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What If We Did What Francis Did?

In one way or another the Franciscan saints were all struck by the question that came to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, whose dramatic conversion was prompted by his meditation on the saints: “What if I should do as St. Francis did?” Another translation of that question might be: What if I were to live as if the Gospel were true? As Carlo Carretto, a modern admirer, has observed: “At least once in our lives we have dreamed of becoming saints.… Stumbling under the weight of the contradictions of our lives, for a fleeting moment, we glimpsed the possibility of building within ourselves a place of simplicity and light.… This is when St. Francis entered our lives in some way.”

—from The Franciscan Saints by Robert Ellsberg

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Christ Cannot Be Limited

Through his life in Christ, Francis came to see that Christ cannot be limited to a single human person; rather, Christ encompasses the whole creation. Nowhere is this more evident than in his Canticle of the Creatures. By entering into the heart of Christ, Francis found Christ at the heart of the world. The life of Francis indicates to us that to be a Christian is to find Christ in every person and living creature, and to be in union with Christ is to experience God’s goodness throughout creation, not just in a church. Christ, the risen incarnate Word of God, encompasses the whole creation.

—from the book The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective  by Ilia Delio, OSF

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God Rejoices in Diversity

I live in the area of Washington, D.C., which is a kaleidoscope of various cultures, languages and ethnicities. Is everyone Catholic? No. Is everyone Christian? No. So what does a humble God of love do in such a diverse world? Rejoice! Because God’s creation is a wonderful celebration of diversity. Our God is not a boring God! But somehow our Catholic doctrine still creates walls of separation, paths of exclusivity, “in” and “out” groups. By exploring the relationship of a humble God to a world of difference we come to a more broadly conceived notion of the meaning of Christ.

—from the book The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective  by Ilia Delio, OSF

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God Bends Down to Lift Us Up

While the weight of the mystery rests on the part of the divine, it rests equally on the human nature that God has humbly bent down to lift up as his own. The figure of the stigmatized Francis reminds each of us of our Christian  vocation: to be another incarnation of the Word in all its mystery. Through the burning compassionate love of the Crucified, we are called to reenact the mystery of the Crucified in our own life. Until we enter into that mystery and express that mystery through compassionate “burning” love, for our neighbor and for creation, the world remains incomplete.

—from the book Crucified Love: Bonaventure's Mysticism of the Crucified Christ by Ilia Delio, OSF

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A Love Purified by the Love of God

In Francis’s life, it was the crucified Savior who spoke to him from the cross of San Damiano and whom he saw in lepers. And it was the crucified Savior he first fell in love with. The suffering Jesus moved him to tears, and in pity and compassion he wanted to join Jesus in his suffering to show how much he loved him. And so he did “foolish” things at times to show his love, to keep focused and faithful to the Christ who revealed  himself to a shopkeeper’s son who longed to be a knight and ended up choosing instead to be a happy beggar who sang songs of love and lived and preached the Gospel of the love of God who was made real for him in the words and life of God’s Son. The human condition being what it is, love in the end involves a choice to love the Love that created and redeemed us, even in the face of affliction, abandonment, and death. “And that, Brother Leo, is perfect joy, a love purified by the love of God.” That is the secret and perfect teaching of St. Francis of Assisi.

—from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis

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The Supreme Love of God

Francis demonstrated a type of love that ascends to God and descends to neighbor, a love that expressed itself in the desire for martyrdom and strove for unity with neighbor and creation. Francis, therefore, is not only the model of relationship with God but he models the relationship of the human person to others, to community, and to the created world. The Stigmata signify that Francis attained the supreme love of God through his imitation of and conformity to Christ. Union with Christ Crucified, the center of all reality, enabled Francis to stand with Christ at the center of the world, united to humanity and creation in solidarity, in the spirit of compassionate love—“burning” for love of God and love of neighbor who has been created and redeemed by God. In light of the stigmatized Francis, we can say that the mysticism of the human person means that in the human person, united to Christ, the self-diffusing goodness of the Creator is clearly and perfectly manifested. 

—from the book Crucified Love: Bonaventure's Mysticism of the Crucified Christ by Ilia Delio, OSF

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Our Need for Community

Among the proper lessons of culture is that we remind ourselves of our limits, of our need for community, of our ignorance and the tragic realities of living in such ignorance—lessons, in other words, that help us remember that we are creatures. It is through such recollection, being gathered back to ourselves from the diffuse ambitions that draw us away from our roots, that we are able to begin to heal the damage done to the world and ourselves. “The task of healing,” writes Wendell Berry, “is to respect oneself as a creature, no more and no less.” Humility, by helping to return us to the integrity of our humanity, which involves an acceptance of our particularly human creatureliness, also helps to make our lives more coherent, more integrated. “The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature,” writes Berry, “the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.” It is by humility then that we join the membership of creation in acceptance that we are a part of the world rather than an individual struggling against it. There is grace and community for us, if only we would accept the gift of our givenness.

—from the book Wendell Berry and the Given Life by Ragan Sutterfield

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God Sends Us Where We're Needed

“God is not an obligation or a burden. God is the joy of my life!” —Fr. Mychal Judge

On the bright fall morning of September 11, 2001, firefighters across New York were summoned to a scene of unimaginable horror: Two hijacked airliners had crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. As firefighters rushed into the burning buildings, they were accompanied by their chaplain, Fr. Mychal Judge. Hundreds of them would die that day, among the nearly three thousand fatalities in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Fr. Judge would be among them. There seemed to be special meaning in the fact that Fr. Mychal was listed as the first certified casualty of 9/11. A photograph of his fellow firemen carrying his body from the wreckage to a neighboring church became an icon of that day: an image of loving service and sacrifice, a hopeful answer to messages born of fear and fanaticism.

—from The Franciscan Saints by Robert Ellsberg

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Where Is God in Human Suffering?

The book of Job reminds us that good people are vulnerable to suffering. The September 11 terrorist attacks tell us that our lives are contingent and finite; we may go to work one morning and never return. While we live in an age of terrorism, we have emerged from one of the bloodiest centuries of history. Where is God in all of this human suffering? Is God indifferent to human suffering? How about the suffering of the earth, the pillaging and stripping of natural resources? Is this of concern to God? Like the challenges of the new science today, the questions of suffering are broad and not easily addressed. However, looking at the question of suffering from the view of God’s humble love may give us a better insight as to how God relates to a world of suffering. Bonaventure’s profound emphasis on the crucified Christ indicates to us that God is no  stranger to suffering and, indeed, the cross is the hope of new life in God.

—from the book The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective  by Ilia Delio, OSF

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