Author Archives: joandarc

All Saints Day

Yesterday, October 31, was All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, that is, the evening before the holy ones.

As explained in “Reclaim Halloween as the holy All Hallows’ Eve!,” the word “hallow” is “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate,” while the word “e’en” means “evening.”

The word “saint” means holy. Halloween, therefore, means Holy Evening or the Evening of the Hallowed or Holy Ones, i.e., the Evening of the Saints.

In other words, Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day, which is today!

saints in Heaven1

Then I saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God.  He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”  I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the Israelites.” Rev. 7:2-4 

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice:  “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”  All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen.  Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”  I said to him, “My Lord, you are the one who knows.”  He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Rev. 7:9-14.

“For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.  The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.  They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.  For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  Rev. 7:15-17.

saints in Heaven

Through the “communion of saints,” a doctrine proclaimed in the Apostle’s Creed, the blessed in heaven assist those of us on earth; we pray with the saints so that they may intercede on our behalf before Our Lord.  Remember, these incredible, courageous and wonderful individuals see God face to face!  How cool is that?

Indeed, they are the ultimate role models, heroes and heroines-people who chose to do extraordinary things and behaved always with serving Our Lord as their first priority in their lives, no matter what the cost.  They were no different as human beings than we are, with faults, talents, proclivities towards temptation and bearing all qualities incident to human beings.  What made them different were their choices, to serve God first above anything and everything.  To put it more eloquently were the words of St. Thomas More on the day he was beheaded, wherein he stated, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

saints in Heaven2

In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home and those of us who are still pilgrims on earth.”  (CCC 1475)

St. Thomas More said this about the saints.  “We venerate the saints as God’s servants, as we would on earth welcome the servants of a great man we esteemed.  If the goodness we bestow upon our poor brethren is considered by Christ as bestowed upon Himself, as He tells us (Mt 25:40), and if those, as He says, who welcome His apostles and disciples welcome Him (Mt. 10:40), assuredly those who honor the saints are likewise honoring Christ.  Our Lord Himself showed that He would have His saints partake in His glory when He promised the apostles that they would be seated at His side on the final Day of Judgment (Mt. 19:28).  Moreover, He promised that Martha’s sister Mary (whom More identified as Mary Magdalen) would be honored throughout the world for her deed of anointing Him with ointment (Mt. 26:13).”

As to honoring the saints, and our desire to request their advocacy and intercession on our behalf, as to whether or not the saints can either hear us or help us, St. Thomas More provided, “Yet how can we doubt whether they hear us?  Their souls are not dead, and therefore as living souls the love and charity toward their fellowman that characterized them to this world cannot have diminished in the next.  The closer one draws to heaven, the greater is his solicitude toward his brethren here on earth, as was the case with the martyr Saint Stephen, who after seeing heaven opened, prayed for his enemies who were stoning him (Acts 7:55-60).  In view of this, is it conceivable that Saint Stephen would not pray for those who honor him on earth, now that he is in heaven?”  And the question is further posed, how can the saints in heaven help us?  More reasoned that since “the saints were certainly able to assist others while on earth where their human nature was as weak as ours, surely they can do so in heaven.”

More further reasoned that even while Our Lord lived on this earth, He permitted people to come to His apostles rather than directly to Himself for help and allowed the Twelve to work miracles in His stead.  Indeed, on some occasions the apostles assumed the role of intercessors with Christ, presenting the petitions of others to their Master.  “If this was the case when the apostles were with Christ on earth, it must surely be so now that they dwell with Him in heaven.  God is pleased to have us honor and call upon His saints, His especial beloved friends, for it becometh us and well behoveth us to make friends of such as he hath in favour.”

Have not you ever asked someone, “Please pray for my mother, she is very ill,” or “Please pray for me; I am about to make a very important decision that will affect my life.”  Indeed and in fact, we have set forth these petitions to others on FOTM.  Ergo, we pray with the Saints, inhabitants of the Church Triumphant, for their intercession, for their guidance that they receive from Our Lord Himself.  If we ask those we know on earth for their advocacy and prayers, all the more reason to ask the Church Triumphant to enter our lives, to give us direction and to ask through them the Grace from God necessary to live our lives according to the Will of God, to the fullest extent, using all of our talents and gifts given to us by God.  The Saints are with us; we are foolish not to have camaraderie with them and to enjoy intimate and meaningful relationships.

We end this post by honoring the particular Saints in our respective lives who have inspired and helped us:

We love you, we admire you, and we thank you!

May Our Lord Always Be First Served!

Christ with angels

For the Saint posts we’ve published, go to FOTM’s “Saints and Angels” page!

Sources:

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  • James Monti, The King’s Good Servant but God’s First, The Life and Writings of Saint Thomas More (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997).
  • Sister Mary Raphael is Gone, But Not Forgotten!  Daily Catholic 2000, January 18, 2000, volume 11, no. 12.

~Joan & Eowyn

Reclaim Halloween as the holy All Hallows’ Eve!

holy pumpkinsHoly pumpkins for Halloween!

Today, October 31, is Halloween.

But do you actually know what that word means?

  • The word “hallow” comes from the Old English word “hālig.
  • To hallow is “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate.”
  • The word “e’en” means “evening.”
  • And so Halloween means Holy Evening! How cool is that?

Halloween is actually a holy day — All Hallows’ Eve, which is the Eve before All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. On this All Hallows’ Eve, we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the two holy days to come.

Insofar as what Satan has chosen to do with this important Eve, that is his business. (See “We have met the Halloween monsters, and they are us“)

We can give import and publicity to what the father of lies has done to this day, or we can give import to this Eve in preparation for All Saints Day.  I choose to do the latter.

Satan has a history of turning holy days into an abomination, which is his goal, to insult holiness and turn truth upside down.  For example, May 1st has been celebrated as Communist’s Day.  However, in our faith, it is Mary’s day, as is the  month of May.  The Holy Mass Satan celebrates as a black mass, desecrating Our Lord Jesus.  I like what Taylor Marshall, a Catholic writer and/or apologist, has said about Halloween in response to the premise that it is evil, to-wit:

“There are some Christians who have written off Halloween as some sort of diabolical black mass.  To be clear, it is the vigil of a Christian holy day:  All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints Eve.  Has it been corrupted by our culture and the consumer market?  You bet.  However, Christmas has also been derailed by the culture.  Does that mean that we’re going to hand over Christmas?  No way!  Same goes for Halloween.  The Church does not surrender what rightfully belongs to her – she wins it back.”  

There is nothing new in what Satan tries to do; we can fall into his trap and emphasize what he has done, or we can observe Halloween as All Hallows’ Eve — a holy day.

Tomorrow, I will discuss All Saints Day. Click here!

~Joan (with revisions by Eowyn)

Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza (1200-1271), Dominican Preacher

Blessed Bartholomew of Vicenza

Today, October 27th, the universal Church honors Blessed Bartholomew of Vinceza, a great preacher who denounced the heresies of his time.

At the age of 20, he entered the Dominican Order.  After he was ordained a priest, he served in various leadership positions.  He even founded a military order who kept the law, order and peace in areas throughout Italy.

In 1248, Bartholomew was appointed a bishop, but was sent to Cyprus, away from his home of Vicenza (Venice).  An “antipapal” group was involved, as they viewed this transfer as a form of isolation.  Nevertheless, it wasn’t long that he was transferred back to Vicenza.  Again, he strongly addressed the heresies as well as defending the papacy.  Thus, he rebuilt his Diocese and strengthened the Faith of the Congregation.

He was beatified in 1793.  Blessed Bartholomew, we admire your enthusiasm, loyalty, courage, faith, hope and love that you demonstrated by and through your preaching and how you lived your life.  You were not afraid to defend the truths of your Faith in spite of receiving the anger and envy of others.  We could use your love of Truth now, amidst a society of lukewarm cafeteria Catholics, both lay people and clergy.  Pray for us dear and wonderful Bartholomew!

St. Antonio of Saint Anne Galvao (1739-1822)

St. Antonio de SantAnna Galvao

Today, October 25th, the universal Church honors St. Antonio de SantAnna Galvao, Franciscan priest/friar, preacher, confessor and porter.

Antonio was born in Guarantingueta near Sao Paul, Brazil.  He initially began to study for the priesthood at a Jesuit seminary, but thereafter changed his mind and became an ordained Franciscan priest/friar in 1762 in Sao Paulo.

He performed all of his priestly duties, which included in part, preaching and serving as a confessor and porter.  Approximately four years into his priesthood, he was appointed as the confessor to an order of nuns called the Recollects of St. Teresa.  Father Antonio and Sister Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit founded a new community of sisters called the nuns of Our Lady of the Conception of Divine Providence.  Sadly, Sister Helena died within a year of the founding of the order, which left Father Antonio to assist the order in the building of a convent and church, to suit the many ladies who joined.  He also founded the St. Clare Friary in Sorocaba and also helped establish the sisters’ order called the Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Luz.

He served as a Novice Master for the friars in Macacu and a guardian at the St. Francis  Friary in Sao Paulo.

He died when he was 83 years of age, was beatified in Rome on October 25, 1998 and canonized in 2007.  At his beatification, Pope John Paul II, now known as St. John Paul the Great, said this about Father Antonio:

“The Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully,” (Timothy 4:17).  Antonio fulfilled his religious consecration by dedicating himself with love and devotion to the afflicted, the suffering and the slaves of his era in Brazil. . . His authentically Franciscan faith, evangelically lived and apostolically spent in serving his neighbor, will be an encouragement to imitate this man of peace and charity.

Dear St. Antonio, help us to lead others to Our Lord Jesus Christ as you did, and to not be afraid to be true to our Faith and to serve the Mystical Body of Christ each day of our lives.  You worked very hard for Jesus because of your great love for him.  Please help us to work as hard as you did, with joy amidst suffering.

St. Anthony Claret (1807-1870)

St. Anthony Claret

Today, October 24th, the universal Church celebrates St. Anthony Claret, Spanish Catholic priest, writer, publisher, missionary, founder, queen’s chaplain, archbishop and refugee.  It is incredible how talented this man was and what a hard worker for the people of God.

He worked as a weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, Spain, wherein he also learned the printing business and studied Latin.  When he was 28 years of age, he became a priest, and indeed, was one of Spain’s most phenomenal and popular preachers.

Father Anthony gave missions and retreats, wherein he expounded mostly upon the true presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and encouraging devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  It is reported that he kept Our Lady’s rosary always upon his person, as he knew it was one of his best weapons against evil.

When he was 42 years of age, he founded the religious order of the Claretians, who were missionaries.  And, he was also appointed to serve as the archbishop of Santiago in Cuba.  He instituted immediate reform by his constant hearing of confessions and constant preaching against sin, more particularly, his opposition to concubinage.  He also taught black slaves.

Because of his outspoken Catholicism, an assassin slashed his face and slit his wrists.  What is even more incredible is that Father John was the person who obtained freedom from imprisonment for this assassin.  And, it was also Father Anthony that changed this individual’s death sentence to life in prison.  In total, there were actually 14 attempts at his life.

Father Anthony helped Cubans own family-run farms, to support themselves and to bring food to market for people to buy.  Thus, he aroused the fury of those individuals who marketed working in a single cash crop, namely, sugar.

He was recalled to Spain to serve as chaplain for the queen.  But he made it very clear he would only serve in this capacity if  he did not live in the palace, that he would come to hear the queen’s confession and that he would also teach children, and that he would not attend court functions.

During the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen and her party to Paris, where he preached to Spanish colonies.  He was a prolific writer and was interested in Catholic publications.  He founded the Religious Publishing House, a publishing venture in Spain, wherein he published 200 books and pamphlets.

He attended Vatican I, where he defended the doctrine of papal infallibility.  Indeed and in fact, American Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore said of him, “There goes a true saint.”  He died in exile when he was 63 near the border of Spain.

Dear St. Anthony Claret, you showed by your life great courage, love and faith.  He is the very opposite of being “lukewarm,” the temperature that Our Lord finds so repulsive.  Please help us St. Anthony to stand for what is right and true, to stand for our Faith, no matter what the cost.  We live in a world with “in-your-face” evil from all sides.  We hope to learn from your example to serve God with passion and great love, the most important of all virtues.

St. John of Capistrano (1386-1456): “Initiative, Organization, Activity”

St. John Capistrano

Today, October 23rd, the universal Church celebrates the Feast Day of St. John Capistrano.

John lived in a most tumultuous time.  People were suffering from the Bubonic plague, with one-third of the population dying from this horrible disease.  One can only imagine the deplorable atmosphere and the fear involved.  Additionally, England and France were at war and the Western Schism had split the Catholic Church with two or more individuals claiming the Holy See.

He received a superb education and had many talents, including preaching and negotiating.  At the age of 26, he was proclaimed Governor of Perugia.  Whilst he was in prison after a battle against the Malatestas, he went through a process of conversion and decided to reform his life.  Accordingly, he became a Franciscan novitiate at the age of 30, then ordained as a Catholic priest four years later.

John and 12 Franciscans were welcomed into central Europe, as they preached  so wonderfully, giving the people hope and stability during a time of great confusion and difficulty.

The Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, wherein John was appointed to preach one of the Crusades during this time to defend Europe.  He concentrated his noble work in Hungary, leading the army to Belgrade, wherein under General John Hunyadi, they were victorious.  After this battle, he suffered from an infection and died on October 23, 1456.

An entity in Brussels named their organization after John.  Their motto patterned John’s holy qualities, to-wit:  “Initiative, Organization, Activity.”  John was never lazy and worked very hard in his life to bring Our Lord to people and to fight for his Faith and for the right.

He was buried in Villach, wherein the Governor of that place had this inscribed upon his tombstone:

“This tomb holds John, by birth of Capistrano, a  man worthy of praise, defender and promoter of the Faith, guardian of the Church, zealous protector of his Order, an ornament to all the world, lover of truth and religious justice, mirror of life, surest guide in doctrine, praised by countless tongues, he reigns blessed in heaven.”

Dear St. John, please help us to be bold, courageous and effective today, as we shine our Light for the Lord.  Help us to bring faith, hope and love to everyone we encounter, not being afraid to  speak and live the Truth just as you did.

St.  John, please pray for us!

St. Francis of Assisi – Happy Feast Day – October 4th!

st_francis-animals

I cannot tell you how much St. Francis has helped me in my life with all of the wonderful creatures that Our Dear Lord has entrusted to me, protecting and healing them.  St. Francis is one of my favorite saints, and I love him very much, a “giant” of holiness.  Today, the Universal Church celebrates his Feast Day.

Dante Alighieri, the famous poet, the author of the Divine Comedy, said of St. Francis, “A sun was born into the world.”  Francis was born at the end of 1181 or the beginning of 1182, to a rich family, his father being a successful cloth merchant and being raised by an adoring French mother.  He lived a carefree life, most interested in chivalrous ideals and chivalrous dreams of greatness and nobility.  Francis, age 20, participated in a military campaign, was taken prisoner and later released because he was so very ill.  This illness caused Francis to search his soul and look inward to his purpose in life, to determine and define what was important in life.  He had abandoned his worldly lifestyle and began to notice the beauty, purpose and virtues of God’s creatures, whom he loved and how they lived in simplicity.

One day, Francis rode the plain of Assisi and noticed a disfigured and horrible looking leper man.  Francis got off his horse, wherein the leper outstretched his hands to receive alms.  But Francis did more than give him money, he kissed the leper because he saw Jesus in Him, he saw “Jesus in disguise,” as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say – an event that changed Francis’ life.

After his exchange with the leper, Francis visited hospitals, served the sick and the forgotten, gave clothes and money to those who needed it.  On a particular day in or about 1205, Francis was praying at the Church of St. Damian outside the walls of Assisi when he heard a voice, an interior instruction that he took to heart, “Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.”  Francis thought that Our Lord meant to repair that specific Church, when indeed and in fact Our Lord was referring Francis to renew and repair His Church.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us, “…that at that moment, St. Francis was called to repair the small church, but the ruinous state of the building was a symbol of the dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church herself.  At that time, the Church had a superficial faith which did not shape or transform life, a scarcely religious clergy, and a chilling of love.  It was an interior destruction of the Church which also brought a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements.  Yet, there at the centre of the Church in ruins was the Crucified Lord, and he spoke:  He called for renewal, He called Francis to the manual labour of repairing the small Church of St. Damian, the symbol of a much deeper call to Renew Christ’s own Church, with her radicality of faith and her loving enthusiasm for Christ.”

Francis took clothes and supplies from his father’s storage house, selling these items, as well as selling his father’s horse.  He brought these monies to the priest at St. Damian, but the priest would not take the money, Francis leaving the money on a window sill.  Francis’ father learned what had happened and demanded that Francis return everything that he had taken from him, reporting the matter to Bishop Guido of Assisi.  The Bishop told Francis to return these monies to his father, “He (God) does not wish His Church to profit by goods which may have been gotten unjustly.”  Francis responded, “The clothes I wear are also his.  I’ll give them back.”  He stripped off his clothes and gave them to his father saying, “Hitherto I have called you father on earth; but now I say, ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven. “ Clothes of a laborer were found and given to Francis, wherein Francis made a cross upon the cloth with some chalk and left.

Pope Benedict tells us about another event that comes to mind , of the dream of Pope Innocent III in 1207.  “…he saw the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the mother of all churches, collapsing and one small and insignificant brother, whom the Pope recognized as Francis , when Francis later visited him.”  Pope Benedict goes on to say, “…it is important to note that St. Francis does not renew the Church without or in opposition to the Pope, but only in communion with him.  The two realities go together:  the Successor of Peter, the Bishops, the Church founded on the succession of the Apostles and the new charism that the Holy Spirit brought to life at that time for the Church’s renewal.  Authentic renewal grew from these together.”

In 1208, Francis lived as a hermit, but then had another internal transformation, affected by the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ discourse to the apostles whom he sent out to evangelize and teach the nations.  Accordingly, Francis went out just as the apostles did to teach by example, living in poverty and preaching the Gospel.  He had other brothers, companions who followed his way of life.  On one particular day, Francis told the brothers they were going to preach.  Francis and his band of brothers walked through a town but said nothing.  One of the brothers asked Francis why they didn’t preach.  Francis told him that they did preach saying, “Preach the Gospel constantly, and when necessary, use words.”  It was, therefore, Francis’ incredible example of holiness, and that of the brother companions, that taught the people of God.

In 1209 Francis and his brother companions travelled to Rome to propose to Pope Innocent III the plan for a new kind of Christian life.  The Pope welcomed Francis and of course, recognized Francis from the dream that he had.  The Pope welcomed Francis and encouraged him.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us that “St. Francis really did have an extremely intimate relationship with Jesus and with the word of God, that he wanted to pursue …: just as it is, in all its radicality and truth.  It is also true that initially he did not intend to create an Order with the necessary canonical forms.  Rather, he simply wanted, through the word of God and the presence of the Lord, to renew the People of God, to call them back to listening to the Word and to literal obedience to Christ.  Furthermore, he knew that Christ was never “mine” but is always “ours”, that “I” cannot possess Christ that “I” cannot rebuild in opposition to the Church, her will and her teaching.  Instead, it is only in communion with the Church built on the Apostolic succession that obedience too, to the Word of God can be renewed.”  And Pope Benedict goes on to say that “Francis knew that the centre of the Church is the Eucharist, where the Body of Christ and His Blood are made present through the priesthood, the Eucharist and the communion of the Church.  Wherever the priesthood and the Eucharist and the Church come together, it is there alone that the world of God also dwells.  The real historical Francis was the Francis of the Church, and precisely in this way he continues to speak to non-believers and believers of other confessions and religions as well.”  Indeed and in fact, in St. Francis’ “First Admonition,” he says very passionately:

“Wherefore, O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart (Ps. 4,3)?  Why do you not recognize the truth and believe in the Son of God (John 9, 35)?  Behold:  daily he humbles himself (Phil 2,8) as when from heaven’s royal throne (Wisd 18, 15) he came down into the womb of the Virgin.  Daily He Himself comes to us with like humility; daily he descends from the bosom of the Father (John 1, 18; 6, 38) upon the altar in the hands of the priest.  And as he appeared to the Apostles in true flesh, so now also he shows himself to us in the sacred bread.  And as they by their bodily sight saw only His flesh, yet contemplating Him with the eyes of the spirit believed Him to be very God, so we also, as we see our bodily eyes the bread and wine, are to see and firmly believe that it is His most holy body and blood living and true.  And in this way, the Lord is always with His faithful, as he Himself says:  “Behold, I am with you until the end of the world (Mt 28, 20).”

And in the writings of St. Francis, (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, Editrici Francescane, Padova 2002, 401), Pope Benedict reminds us of the love that Francis had for Jesus in a special way in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, “Let everyone be struck with fear, let the whole world tremble, and let the heavens exult, when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest.  Oh stupendous dignity!  O humble sublimity, that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation He hides himself under an ordinary piece of bread.”

Francis and his friars became numerous and established themselves at the Portiuncula, or the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the center of Franciscan spirituality.  Clare, a young woman of Assisi from a noble and wealthy family loved Franciscan spirituality, and established the Order of Poor Clares, the second Franciscan order.

Pope Innocent III’s Successor, Pope Honorius III, in 1218, issued a “Bull” which is a formal document, a pronouncement, which supported Francis and his development of the first Friars Minor, who began to spread the Gospel to other European countries, and even in Morocco.  In 1220, Francis visited the Holy Land, sowed the seed which is evident in today’s world, making this place the Site for the Order, showing today the great merits of the Franciscans in the Holy Land.  After Francis returned to Italy from his missions, he developed his “Rule” which was approved by the Pope.

Francis also had great communication skills with God’s creatures and control of them, a gift given to Him by God.  “His love for and power over the lower animals were noted and often referred to by those who knew him:  his rebuke to the swallows while he was preaching at Alvian, “My sisters the swallows, it is now my turn to speak.  You have been talking enough all this time;” the birds that perched around him while he told them to praise their Creator; the rabbit that would not leave him at Lake Trasimene; and the tamed wolf at Gubbio…”  Francis even had a pet falcon that he loved very much, who accompanied him where he went.

In 1224, Francis saw a vision of Jesus crucified in the form of a seraph, and after that vision, received the stigmata from the Seraph Crucifix, becoming one with the Crucified Jesus.  Francis, thus, suffered with the wounds of Christ.  Francis died humbly, on the earthen floor, on October 3, 1226, in the Portiuncula with his brother friars.

Pope Benedict XVI I believe summarizes St. Francis beautifully.  He said:  “It has been said that Francis represents an alter Christus, that he was truly a living icon of Christ…Indeed, this was his ideal: to be like Jesus, to contemplate Christ in the Gospel, to love him intensely and to imitate his virtues.  In particular, he wished to ascribe interior and exterior poverty with a fundamental value, which he also taught to his spiritual sons.  The first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3) found a luminous fulfilment in the life and words of St. Francis.  Truly, dear friends, the saints are the best interpreters of the Bible.  As they incarnate the word of God in their own lives, they make it more captivating then ever, so that it really speaks to us.  The witness of Francis, who loved poverty as a means to follow Christ with dedication and total freedom, continues to be for us too an invitation to cultivate interior poverty in order to grow in our trust of God, also by adopting a sober lifestyle and a detachment from material goods…”

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI  says, “Dear friends, Francis was a great Saint and a joyful man.  His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love for Christ, his goodness towards every man and every woman, brought him gladness in every circumstance.  Indeed, there subsists an intimate and indissoluble relationship between holiness and joy.  A French writer once wrote that there is only one sorrow in the world:  not to be saints, that is, not to be near to God.  Looking at the testimony of St. Francis, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness:  to become saints, close to God!”

Happy Feast Day, dearest St. Francis!  I hope you are having a big party in heaven today with Our Lord, the Blessed Mother Mary whom you loved and honored, with the angels and the saints, along with all of God’s blessed creatures!  I love you!

Sources: General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, Paul VI Audience Hall, January 27, 2010, website of the vatican, the “Holy See”

“The Body of the Lord,” website of the vatican, the “Holy See”

One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group