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May 17, 2013

File:Memorial window - St Mary's Halstock - - 1042752.jpg

“St. Francis of Assisi with Birds and Animals”, Stained Glass Window at Church of St. Mary’s Halstock, Photo by Sarah Smith, Source Geograph Project (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

“…Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day…

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens You have made them, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which You give Your creatures sustenance…”

– From Canticle of the Sun by St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi, that most humble of men, was born into comfort.  The son of a well-to-do merchant, Francis might have led a life of ease.  His father feared Francis would squander his life on self-indulgence.

Instead, Francis founded an Order of monks sworn to abject poverty. He died without worldly goods, bearing the stigmata of Christ, and radiant with joy.

But we are not all born to be friars.  How then are we to find our way in the world?  How can we distinguish God’s call on our lives from personal ambition or – worse yet – restlessness because the going has gotten rough or the task assigned us has become stale?

What do we do when confronted by that inevitable fork in the road?

There is no formula for holiness…or happiness, for that matter.  We are bound to wrestle with God as Jacob did.  The limitations of this earthly world dictate as much, since we are meant for another.  Between our present location and that ultimate destination lies the road we travel, the life we choose – pitfalls, failures, triumphs, and all.

If we are to live for Christ, we must first know who He is and what He wants from us.  The Lord, Himself, told us that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14: 6).  He said that the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind; that the second is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22: 37-40).

So Christians are to love…even their enemies (Matt. 5: 44).  That sounds deceptively simple.  How does it look in action?  How can we best exemplify Christ to others?  Certainly not by false piety or an air of self-righteousness. Those masks will be burned off by the first real trial we face.

Francis understood that, at its core, the Christian life is simple.  Not necessarily easy, but simple.  We are to love, whenever and wherever we are, with every fiber in us.

Rightly impressed as we may be at the relinquishment of material things for love of God, God asks even more of us than poverty.  He wants every aspect of our being.

Oh, some of us may be called to mission fields in far off places.  The majority though will serve where they are – despite boredom and grief, doubts and fears.  They will weep with friends who have lost homes to disaster, children to illness or accident.  They will pray for the aspirations of beloved sons and daughters, for addicts and prisoners, for the homeless and hopeless.

In small ways and large, they will share their time and talents, their resources, insights, and compassion.

Christ is the way. And the way is not constrained to foreign shores.  It can be found in Red Cross shelters, soup kitchens, and legal aid clinics, at PTA meetings and garage sales, in rural communities and inner cities.  It runs through every human heart, connecting them all.

Like the sun and the rain, the moon and the stars – each of us different, yet the same – we raise our voices in praise to our Maker.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  http://www.avoicereclaimed

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