Saturday, April 25, 2009

St Francis of Assisi

Giotto di Bondone b. 1267, Vespignano, d. 1337, Firenze)
Legend of St Francis: 17. St Francis Preaching before Honorius III
Fresco, 270 x 230 cm
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi

From the Address of Pope Benedict XVI to the Franciscan Family taking Part in the International “Chapter of Mats” at Castel Gandolfo Saturday, 18 April 2009

"And here we come to the point that certainly lies at the heart of our meeting.

I shall sum it up like this: the Gospel as a rule of life. "The Rule and the Life of the Friars Minor is this, that is, to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ". This is what Francis wrote at the beginning of his Regula bullata (Rb I, 1: FF, 75). He understood himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his fascination. This is his perennial timeliness.

Thomas of Celano says that the Poverello "always carried Jesus in his heart. Jesus on his lips, Jesus is his ears, Jesus in his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all his other members.... Indeed, finding himself frequently travelling and meditating on or praising Jesus, he would forget that he was on a journey and he would stop and invite all creatures to praise Jesus" (1 Cel., II, 9, 115: FF, 115).

Thus the Poverello became a living Gospel, capable of attracting to Christ men and women of every epoch, especially young people who prefer radicalism to half measures.

Bishop Guido of Assisi and, later, Pope Innocent III recognized the evangelical authenticity of the proposal of Francis and his companions and they were able to encourage their commitment, also in view of the good of the universal Church

Here a reflection springs spontaneously to mind: Francis might also not have gone to the Pope.

Many religious groups and movements were forming at that time and some of them were opposed to the Church as an institution or at least did not seek her approval. A polemical attitude to the hierarchy would undoubtedly have gained Francis many followers.

Instead, he immediately thought of putting his journey and that of his companions in the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter. This act reveals his authentic ecclesial spirit. From the very first he had conceived of the little "we", which had begun with his first friars, as being within the great "we" of the Church, one and universal. "