Sunday, October 04, 2009

St. Francis’ Day

This world’s no blot for us,
Nor blank; it means intensely and it means good…

(Robert Browning, from ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’)
It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching…

Where there is mercy and discernment, there is neither excess nor hardness of heart…

Where there is inner peace and meditation, there is neither preoccupation nor dissipation…

St. Francis of Assisi

Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. I had meant to write something erudite here about the way that St. Bonaventure interpreted Francis’ teachings, and applied the mystical and Platonizing mode of thought to his experience of the living power of Christ in the heart of mankind. But, as it is our Revive! all-age service this afternoon, I walked down to church for the 8am Communion, which is always from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

On the way, I was half-thinking, half-praying about St. Francis, and thinking of the events of his early life, and of the way Francis received, and showed, God’s mercy and his grace in all he did and said. Surely if there was one great reformer and theologian of the church who embodied Christ’s mercy for a broken world, it was Francis of Assisi.

During the general confession in the BCP Communion service, I always stumble over the words, “Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.” They always conjure up for me an image of my headmaster at my Preparatory School, speaking in Assembly about some new transgression on the part of the boys, and spluttering, “I will not tolerate it…!” God as my old headmaster? What better argument for secular humanism! The trouble is that I usually find myself so caught up in inner arguments, and in remembering the words of Julian of Norwich, “Suddenly is the soul oned to God when it is truly peaced in itself: for in Him is found no wrath. And thus I saw when we are all in peace and in love, we find no contrariness, nor no manner of letting through that contrariness which is now in us…” that I miss the glorious statement of trust and abandonment to God that follows: “Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past…”

It is on the Cross that we see the mercy of God, and the healing of Creation. It is in the blessed wounds of Christ that our peace is found, and our reconciliation. In his death is our life, for as he rose we shall also rise with him! Francis lived this truth from the day of his conversion to the day of his death, to such an extent that he was eventually marked himself with the wounds of Christ.

For me, Francis, like Christ, is all about mercy. Seeing that, I can’t but try and live out my life as a Franciscan. The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” is a prayer that originated long before St. Francis walked the hills around Assisi, back in the days of the Desert Fathers and Mothers; but it so perfectly encapsulates the heart of Francis that it is no surprise that Brother Ramon SSF, and many other contemporary Franciscans, have taken it as their own prayer. It is perhaps no coincidence that I was myself taught the Prayer, back in 1978, by another Francis, Fr. Francis Horner SSM, whom I remember today with joy and thanks along with Little Brother Francis himself.


  1. Mike,
    Thank you for this wonderful reflection. Perhaps today is a day for all of us to remember those 'Francises' we have met on our own journey.

  2. All I can say is AMEN!