Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


The True Joy of St. Francis

Saint Francis of AssisiIn either the year 1181 or 1182, Pietro di Bernadone, a wealthy textile merchant in the Italian town of Umbria, and his French wife, Pica, had a son they named Francesco. Francesco was part of the new Italian middle class that was coming into its own. His father’s wealth and his natural charisma, made Francesco a leader of the youth of his town. Francesco dreamed of earning glory in battle. He got his chance at an early age when he enlisted, along with the other young men of Assisi to fight in a feud against Perugia. Francesco’s side lost the battle and he was imprisoned for a time. Defeat in battle and illness in prison caused Francesco to turn away from his visions of glory on the battlefield.

Francesco’s path toward God took a series of turns closer and closer to God, rather than an all at once conversion. However, the course of Francesco’s life was profoundly changed by at least two formative experiences. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Francesco saw a beggar outside of St. Peter’s Church. The Holy Spirit moved Francesco to trade places with the beggar. Francesco exchanged clothes with a beggar and then spent the day begging for alms. That experience of being poor shook Francesco to the core. Later he confronted his own fears of leprosy by hugging a leper. Like trading places with the beggar in Rome, hugging a leper left a deep mark on Francesco.

But contrary to the way his story is often presented, the man we now remember as Saint Francis did not change overnight. For years Francis struggled over how to live out the Gospel. Shaped by his experiences with the beggar and the leper, he had a strong identification with the poor. Francis cut himself off from the opulent lifestyle of the Italian Middle Class and sought out a more radically simple life. Francis and his followers tried to actually follow Jesus’ teaching with all that meant.

Francis held out extremely high ideals for himself. He sought to really and truly humble himself and to be as Christlike as possible. One example is a writing on true joy he dictated to a fellow monk. Francis said,
What true joy is:

A messenger comes and says that all the masters in Paris have come into the Order; this is not true joy. Or that all the prelates beyond the mountains and the king of England [have entered the Order]; this is not true joy. Again, that my brothers have gone to all the unbelievers and converted all of them to the faith; again, that I have so much grace from God that I heal the sick and perform many miracles: I tell you that joy does not consist in any of these things.

What then is true joy?

Saint Francis of AssisiI return to Perugia and arrive there in the dead of night; and it is winter time, muddy and so cold that icicles have formed on the edges of my habit and keep striking my legs, and blood flows from such wounds. And all covered with mud and cold, I come to the gate and after I have knocked and called for some time, a brother comes and asks, “Who are you?” I answer, “Brother Francis.” And he says go away; this is not the proper hour for going about; you may not come in.” And when I insist, he answers, “Go away, you are a simple and stupid person; we are so many and we have no need of you. You are certainly not coming to us at this hour!” And I stand again at the door and say: “For the love of God, take me in tonight.” And he answers, “I will not. Go to the Crossiers’ place and ask there.” I tell you this: If I had the patience and did not become upset, there would be true joy in this and true virtue and the salvation of the soul.
Francis wanted to conform his life to God’s will in such at way that even cruelty of a fellow brother of the religious order he founded could not wreck his joy. I don't know if he found that depth of joy, but by all accounts, Francis lived the most Christ-like of any person of his day.

click here to see more photos of last years serviceThis Saturday at 12 noon, I will officiate at a Blessing of the Animals at the Humane Society of Camden County in Kingsland along with my fellow pastors Gabe Cummings, Mac Flowers and Verdell Griffin. Bring a pet and come join us as we pray for God's blessings on our pets. Or come and bring a new freshly blessed pet home from the shelter.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church


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