On this Feast of St. Francis, I just want to remind all of you that you are ALL Franciscans! You may not be wearing the brown habit like we friars do, but by being members of this Franciscan parish, you too are Franciscans. What does that mean? Here is a summary of Franciscan values, adapted from the Franciscan Action Network (www.franciscanaction.org):
- Franciscans are dedicated to the care of creation, seeing all creatures as brothers and sisters. All creatures, from the smallest to “our Sister, Mother Earth,” were sisters and brothers, part of the very family of God. Following this tradition, St. Bonaventure developed a theological and spiritual vision that acknowledged all creation as emanating from the goodness of God, existing as a “footprint” of God, and leading us back to God if we are able to “read” nature properly.
- Franciscans emphasize the dignity of the human person, especially in its social nature. Although all creation is the “footprint of God,” the Franciscan tradition understands that human beings are also created in the very image and likeness of God. Humans represent in a special way God who is Trinity, and therefore we achieve our personal fulfillment in relationship to God and in the community rather than in the isolation of individualism.
- Franciscans witness to genuine love and respect for the poor and vulnerable. For Francis, poverty involved not only serving the poor but being poor and connected to those who were poor and outcast. This service to and identification with the poor was at the heart of the lives of Francis and Clare, it is there that they discovered Christ as “the poor Son of the poor Mother.” Following the example of these saints, members of the Franciscan family today are called to be with and identify with the poor and vulnerable and with all who face discriminaƟon of one form or another.
- Franciscans are heralds of peace and reconciliation. In his Admonitions, Francis explained that “those people are truly peacemakers who, regardless of what they suffer in this world, preserve peace of spirit and body out of love of our Lord Jesus Christ” (#15). His greeting to all, still repeated by Franciscans today, was “Pax et bonum,” “peace and all good.” Franciscans are called to build peace in their personal lives and in society.
- The Franciscan vision stresses the right relationship of justice. From the very beginning, Franciscans were seen as fratres (and sorores) minores, lesser brothers (and sisters). The Franciscan tradition emphasizes a genuine meeting of justice and charity. Franciscans do not try to domesticate the prophetic words of the Gospel but rather are called to live out a renewed vision of life and relationships based on justice, read the Signs of the Times, critique abuses of power, and follow an ethic based on the inviolable dignity of all people.
- The Franciscan vision is transformational, demanding change and conversion in its adherents. St. Francis saw his entire life as a continuing conversion into the vision of God, whom he saw as a loving parent. Francis saw his life as a continuous conversion from sin to a life lived in gratitude for God’s love. There is always an unfinished quality to this conversion until we enter into the Reign of God.
- Franciscans are called not only to change themselves but also to be agents of change in the larger community. Francis began his conversion in the Church of San Damiano, when he heard the crucifix challenge him, “Francis, repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” Throughout the course of his life, he realized that the “house” that was in need of repair was his own contemporary society and Church. Today Franciscans are still called to evangelize by their example, both in society and in the Church.
- Franciscans acknowledge that life is sacred and are dedicated to a consistent ethic of life. Since life is the first gift given to us by God, Franciscans have a profound respect for human life. Because of this, the Franciscan family, from its earliest moments, embraced active non‐violence and articulated a theology and ethics centered in love. With this feast, we conclude the Season of Creation and we enter the Respect Life Month. We Franciscans are not just fighting against abortion, but also against everything else that threatens the dignity of human life and destroys God’s creation.
Happy feast to all of you, Franciscans!
Fr. Sam Nasada, OFM