The Sacred Scriptures ... are most fittingly likened to a honeycomb, for while in the simplicity of their language they seem dry, within they are filled with sweetness. —Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon
Saint Francis of Assisi had many different dreams during his lifetime. Some of his dreams were fulfilled while others were dashed. As a youth he often dreamed of becoming a knight and finding glory on the battlefield. Francis’ first adventure in pursuit of glory took place when he joined the Assisi army against the army of the neighboring city of Perugia. This turned out to be one of his failed dreams. His side lost, and he spent a good deal of time fighting depression in a Perugian prison.
Since his death, Saint Francis of Assisi has been the subject of some of the world’s most admired works of art. His image is also found quite often in what we call the popular arts: in the form of greeting cards, plastic statues, medallions and plaques. These forms of art often get mixed reviews.
You could say service is in Katie Sullivan’s DNA. “Our family is one of educators, nurses, lawyers, and vowed religious (two great-aunts who were Dominicans and two aunts who are Daughters of Charity),” says Sullivan.
When I was perhaps ten years old my mother and father, devout Catholics who sought a deeper and more intimate spiritual experience than just their parish life, began attending meetings of the Third Order of Saint Francis, one of the many tertiary clans in the Church; the first two Orders being men and women who have sworn vows and belong to one of Catholicism’s many congregations of priests, monks, brothers, and sisters.
Lent is upon us—and it is the perfect time to look inward and focus on our unworthiness so that we can thank God for his goodness. Friar Frank Jasper tells us that the Lenten journey is unique to each of us, though we are all on the same journey. Enjoy these words of wisdom as we prepare for the holiest season of the year.
Some of my Franciscan sisters and brothers will not like what I’m about to write here. And what I’m about to say can easily be misunderstood, so I will try my best to be clear: Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing particularly special about Franciscan beliefs and spirituality!
Franciscan spirituality boldly puts a big exclamation point behind Jesus’s words that “The last will be first and the first will be last!” and Paul’s “When I am weak I am strong!” Upside-downness is at the heart of our message, always prompting us to look more deeply and broadly. is opens up our eyes to recognize God’s self-giving at the far edges where most of us cannot or will not see God, such as other religions, any who are defined as outsider or sinner, and even to the far edge of our seeing, toward those who are against us—our so-called enemies.
The Swiss Air flight from Zurich to Rome is the last stretch on a journey that’s proven one thing: I am simply not built for long flights. I’m taller than average: long on legs, short on tolerance for tight spaces. Sleep is impossible and sitting still for hours is a chore. It’s my mind, though, that is my true adversary: Every time I’m in the air, Don McLean’s “American Pie” plays in my head like a cerebral iPod with a grudge. But all fears and discomfort vanish as our airplane descends over a spectacular Italian wheat field ablaze with a gold I have never seen. I know I’m not in Cincinnati anymore.
His name was Francis, the son of Pietro Bernardone, a cloth-merchant, and Lady Pica, who was of French origin. They lived in Assisi, Italy in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century. He was a man born of wealth, a leader who dreamed of knighthood and who went to war on a high steed only to be brought low to the earth in defeat and imprisonment that marked him with what has been the fate of countless soldiers and prisoners of war throughout the centuries.