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'.|
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.