“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love”
October 4th is the day set aside each year to celebrate the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He was a kind and gentle man, with no aspirations to become a priest. The simple truth is that Francis was too humble to desire the ranks of such a vocation. Through his life and his teachings, St. Francis taught me that our destiny is not to think in terms of having a career or a job. Instead, we should think in terms of a vocation and a mission where we can be free to “be” as God desires us to be.
St. Francis has been a major influence in my life since I was in my early twenties and searching for Truth. I studied a bit of theology in school, and being brought up as an Italian Roman Catholic, had more questions than answers. I thought, “Either there is a God, our faith should be our guiding force in our lives, and we should serve and love God and others, or we should stop pretending.” It seemed so simple, and so clear.
I looked for Truth in other faiths, but Francis pointed me back to Catholicism. I recall one day thinking, “If St. Francis could live with such clarity, compassion, and generosity of spirit and never stray from his faith, nor even question it, who am I to think I need to?” When I discovered Eastern Christianity from an Eastern Rite Franciscan monastery, I found my home. I joined the Order of St. Francis as a Secular (3rd Order) Franciscan, took vows, and spent close to three years living in a Byzantine Eastern Catholic Rite Franciscan Order in New Canaan, Connecticut.
“[If] you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones— bad, muddled, out of date ideas.” —C. S. Lewis
From all appearances, the importance of religion in the U.S. has dramatically declined in recent years. According to the prestigious Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, changes in religious affiliation have affected all regions of the country, and many demographic groups.
Several months ago I wrote about hope, which grew from my reflections on the meaning of hope and how it differs from optimism. As I’ve continued to reflect on hope and optimism, I’ve found my thoughts turning to the subject of faith.
As a professed Secular Franciscan, I feel a special affinity for St. Francis of Assisi, who espoused the simple virtues of Humility, Generosity, Reverence, Service, Respect, Prayer, Joy, and Love. The teachings of this gentle monk guide my daily life, including my approach to the ETMS. As I consider the subject of faith, the teachings of St. Francis inspire me.
Anointing has been a sacred ritual for thousands of years in many different religions and ethnic groups, as a means of spiritual refreshment and physical invigoration. In the Orthodox tradition, the sacramental act of pouring aromatic oils onto the body, most often the head, is also called unction, and is primarily administered for physical and spiritual ills, although everyone is anointed during Holy Week. In this act of blessing, the aromatic oil used is believed to have both spiritual and physical healing qualities.
During the whirlwind celebrations of the holidays, I like to take time to reflect on the deeper meaning of these holy days. Naturally, my thoughts turn to the life of Jesus and his teachings. I think of how the baby Jesus is referred to as the “Light of the World” and the “Prince of Peace.” It’s true that Jesus showed us the way to find peace, but it is up to us to do the work. My favorite saint, St. Francis of Assisi, also speaks of peace, writing that we must have peace in our hearts before we announce it to the world.