Fierce like Francis

While all Secular Franciscans follow the same call, to live a Gospel life in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, every Secular Franciscan follows this call differently, according to his or her own abilities and state of life. Every Secular Franciscan has a particular way in which we can say that he or she is like Francis.

Eileen was fierce like Francis.

Despite the many difficulties, health crises, and hardships she endured in her later years (or maybe because of them), Eileen was not about to waste time thinking but never acting. She challenged us: are we doing enough? Are we praying enough? Are we listening to God enough? What is God telling us to do?

Sometimes Eileen would come to a Secular Franciscan gathering and ask bold questions, seemingly out of nowhere. But those questions were born of her deep faith and constant prayer. When she was not physically able to do more, she always prayed and contemplated.

In Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, Pat Gohn noted,

The good of the Gospel is that it leads us to new life in Christ and, ultimately, eternal life in heaven. This gospel of life has a very practical application for Christians. A woman’s influence in the world consists of being a guardian of life. We give witness to it in our very nature, and that should extend to the moral leadership we have wherever we live and work. (161)

Indeed, Eileen was a mother and grandmother, giving witness to the gift of life; but her work did not stop there. Eileen had a deep concern for the unborn, and she participated in the March for Life as she was able. Throughout the year, she worked to keep the cause of the vulnerable unborn in the public eye by writing letters to the editor of our local newspaper, many of which were published.

St. Francis had many fierce moments in his life: his embrace of the leper, his journey to Egypt with the aim of converting the Sultan, his refusal to stay in the fine monasteries he’d advised the brothers not to build, his renunciation of his father’s wealth. Some might call these reckless moves, but they were not at all reckless. They were born of faith and prayer and a wish to live up to very high ideals. They required courage and fierceness.

The dream of Pope Innocent III: Francis holds up the Lateran Basilica with his shoulder. Giotto di Bondone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Early in his ministry, St. Francis traveled to Rome to receive papal approval of his rule of life. Pope Innocent III hesitated in granting this approval, thinking that Francis’ way of life was impractical. But according to legend, Innocent dreamed he saw Francis propping up the Basilica of St. John Lateran with his shoulder — and this convinced him to give his blessing to the Franciscans. It’s fitting, then, that we celebrate Eileen’s life today, on the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the first physical church building and the symbol of the Church that Francis had set out to rebuild.

Not all of us are courageous enough to be fierce like Francis. But Eileen was, and all of us who knew her are better for her boldness.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

fierce like francis

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
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On Barb’s Bookshelf: A Gathering of Larks

A contemporary poet writes to St. Francis of Assisi as she explores his life with a focus on his choices, mistakes and faith. A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2017) isn’t exactly a biography, but author Abigail Carroll covers the important events in St. Francis’ life while she tries to make sense of the inexplicable in current events.

a gathering of larks by abigail carroll back (1)

Abigail Carroll refuses to fall into the trap of stereotyping St. Francis–and that was a great relief, as I relate to this statement:

For most of my life, the St. Francis I have encountered has been as garden statuary, prayer card images, children’s book illustrations, and stained-glass windows. . . . I attempt to bridge the gap between who Francesco Bernardone really was and who we have made him to be. (viii)

The book begins with a short biography of St. Francis that does not gloss over the tough-to-think-about parts or romanticize anything. The poem I enjoyed most is a prose-poem titled “Dear Reluctant Saint” that describes modern-day Assisi, explaining how commercialized it’s become without exactly saying how much he’d hate something like that.

Don’t skip the Conversation with the Author at the end of the book, in which she discusses faith, poetry, and what most intrigues her about St. Francis.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the various titles Carroll uses to address St. Francis. Reminiscent of the stock epithets in Greek poetry, these titles help to define St. Francis and are thematically related to the issue explored in each particular poem.

This book is highly recommended for anyone with a devotion to St. Francis of Assisi.

Barb's Book shelf blog title
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

#WorthRevisit: Earth Day According to One Secular Franciscan

With Earth Day coming up this Friday (it’s even on the freebie church calendar along with all the saint of the day and what Sunday of Easter happens this week, and Passover, even) I’m looking back at an Earth Day post from 2008.

Saint Francis of Assisi has apparently come to be considered the Patron Saint of Earth Day, ecology, and all things “green.”

But the green movement does Francis no justice when insistence is placed on “green for green’s sake.”

The only thing the Francis was interested in for its own sake was God.

Yes, he had a great reverence for Creation–the earth, nature, the sun and moon and all the animals, plants and trees. But his reverence was born from his awe of the power and creativity and genius of God. To Francis, every bit of God’s creation reflected God’s glory–and that is what made creation something to be revered. Francis saw God’s glory, power, creativity and genius in everything and everyone, and strove to act accordingly. …

Let us remember that while it’s great to reduce waste, recycle or reuse what we have, and try to create less garbage, the reason we do this is to treat God’s creation with care–to be good stewards of what we have been given.

It’s not enough to be “green.” We should also be grateful.

when saint francis saved the church

If you want to know what St. Francis of Assisi was really about, read When Saint Francis Saved the Church by Jon M. Sweeney. You’ll find that his priorities were very different from the picture of him painted by environmental activists who claim to be acting in his name.

Saint Francis set out to save the Church. Not the earth.

The fine print: Link to Jon Sweeney’s book is an Amazon affiliate link. Your purchases through my affiliate links help support

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

A Must-Listen: The Catholic Foodie and Gary Zimak talk about worry

This morning I was up early worrying. I have a meeting later this morning, and I know the meeting itself will be fine. It’s just the pre-meeting preparation that gets to me. Every time.

I’m actually glad that I signed up to bring soup for the lunch we’ll have after the meeting, because cooking is one way I relax. Chopping, stirring, measuring and pouring–I find that very calming.

No one else in the house was awake yet, so I decided to cue up a podcast to keep me company while I prepared that soup. Since I was going to be cooking, I figured I’d catch up on an episode of The Catholic Foodie Show. Yesterday’s program featured Gary Zimak, a Catholic author and speaker who lives in a neighboring town and who specializes in the subject of fear, worry and faith.

As Gary and Jeff shared about worry and how it tends to short-circuit prayer (except for the “God, help me!” kind), they encouraged listeners to remember to always praise God.

That reminded me of a line from St. Francis of Assisi’s Letter to the Faithful. Copy this down and put it where you’ll see it every day:

Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks, and serve him with great humility.

This is going to be my focus, going forward. Let’s see where it takes me.

from fear to faithRight now I’m reading Gary’s book From Fear to Faith: A Worrier’s Guide to Discovering Peace. It’s an excellent book to bring to Adoration. Chapters are short and there’s a lot of room for thought, prayer and reflection.

You can listen to this podcast here. When you’re done listening, bookmark the Breadbox Media website or download their app (free for iOS and Android) so you can find your favorite Catholic radio shows online or listen to archived episodes!

The fine print: the link to Gary Zimak’s book is an Amazon affiliate link, which puts a little extra in my pocket at no cost to you when you purchase this book through my link. Thanks!