Thursday, April 4, 2013

Not a Garden Gnome: Understanding St. Francis

The name, St. Francis, is on everyone's lips these days – ever since our new Holy Father took Francis as his official name. With this rise in popularity, a saint whose reputation has already been misrepresented, has swung into full blown mischaracterization. As arguably the favorite among all the saints – among Catholics, Protestants and even non-Christians – St. Francis has quite the reputation. But if we are to quell these misrepresentations it might be wise to take a longer look at this multifaceted saint. At first glance, he holds quite the surface image as a kind of garden gnome who holds bowls of water or seed for our feathered friends or perhaps with his arms outstretched as birds land on them much like they did on those of Snow White. I, myself, am guilty of having various representations of him in our vast gardens as mere decoration.

But St. Francis wasn't some hippy, tree hugging monk who worshiped Mother Earth and all of nature. Rather, he fiercely worshiped God while maintaining a healthy respect and sense of wonder for all of His creation. St. Francis' appreciation of nature and acknowledgment of its grandeur stemmed from his devotion to living a life devoid of the lures of earthly pleasure, instead focusing on service to the poor and outcast.

As a former soldier, St. Francis was also a lover of peace. Contrary to popular belief, however, he neither penned the St. Francis Prayer (it was written much later than his lifetime) nor did he say, “preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words". Although both of these nods to him embody his philosophy, the words are not his own. What Francis did do was amazing enough that there is no need for embellishments. For example, in his fervent pursuit of chastity he is said to have rolled, naked, in the cold snow of winter in order to resist temptation. And although he had many hard sayings and practices, there are also many anecdotes about his life that point to a communion with nature that was unusual to say the least. Yet warm and fuzzy aren't really a part of his story.

Read the rest of this original post and some of his amazing stories on Catholic Sistas.