Catholic Soup is a food for thought blog based website designed to provide Catholic insight through personal experience.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Saint Francis: Convert amidst the Darkness

In order that we might know Francis’s life and his sanctity in a way that attracts and stirs, we are given a beautiful description of what he experiences and goes through, specifically in his conversion. Francis, growing up in the time of civil war, wrestles with his service and his ego. He asks himself many times it seems, “Whom should I serve and how should I serve?” For him early on, it was his country that he felt he should serve through knighthood and being recognized by honor and fame. From the very beginning God placed in him this desire to serve. God fulfilled his perfect will by having him serve by becoming a lesser brother, taking on the clothes of the outcasts, living with them and caring for them in such a way that becomes attractive to many. During his conversion and transformation from being this loud, rowdy leader of bandits, he was called to more than that. He was called to be a quiet, calm and prayerful father for those who wished to follow his own radical way of life. We are told that Francis was a builder before he was a brother. He built churches as a response to God’s call; little did he know that while he was begging for rocks instead of bread and building churches, he was also building within him a home for Christ to stay in. Francis exemplified this in his life. He won the hearts of those he spoke to, and people wanted to follow him. I think they saw within him a love and a peace that was attractive and desirable. When he preached penance, people saw joy. When he gave to the poor, he gave freely. People began to listen to this sunny prophet who preached redemption to sinners and to sad hearts the secret of regaining joy and gladness. So many people were brought to the light of God by his humility, charm and uniqueness that men wanted to follow him. Francis, robed with a beggar’s garb, was designated as a guide. Some thought that a new form of religious life had been born; and disciples eager to follow it soon presented themselves.So he had brothers. A major part of his conversion was his solitude, contrary to that of the world, he prayed and experienced great conversion of heart in the darkness and in the caves. This area of Saint Francis' conversion can give us hope in today's world. While many times we experience the darkness of our days and our world, the greater aspect is that through that darkness lies a conversion very similar to what Saint Francis experienced. Places like the cave or in those times of silence and solitude is where Francis was formed and heard clearly the very voice of God and it can be the same for us. 
There is a fire to follow, but more importantly I think it has left me with a challenge to live like Saint Francis did. That is loving as best I can, in servicing as freely as I can and in being as joyful as often as I can. All three it seems are vital traits to adopt while responding to a Franciscan calling. In love, Francis loved his brothers and companions and also those he served. I think they recognized this rather quickly. In service, it seems that father Francis placed himself at the needs of those who were without. He did it willingly and obediently knowing that it was God whom he was serving. In joy, I have read that Francis was always in the spirit of joy, even in suffering, because of this he encountered God in the most ominous circumstances. To end, may there always be a movement toward these virtues that are the very charisma of the Franciscan spirituality. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent: Greet the King

During advent season, the church dedicates this time for waiting and expecting the arrival of the King, the Savior who is to be born of a Virgin and save the world. Jesus has been expected for 9 months now after the annunciation to Mary from the angel Gabriel. We hear in the narrative that at the birth of Jesus the wisemen visited Jesus and entered into his abode.

"They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. They they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Matt 2:11

When I think about the wise-man (Magi) and their journey to Bethlehem, it reminds me of so much patience that had to have taken place, the persistence to travel afar and greet the King for themselves. What a testament to the faith for these guys to be so immersed in following the Star of David, so diligent in seeing the Savior with their own eyes. In my own life, threatened by the need to be impatient and always in a hurry, I feel like that is a natural part of today's society. To be always in a hurry, most-likely skipping over those things that need the most attention. The reality is that waiting or being patient is not a norm for today's secular world. With constant activity and fast-paced technology, anything that forces us to be still and quiet, or slow and steady is a power threat in our lives.

The lesson is clear this Advent season, we can learn a thing or two and apply it in our daily lives. The first, is that a King is coming and so we should expect his return. Not only is he coming in the form of a man, but through a Virgin who humbled herself to accept the will of the Father. Because of his coming we should not only wait for him to arrive, but greet him with homage and gifts just like the three wise-men did. Two is that a Savior is born to come a set us free from all of our sins, therefore we should turn to him with contrite hearts, knowing and believe that Jesus will relieve us all once again. Three that all of this involves waiting, therefore we should be patient but also expect Jesus with joyful hearts. Wait in line for Christ on his return and he will greet you at the door. I believe that during this advent season, the lesson for us is to not only about learning to wait and be patient for Christ's coming, but also to get up and greet him with everything that we have and everything we are.

This Advent season, not only should we wait for the return and birth of Jesus but we should greet Him with the gift of love.