Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi.
I have written about the Virtues of St. Francis before: https://fraangelicoinstitute.com/2012/10/04/the-virtues-of-st-francis-of-assisi-a-model-for-sacred-artists
That post, written 8 years ago, has been the most popular essay of this blog and has been read by over twenty-two thousand people all over the world. I mention this not to sound a trumpet and ring bells but to request the reader become familiar with it since its content and popularity sets the stage for upcoming posts on the witness of St. Francis’ life.
This new series will have three additional parts. Each part will deal with one of the Evangelical Counsels (Virtues): poverty, chastity, and obedience. This is the first of this new series, but its Introduction (linked above) is the post of October 4, 2012.
The title portrays St. Francis as a Sacred Warrior for Christ. This is an odd title for a saint that epitomized the Evangelical Virtues. So why use it?
The contemporary Christian needs to reassess the view that St. Francis is limited to the soft, cuddly, and sickly sweet art, essays, and movies that portray him simply as the Saint of ecology and social justice. As a man to be taken seriously only because of his love for nature and social views on wealth and property; categorized as the saint of birds, wolves, and flowers. A nice, non-threatening, and soft man.
Another perception is that he did love nature, but only in reference to the truth, goodness, and beauty of God and His creation. He loved his neighbor in order to bring them to an understanding of Jesus through the Holy Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Roman Catholic faith. To divorce Sacred Scripture and the Traditions of the Catholic faith as the core of his life is to misunderstand the witness of St. Francis of Assisi.
His love was not simply for the value and beauty of nature itself. He did not divinize nature. To do that is an attribute of paganism; it is heresy.
He believed that the natural world, and all that is contained within it is s a reflection of the Holy Trinity’s truth, goodness and beauty.
St Francis knew that the natural world is a reflection of the Lord’s creative diversity and His intimate actions of the force and expression of His love. He understood this and expressed it dramatically in his beautiful Canticle of the Sun.
How did he know this? As a sacred warrior he knew it because he was a man of the Holy Scriptures. The Gospels and Epistles were his sword and armor.
St. Francis, of course, did love his fellow man. He knew that the Lord Jesus Christ witnessed to the poor and loved them with a love so intense and intimate that it is inexpressible in simple or scholarly words.
He knew that Jesus Christ died in order to redeem mankind of their sins. Jesus the Christ was resurrected to express the love and power of God. The Resurrection proclaimed that Jesus is a majestic Lord Savior, and divine Son of the Father. Jesus was and is an intimate friend of those He called “brothers and sisters.” At times Francis danced and “played” make believe instruments in order to exemplify his joy of that truth.
As a Sacred Warrior for Christ he fought to express that our Salvation is for the rich and poor, sick and strong, powerful and powerless, criminal and model citizen, sinner and struggling believer, and saint.
How could Francis not sing and dance, preach and serve, maintain poverty, chastity, and obedience without his profound love of Christ and His accomplishments?
So why add the words “sacred warrior” to the many labels of a man and saint that cannot be labelled?
It is because, when all is said and done, St. Francis of Assisi, as a warrior, vanquished himself. He overwhelmed his worldly desire for the honors of military service. He overcame the enemy of his passions and distractions. He was victorious over the common day desires for wealth, position, power, and yes, even the great gift of the love of a wife and children. In its place he strapped on the humble soldier’s garments of poverty, chastity, and obedience to God and his superiors.
The painting below shows the wounds in Francis’ hands and side. His body wounded in the spiritual and physical battles of his life. For his extraordinary witness to the love of God Jesus blessed him with the stigmata: an award, an honor, a medal far above anything that the world could provide.
In imitation of Christ this sacred warrior simply expressed the revelations of Sacred Scripture and his love for God and His creation. For the sake of Christ, he also gave witness with the blood of his service and Christ-like model to others. Oh that we could be sacred warriors like him.
Praise, glory, and thanks to Our Lord Jesus Christ for providing us with the witness of St. Francis of Assisi.
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