at the whole gospel and know that the blessing comes when God gives me eyes to look at others the way that Christ does and not with my limited eyes. This is when the peace comes and I discover who I am in God’s family. These words did not come from a Catholic priest, but Jesus Himself.
PS In the pic, this Dallas home tossed the birdbath to the side, but you get the idea!
One thought on “St. Francis”
I just finished reading the book you mentioned. I have a lot to learn from St. Francis who was ready to take Jesus at His word and follow.