The Cathedral Connection 6 October 2019

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Friday was the memorial for Saint Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226).  St Francis is probably one of the best-known saints – known for his love of creation and the radical poverty of his lifestyle. He is venerated by Christians in many denominations, particularly in the Anglican communion as well as our own, and has been the subject of many books and films.

He was born in what is now Italy, to a wealthy merchant family. As a youth Francis enjoyed his family’s wealth, but a number of events – illness and captivity –  caused him to reconsider his life. By the time he was in his mid-twenties he was abandoning his privileged lifestyle and from 1208 others joined him in a wandering life of preaching. In 1211 Clare of Assisi was inspired to follow Francis’s example, and so the Franciscans and Poor Clares, as they became known, began as religious orders.

There are plenty of legends about medieval saints like Francis, but we can be certain about his veneration of, and delight in, God’s creation. In a time when many Christian European states were engaging in the Crusades, Francis visited Egypt in the hope of building bridges with Islam. Francis wrote a good deal; his Canticle of the Sun is still well-known (although he didn’t write ‘Make me a channel of your peace’). Notably, he wrote in Italian, not Latin, so that ordinary people could understand him.

In 1979 Pope John Paul II declared Francis the patron saint of ecology. As we all know, Cardinal Bergoglio took the name ‘Francis’ when he became pope. He said that this was so that the church would remember the poor, commit itself to peace, and care for creation.

From a very different time to our own, Saint Francis still speaks to us. But like many saints, his message should challenge us as well as encourage us.

Jim McAloon, Chair, Parish Pastoral Council.

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