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 Franciscan posts.
This new series will have nine parts. This post is the first of this series, but its Introduction (linked above) is the post of October 4, 2012. The link provides a primer for what is to follow in the coming weeks and months.
The title of this post portrays St. Francis as a Warrior for Christ. This is an odd title for a saint that epitomized the evangelical virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience. So why use it?
The contemporary Christian needs to reassess the view that Francis is limited to the soft, cuddly, and sickly sweet art, essays, and some movies that portray him simply as the Saint of ecology and social justice. 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 beauty of God and His creation. 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, from his fellow neighbors to the smallest plant and animal was 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 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 and Savior and 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 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 word “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 desire for military service. He overcame his passions. 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; and in its place he strapped on the humble soldier’s garments of poverty, chastity, and obedience to God.
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 warrior simply expressed the sacred revelations of God and his extraordinary love for God. As a deacon he gave witness through his preaching and his baptizing with water, but, exceptionally, he also gave witness with the blood of his service to others.
Oh that we could be warriors like him.
Praise, glory, and thanks to Our Lord Jesus Christ for providing us with the model of St. Francis of Assisi.
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