Friday, 2 August 2013

St Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims

Francis really was an inspiring choice of name for a Pope, even if, a little odd, given the great Saint's graceful movement from layman to friar and no higher.

Today the Holy Father drew upon the model of St Francis of Assisi in dialogue with Islam. Pope Francis will have done much to reawaken within the Church interest in the great Saint of the middle ages who, along with Dominic led the renewal of the Church in the face of heresy and paganism. I am sure one reason why the Pope is so surprisingly popular is because His Holiness chose the name of a Saint so very popular, if perhaps misunderstood 'in our times'/'nostrae aetate'.

St Francis is so often painted as a lover of ecology, when in fact he loved Creation because in it he saw the Lord's work and saw a reflection of the One he loved. Apparently a new book, entitled 'St Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims' was published in 2009. You can purchase the book here, it is said to be a very good read.

St Francis of Assisi, of course, brought countless souls back to Holy Mother Church and preached the truth and Her doctrines, 'in season and out of season'. Pope Francis is doing much to 'detoxify' the Church's brand and will assuredly awaken interest in the Catholic Faith. His Holiness is obviously trying to 'reach out' to those who do not believe in God, as well as those who do. I've spent so much time reading Catholic comment on Pope Francis that I have not read much secular comment. To get a gist of how Pope Francis is seen from outside the Church, this is probably a good indicator. What does it all mean?

A lapsed Catholic taxi driver and I were having a conversation about the new Pope today. She thought Francis would be a great reforming Pope because the Church needs to modernise in order to attract the people of today. It sounded like she wanted the Church to 'get with the programme' in terms of how modern the man and woman thinks, believes and lives in order to get 'bums on pews'. She hadn't been to Mass for eons, but remembered the Traditional Latin Mass. I told her "its back" and about how it came back and she found that fascinating, remembering it from her childhood growing up in a convent school. Still though, she thought the Church needed to do something radical in order to bring 'bums' back to the 'pews'.

St Francis: Holy, humble, but probably not always 'nice'.
Quite what she meant by this, she didn't seem to be able to articulate. I told her/reminder her about Confession for mortal sins - there wasn't enough time to talk about the Blessed Sacrament. She was a lovely lady who said that she still prays, especially recently when her mother was having chemotherapy for cancer. There's an elderly lady who always comes into the cafe where I work - her story is very similar, educated by a convent, remembers the beauty of Benediction and the Latin Mass.

I seem to meet so many lapsed Catholics in Brighton you wouldn't believe it. I always try and give a good witness to Our Lord and to the Most Holy Faith, but it always feels like an abysmal failure to me. It starts to feel a bit eerie though - knowing that there are five million lapsed Catholics in this country and you know you are talking to one of them. After talking to a lapsed Catholic, I always get the dread that the Lord will tell me on the Last Day that I was far too nice and accommodating with the Church's absent children, so one can hardly bewail a Pope who in reaching out, omits some important doctrine.

I often wonder, 'When is the Holy Father going to take off the boxing gloves and do serious battle with the Devil?' forgetting of course, that so often, I who am one of his flock seldom desire to reject the fear of losing human respect in order to win souls for Christ. St Francis of Assisi left us some wonderful insights into holiness and virtue in his admonitions, but along with this we know that he was a fearless and fearsome, if humble preacher of the truth for the sake of his Lord and God. The entire Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi can be read here.

I expect that in St Francis of Assisi's time people probably thought the Church should 'get with' whatever 'programme' was going on in their lives at the time. Francis's response was Christ's own 'programme' of poverty, humility, simplicity and a new vision of the mendicant life, living as the Apostles lived, going deep into poverty - getting underneath everyone and often under their skin. They were reliant on Providence for the love of God and Salvation of souls. Their point of 'encounter' as the Pope says, was always Christ whether they found Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, prayer or the service of the poor. Their peace was the peace of Christ, the peace the World cannot give, their fraternity, the riches of fraternity in Jesus Christ. Their joy was wholly in the Lord, their spirituality in direct contradiction to the World. If Francis's new Order had been broadcast around the globe, they would not, unlike the Holy Father have been considered an 'instant hit'. I think they'd be thought totally insane.

St Francis and his band of brothers were met at first with ridicule, derision, mockery and even a measure of hatred and violence. Their preaching was loud and insistent, calling people back to God. They lived, really, as my friend Jason lives a great deal of the time, only with less Skol Super. I expect if ever such an Order was revived in England they'd all be put on ASBOs.


Genty said...

Perhaps you are being called to evangelise in a different way. Your conversations with those who have lapsed may be the first spirtual nudge they've had in many years and, who knows, encourage them in their first steps back to the faith. The lapsed Catholics I know (unfortunately, quite a few), often seem to have deep sadness and regret that they turned away, but don't know how to find their way back. There are few people, if any, with whom they can share this. Confiding in a stranger who listens without judgement might be one of Christ's ways of bringing them home.

Nosce te ipsum said...

This is slightly parenthetical, but the telegraph has a new report on Muslim-Christian dialogue in Syria:

I wish the Pope would say something about that.

Martina Katholik said...

Yes, it is a very good book. I bought it four years ago but I doubt hat one of those modernists described by Pope Benedict XV. would read it:

3. That which matters now is to replace before all eyes the true moral physiognomy of St. Francis. The St. Francis of Assisi whom certain moderns present to us, and who springs from the imagination of the Modernists, this man, (...)*, a specimen of a vague and vain religiosity, is assuredly neither Francis of Assisi nor a saint.

*I left out what I think is a translation error in comparison with the italian version.

Mike Cliffson said...

A confessor n all sorts of people could give better advice, but
Don't stop !
Nobody these days mentions God and His church to ANYBODY, nor says thtat's wrong, quietly and nonjudgementally , etc.
I do know it's one of the Devil's tricks with me to catch me three ways
A) I'm more important than I in fact am - natch I swallow this! Finally someone appreciates me!
B.So B , since I COULD have (re)converted Mr/mrs/mz X, but, evidently, didn't :
I should despair of a whole lot of sins and failings that I don't have, and lose sight of those I DO and which probably need confessing again.
C. Turning and churning every single occasion over in my mind instead of getting about Jesus', (nd my, and your) father's business.
Win-win-win for our enemy and accuser, which is a bit much if you ask me.
If God so wills, it will be our inanest or angriest remark or feeblest interest, even opposition, which acts as that person's trigger, which , without being privy, say, to their deathbed prayers, we may never know.
If he don't so will, well, talking with the tongues of men and angels etc.aint in it for fruitless effort.
So long as you strive for your love to be Christian , "love and do what you wilt", and leave worrying after the fact to the Good Lord.
And take ANY holier advice than this ahead of me ! Especially in the confessional!

David said...

I hope that Pope Francis will soon speak out on the massacre of Christians in Syria.

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