Statue "Dancing Francis"
Each year on October 4 we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis: a day when many revel in the perpetual presence of a man said to be peaceful; a patron of ecology and advocate of animals (inspiring annual pet blessings around the world).
FSPA-supported free wellness screening for the underserved.
But this year I invite you to venture away from the customary events—to go to the margins of his spirituality. Francis was not a perfect man with 20/20 vision. He had no intention of becoming a saint. Stepping out of his comfort zone through conversion he learned to embrace ministry to the lepers. The place of his greatest fear became the sweetness of service.
Sister Donna Stevens (center) serves White Mountain Apache substance abuse treatment center.
Among the lepers Francis saw the pain of ostracization by family, friends and faith communities. Yet he stretched out a mantle of care and compassion, casting aside the label “unclean” as he and his followers tended to the wounds of the afflicted, soothed to restore dignity to each person.
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Jesus does not promise a life of ease when following the call to discipleship. Gospel ministry requires long hours and challenging service. Encountering your brothers and sisters on the liminal edge—a space you may feel uncomfortable in—can challenge your values and compel you beyond your conscious. Each encounter with a life reality different than your own leads to greater understanding of humanity. On the Feast of St. Francis let us applaud the inspiration of the peace-keeper and ecologist; the patron of animals and founder of a religious order (here are the Gospel texts that guided the Franciscan Order formation: Mark 10:21, Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:3). But let us also accept his call today and everyday to search out those on the periphery. The margins may be closer than you think.
Sisters serving meals to the homeless.
Who do you see outside the boundaries?
How will you reach out to these brothers and sisters in need?
How is St. Francis guiding you? Post a comment and inspire us!