October 4 and another Francis



Pope Francis venerates the tomb of St.Francis today. October 4 is his feast day.

One would have to look hard to find another member of the communion of saints who has had such a dramatic impact on his time.

Born in the period of the arrogant papacy young Frankie Bernadone was a  kid of his time–at 21, a  warrior and a wastrel, a dandy and a teenage alcoholic, tossed into prison, a place which often shakes one’s worldview. (Read Malcolm X’s biography—Tampa Red  a street punk who came to himself in prison. So did young Frankie). Bernadone’s life was broken open. He began to think deeply of his growing belief that the Church had lost its way. It needed a new direction away from the empire church it had become, a powerful, arrogant facsimile of the Roman empire whose architecture it had replaced. The papacy had utterly forgotten the evangelical counsels of another poor man, the stable Christ.

Soon, he had a mystical experience wherein he felt he was called by Christ to “repair my church.” And boy did it need a lot of repairing at that time! He tosses off his  designer clothes  on the main street of Assisi. His father thinks he’s nuts—like  Jesus was considered in his time (Mk.3:21).He wants to turn the church back into a servant church, He becomes “il poverello”—the little poor man and begins a whole movement, back to poverty,

At age 27, Francis finds himself in front of Il Papa, the megalomaniac Innocent lll, the most powerful man in the world. The year was 1209. The pope ,”the ruler of the World” as he was  named at his investiture  was decked out in purple, Francis in rags. He wants approval for his new movement. The pope  is non-committal. He has other things on his mind. Pope since 1198, Innocent   had to deal with the catastrophe of the Fourth Crusade (1203) and the sacking of Constantinople.

What a contrast the imperious Innocent who now crowed that he was no longer  Vicar of St.Peter but the vicar of Christ and the man in rags.

This was the world of Francis—an imperial papacy, a massive shedder of blood, a corrupter of the Holy Office. Few remember Innocent lll but all know the peaceful prophet who began a serious renovation movement of the Roman Church. Dante said of him in his Paradiso, “Nacque al mondo un sole”—To the world was born a sun.”

Francis died at 44 but his movement to Christ-like poverty changed Catholicism.

It appears the present pope is attempting the same

1 Comment »

  1. 1

    thanks for this reflection

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