Thursday, 4 October 2012

St Francis was a Deacon

St Francis was never a Priest; a Religious he was later in life ordained a Deacon to which Order he submitted under protest. 

Francis was not a reformer; he preached about returning to God and obedience to the Church. Francis must have known about the decay in the Church, but he always showed the Church and its people his utmost respect. When someone told him of a priest living openly with a woman and asked him if that meant the Mass was polluted, Francis went to the priest, knelt before him, and kissed his hands because those hands had held God; a mission in which Deacons share in a different and supportive way knowing too about the fragility of living the life of sacred ministry.

Slowly companions came to Francis, people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for garbage to eat and loving God. With companions, Francis knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life so he opened the Bible in three places. He read the command to the rich young man to sell all his good and give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. "Here is our rule," Francis said; as simple, and as seemingly impossible, as that. He was going to do what no one thought possible any more; live by the Gospel. Francis took these commands so literally that he made one brother run after the thief who stole his hood and offer him his robe! 

Francis never wanted to found a religious order, this former knight thought that sounded too military. He thought of what he was doing as expressing God's brotherhood. His companions came from all walks of life, from fields and towns, nobility and common people, universities, the Church, and the merchant class. Francis practiced true equality by showing honor, respect, and love to every person whether they were beggar or pope. 

Another example of his directness came when he decided to go to Syria to convert the Moslems while the Fifth Crusade was being fought. In the middle of a battle, Francis decided to do the simplest thing and go straight to the sultan to make peace. When he and his companion were captured, the real miracle was that they weren't killed. Instead Francis was taken to the sultan who was charmed by Francis and his preaching. He told Francis, "I would convert to your religion which is a beautiful one, but both of us would be murdered." 

Francis did find persecution and martyrdom of a kind; not among the Moslems, but among his own brothers. When he returned to Italy, he came back to a brotherhood that had grown to 5000 in ten years. Pressure came from outside to control this great movement, to make them conform to the standards of others. His dream of radical poverty was too harsh, people said. Francis responded, "Lord, didn't I tell you they wouldn't trust you?" 

He finally gave up authority in his order but he probably wasn't too upset about it. Now he was just another brother, like he'd always wanted. 

Francis' final years were filled with suffering as well as humiliation. Praying to share in Christ's passion he had a vision and received the stigmata, the marks of the nails and the lance wound that Christ suffered, in his own body. 

St. Francis responded to blindness late in life and to suffering by writing his beautiful Canticle of the Sun that expresses his brotherhood with creation in praising God. 

Francis never recovered from this illness. He died on October 4, 1226 at the age of 45. Francis is considered the founder of all Franciscan orders and the patron saint of ecologists and merchants and is an example to all Deacons as well as one of their most important patrons although most of the faithful still think of him as a Priest, which he was not. 

May his prayers and that of all God’s Holy Deacons continue to renew, restore and sanctify the Church of Christ crucified for our sins and with whose marks of suffering he shared. Amen.

With acknowledgement to catholic online