Here is an essay taking us beyond the foot-washing of prisoners and the choice to live in the Guest House instead of the Papal Apartment. Written by Daniel P. Horan (a Franciscan), “What’s in a name?” highlights 3 important truths about St. Francis of Assisi that, it is hoped, will also mark the papacy of Francis.
Francis of Assisi was a renouncer of power
At the core of St. Francis’ obsessive focus on evangelical poverty was his renunciation of power. This radical dimension of St. Francis’ way of life is frequently overlooked. Instead there are caricatures of a nature-loving proto-hippie or a gentle, popular preacher. Yet St. Francis’ conviction was grounded in the belief that like Jesus Christ, all human beings are called to be in relationship with their sisters and brothers.
Francis of Assisi was a reformer who loved the church
St. Francis’ refusal to conform to the expectations of his day, both ecclesial and social, came not from the outside, but from a place deeply situated within the church. He was not afraid to follow the Gospel when it seemed that such an action might contradict the conventions of his time, but he was also not interested in breaking communion with the church.
Francis of Assisi was a peacemaker and lover of creation
St. Francis refers to the other-than-human elements of creation as his “brothers” and “sisters.” Though this may appear “cute” to modern ears, he was revealing a deep theological truth about our intrinsic kinship with the rest of God’s creation. Humanity is not above and over against the rest of the created order, but part of it and alongside animals, plant life and the rest. We have a special role to play in creation, but we should never forget our interdependence with the whole cosmos.
Hoping that Pope Francis was indeed aware of these elements in the life, work, and rule of St. Francis, (a hope that I share) Horan concludes:
All of these aspects of St. Francis’ legacy point to the centrality of relationship. Pope Francis already has begun to demonstrate his desire to be connected with all sorts of people (much to the chagrin of his security detail). It is my hope that Pope Francis will continue to rise to the challenge of his name. The church really could use the spirit of Assisi today.
Yes, indeed. What do you think?