This weekend just gone we celebrated the feast of our parish patron St Francis, and there is much that can be said about his life. There are numerous examples of his thoughts and actions that should inspire our way of life today, and his writings are quite extensive. We are readily familiar with what is called the Prayer of St Francis, otherwise known as ‘Make me a channel of your Peace’. We see him depicted with animals and the natural world as a guardian of creation. We know of his poem entitled the Canticle of the Sun. And we follow every year in our parish the tradition, we are told that was started by St Francis, of having a nativity crib. Other biographies focus on how the rule devised by St Francis helped to rebuild the church, both in physical and spiritual terms.
I’m sure everybody is aware of the story of how St Francis turned his back on a prosperous lifestyle, getting himself into much trouble, and ending up penniless and having to beg to stay alive. Indeed it is said that the reason the Franciscan Order adopted the brown habit, that they still wear, is because when Francis went to seek permission to start his order, he was wearing an old brown garment that he had begged from a peasant and tied around the middle with string.
As I considered the life of St Francis, I was thinking about what part I should focus on, but more importantly, why it might carry a message here and now to us.
What strikes me is the dramatic and extreme change that St Francis made to his life. I wouldn’t for one moment suggest that we should be considering doing exactly the same thing as St Francis, but it should perhaps act as an inspiration that allows us to consider what we could change in our own lives. Alongside the notion of giving things up, is the idea of living a bit simpler.
So how can I simplify my life?
Perhaps the first thing that I need to do is to consider the things in my life that are materially important to me. Do I have a passion for clothes? Do I have to have the latest technological gadget and up to date ‘app’? Must my food come from a specific retailer, when the equivalent could be found elsewhere at a lower price?
Then comes step two, what difference would making a change make to me, or more importantly others? Could the money I save by not buying that designer brand item of clothing, be, at least in part, used to buy essential clothing for someone who can’t even afford the basics? – we get the idea.
And why stop at material things? When reading about our patron saint there was one line that stood out for me in the short biography I had. It said:
He preached to all the love of God and the love of the created world; because, having renounced everything, he celebrated everything he received, or saw, or heard, as a gift.
St Francis saw everything in terms of being given to us by God. A fact that we shouldn’t take for granted, and this includes all the material and non-material aspects of our life. Those luxuries that I have, each is by definition a gift. A gift for sharing or keeping to myself?
I need to occasionally ask myself, “I like simple things, so why do I continue to make life so complicated?”
Can I live a simple life of simple truth – God above all and in all?
I’d just like to share with you a prayer written by St Francis that inspires us to think how God should take precedence in our lives:
You are holy, Lord, the only God.
And your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the most high.
You are almighty.
You, holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one, Lord God, all good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good.
Lord God, living and true.
You are love. You are wisdom.
You are humility. You are endurance.
You are rest. You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and you suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage. You are our haven and hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, great and wonderful Lord,
God almighty, merciful Saviour.
Deacon Ian Black
(Image courtesy of https://quotefancy.com/)