Last week I wrote about a talking donkey which started me reminiscing about the old “Francis the talking Mule” movies I used to watch as a kid, and then the new pope took the name Francis and I’ve been thinking a lot about St. Francis.
I was formed in a very protestant world view. I had little knowledge of Saints like Francis, nor was I interested. In recent years that has changed and I have become a great admirer of St. Francis. I have read several biographies of his amazing life. My favourite by far is the one by G. K. Chesterton partly because he is by far the best writer of any of the biographers but also because he writes with an understanding of Francis that others miss. Francis described himself as a “troubadour” and it is through this lens that we can understand him.
A troubadour was a poet, a dramatist and most of all one who was passionately in love. To try to understand Francis as a theologian or founder of a movement is to essentially miss him. His passion had its root in knowledge of God and his example sparked emulation but he was radically a troubadour at heart.
So passionate was his love for God that he would withhold nothing from Him. In fact he would hold nothing for the sake of clinging passionately to God. Living as a troubadour he lavishly loved the poor, telling them of the father’s love for them. Living as a troubadour he poured passionate care on God’s creation. In all his contradictory life he was the dramatist and poet and ardent lover!
I think it would be wonderful if Pope Francis could truly follow his namesake as a troubadour for Christ! I do not have any control over that though. What I do have some influence on is my life. Writers sometimes refer to Francis as a mirror of Christ (he would not be happy with the comparison) and I cannot help but believe that if I could walk more like Francis I would be walking more like Christ.
Francis like Lent reminds us each year that we ought not to withhold anything from God. This is a challenge to me and to the Church! He reminds us that our passion for God must extend to the “least of these” and in a very timely way he reminds us that a care for creation should be a primary expression of our ardour for God himself.
I realise I am a bit ‘preach-ier’ this week than usual (but Francis founded a preaching order so maybe that is in keeping) but I am preaching firstly to myself. I referred last week to the lukewarm church that thought it was cool, and today I find myself behind that church’s door. As I contemplate Francis’ passion I recognize my lukewarmness, but Jesus stands at the door and knocks. I think I’ll invite him in and we’ll read “Song of Solomon” together.