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Monsignor Yennock on St. Francis of Assisi - Homily from October 7, 2018

Oct 22, 2018

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

OCTOBER 7, 2018

TWENTY SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

JESUS SAID IN THE GOSPEL: WHOEVER DOES NOT ACCEPT THE KINGDOM OF GOD AS A CHILD WILL NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE CHILD THAT JESUS LIKED AND VALUED SO MUCH?

FIRST THERE IS THE CHILD'S HUMILITY. ORDINARILY THE CHILD IS EMBARRASSED BY PROMINENCE AND PUBLICITY. HE HAS NOT YET LEARNED TO THINK IN TERMS OF PLACE AND PRIDE AND PRESTIGE. HE HAS NOT YET LEARNED TO DISCOVER THE IMPORTANCE OF HIMSELF.

SECOND, THERE IS THE CHILD'S OBEDIENCE. TRUE, A CHILD IS OFTEN DISOBEDIENT, BUT, HIS NATURAL INSTINCT IS TO OBEY. HE HAS NOT YET LEARNED THE PRIDE AND THE FALSE INDEPENDENCE WHICH SEPARATE A MAN FROM HIS FELLOW-MEN AND FROM GOD.

THIRD, THERE IS THE CHILD'S TRUST. A CHILD HAS CONFIDENCE IN OTHER PEOPLE. HE DOES NOT EXPECT ANY PERSON TO BE BAD. HE WILL MAKE FRIENDS WITH A PERFECT STRANGER.

A MAN OR A WOMAN WHO GROWS UP AND STILL HAS THE QUALITIES OF HUMILITY, OBEDIENCE AND TRUST RETAINS THE ATTRACTIVENESS OF A CHILD. SUCH A PERSON WAS FRANCIS OF ASSISI WHOSE FEAST WE CELEBRATED ON OCTOBER 4.

 

FRANCIS WAS BORN OF WEALTHY PARENTS. HIS FATHER WAS AN INTERNATIONAL CLOTH MERCHANT. FRANCIS WORKED IN HIS FATHER’S BUSINESS FOR A WHILE BUT HE WAS BETTER AT SPENDING MONEY THAN AT MAKING IT. HE WAS THE WEALTHIEST YOUTH IN THE TOWN OF ASSISI. HE WAS POPULAR. HE WAS SMART. HE MADE PEOPLE LAUGH. HE WAS AN ATTRACTIVE YOUNG MAN. HE LIKED TO DRESS UP IN EXPENSIVE CLOTHES AND RIDE AROUND ON HIS HORSE WITH HIS FRIENDS, MUCH THE SAME AS YOUNG MEN TODAY LIKE TO RIDE AROUND IN THEIR SPORT CARS OR THEIR MOTORCYCLES.

 

SUDDENLY ALL THAT CHANGED. FRANCIS RENOUNCED HIS WEALTH AND POSSESSIONS—HE EVEN RENOUNCED HIS FAMILY AND WENT ON THE ROAD TO PREACH AND TO BEG FOR THE POOR.

 

LIKE JESUS ST. FRANCIS WAS NOT A HUMANITARIAN. HE DID NOT LOVE HUMANITY IN THE ABSTRACT. HE LOVED THIS POOR MAN AND THIS POOR WOMAN. HE LOVED THIS PLAGUE VICTIM AND THIS LEPER.

 

HIS BEHAVIOR WAS SO OUTRAGEOUS THAT HE CAN TRULY BE CALLED A REVOLUTIONARY. THE HERO OF HIS REVOLUTION IS JESUS OF NAZARETH.

 

FRANCIS WAS ATTRACTED TO JESUS OF NAZARETH NOT BECAUSE HE WORKED MIRACLES OR BECAUSE HE WAS A GOOD MAN. FRANCIS GAVE HIS LIFE TO JESUS BECAUSE OF ALL THE HEROES WHO EVER LIVED JESUS IS THE ONLY HERO WHO IS STILL ALIVE.

 

THE FRANCISCAN REVOLUTION WORKED ON CHANGING MEN AND WOMEN ON THE INSIDE. IT WAS A REVOLUTION THAT SOUGHT TO CHANGE HEARTS NOT STRUCTURES OR ECONOMIC SYSTEMS.

 

FRANCIS USED REVOLUTIONARY WORDS: LORD, MAKE ME AN INSTRUMENT OF YOUR PEACE. WHERE THERE IS HATRED, LET ME SOW LOVE.WHERE THERE IS CHARITY AND WISDOM, THERE IS NEITHER FEAR NOR IGNORANCE. WHERE THERE IS PATIENCE AND HUMILITY, THERE IS NEITHER ANGER NOR VEXATION…

BLESSED IS THE SERVANT WHO LOVES HIS BROTHER AS MUCH WHEN HE IS SICK AND USELESS AS WHEN HE IS WELL AND CAN BE OF SERVICE TO HIM.

 

MANY YOUNG MEN FOLLOWED FRANCIS.  ALL HE PROMISED THEM WERE THE VOWS OF POVERTY CHASTITY AND OBEDIENCE AND LOTS OF ABUSE AND RIDICULE. THIS DID NOT DETER THEM. THEY STILL FOLLOWED HIM.THESE YOUNG MEN KNEW THAT THEY WOULD NEVER MARRY AND NEVER HAVE A FAMILY OF THEIR OWN. THEY WOULD NEVER OWN ANYTHING. THEY WOULD BE OBEDIENT TO A RULE.

 

NOW WHY WOULD MEN BE ATTRACTED TO SUCH A LIFE? WE HAVE THEIR OWN TESTIMONY. HERE’S WHAT THEY SAID: THE JOY THAT WE EXPERIENCED IN SERVICE OF THE POOR, THE SICK AND THE LEPERS MAKES UP FOR EVERY DEPRIVATION FROM THE VOWS.

 

THE DREAM AND THE VISION OF ST. FRANCIS WAS SO COMPELLING TO YOUNG MEN THAT HIS COMPANY OF MEN HAD AN INCREDIBLE GROWTH. BY THE TIME OF HIS DEATH AT THE AGE OF 45 HIS FOLLOWERS NUMBERED 5000 MEN. THEY HAD ALREADY SPREAD INTO HUNGARY, GERMANY, ENGLAND, FRANCE AND SPAIN. THEY FOLLOWED A SIMPLE RULE APPROVED BY POPE INNOCENT III.

 

BY THE YEAR 1280, LESS THAN 60 YEARS AFTER THE DEATH OF ST. FRANCIS, THERE WERE 200,000 MONKS AND OVER 8,000 MONASTERIES THROUGHOUT EUROPE THAT CLAIMED ST. FRANCIS AS THEIR FOUNDER. TODAY, 800 YEARS AFTER HIS BIRTH, THERE ARE OVER 35,000 FRANCISCAN MEN IN THE WORLD IN OVER 100 COUNTRIES. THEY ARE RUNNING SCHOOLS, UNIVERSITIES, MISSIONS, CLINICS AND DOING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH. THEY ARE INVOLVED IN EVERY SPIRITUAL AND CORPORAL WORK OF MERCY.

 

CHARLES DE FOUCAULD WAS AN ATHEIST WHEN HE WAS A YOUNG MAN. AFTER HIS CONVERSION HE FOUNDED THE LITTLE BROTHERS OF THE DESERT. THIS IS WHAT HE SAID: “ONCE I BELIEVED THERE WAS A GOD I KNEW THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE TO DO BUT TO LIVE ONLY FOR HIM.” THE BEGINNING OF HIS RELIGIOUS VOCATION WAS A PROFOUND EXPERIENCE OF GOD.

 

FRANCIS HAD A PROFOUND EXPERIENCE OF GOD. ONCE HE DECIDED TO SERVE GOD HE FOUND JESUS OF NAZARETH. FRANCIS BELIEVED THAT JESUS OF NAZARETH WAS THE GREATEST HERO WHO EVER LIVED. FRANCIS WANTED TO BE JUST LIKE JESUS. HISTORIANS TELL US THAT HE CAME THE CLOSEST OF ANY MAN IN HISTORY TO IMITATING JESUS OF NAZARETH.

 

FOLLOWING HIS LEADER, FRANCIS TOOK THE CHRISTIAN REVOLUTION OF THE FIRST CENTURY AND LIVED IT IN THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY.

 

WE CANNOT SPEAK OF ST. FRANCIS WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT ST. CLARE. ST. CLARE WENT TO FRANCIS AND ASKED HIM TO HELP HER FOUND AN ORDER FOR WOMEN AS HE HAD FOUNDED AN ORDER FOR MEN. FRANCIS RECEIVED HER VOWS, ACCEPTED HER INTO THE FRANCISCAN ORDER AND COMMISSIONED HER TO ORGANIZE THE POOR CLARES.

 

BY THE YEAR 1300 THERE WERE AS MANY NUNS IN EUROPE AS THERE WERE MONKS IN THE GREAT RELIGIOUS ORDERS OF FRANCISCANS, DOMINICANS, AUGUSTINIANS AND CARMELITES.

 

TODAY IN OVER 100 COUNTRIES, THERE ARE OVER 100 DIFFERENT CONGREGATIONS OF FRANCISCAN SISTERS WITH OVER 70,000 FRANCISCAN WOMEN IN SERVICE OF GOD AND THE CHURCH.

 

FOR CENTURIES THE SISTERS HAVE COPIED AND ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPTS. THEY RECEIVED CHILDREN TO BOARD, AND TAUGHT THEM LETTERS, HYGIENE, AND DOMESTIC ARTS. THE SISTERS PROVIDED THE ONLY HIGHER EDUCATION OPEN TO GIRLS. MANY OF THEM SERVED AS NURSES IN HOSPITALS, LEPROSARIA, AND TODAY, CLINICS FOR AIDS PATIENTS.

 

ONE HISTORIAN WRITES THIS ABOUT THE SISTERS: “THEIR LIVES OF QUIET DEVOTION AND CHEERFUL MINISTRATION HAVE MADE MANY GENERATIONS BLESSED” ANOTHER HISTORIAN SAID: “WHEN ALL THE SINS OF HISTORY ARE WEIGHED IN THE BALANCE, THE VIRTUES OF THESE WOMEN WILL TIP THE SCALE AGAINST THEM AND REDEEM THE RACE”.

 

THERE WAS A TIME WHEN THE RELATIVES OF JESUS THOUGHT HE WAS OUT OF HIS MIND. REVOLUTIONARIES OFTEN GIVE THAT IMPRESSION BECAUSE THEY TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN.

 

PIETRO BERNARDONI, FRANCIS’ FATHER THOUGHT HIS SON WAS A LITTLE CRAZY. HE CALLED HIM “UN PO PAZZO”. WHY DID HE THINK HE WAS CRAZY-- BECAUSE FRANCIS LEFT EVERYTHING THAT ANY YOUNG MAN WOULD DIE FOR—MONEY, POSSESSIONS, AND FAMILY? HE LEFT THEM ALL TO FOLLOW A DREAM.

 

MANY PEOPLE WHO FOLLOW A DREAM WITH THE INTENSITY OF ST. FRANCIS AND ST. CLARE MAY BE CONSIDERED CRAZY. THEY ARE LEAVING MATERIAL THINGS WHICH WE CAN SEE FOR SPIRITUAL THINGS WHICH WE CANNOT SEE. THIS IS NOT THE WAY OF THE WORLD.

 

I WANT TO END WITH A TRUE STORY. AN ITALIAN PRIEST THAT I KNOW, AFTER RETIREMENT SERVED AS A CHAPLAIN IN A PRISON. I COVERED FOR HIM ONE DAY AT THE PRISON. WHEN I SAW HIM AGAIN I SAID TO HIM: “FATHER, THE MEN AT THE PRISON REALLY LOVE YOU.

 

HE SAID: YES THEY LOVE ME BUT THEY THINK I’M CRAZY. YOU SEE I GO AS OFTEN AS I CAN TO SPEND TIME WITH THEM IN PRISON.  AND THEY ARE TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO GET OUT OF PRISON. SO THEY THINK I’M CRAZY.

 

I SAY TO THEM: “YES I AM CRAZY—DO YOU KNOW WHY I AM CRAZY? BECAUSE I WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ANOTHER CRAZY MAN WHO LOST HIS LIFE BECAUSE HE WAS CRAZY ABOUT YOU AND ME.

 

ST. FRANCIS AND ST. CLARE WERE CRAZY ABOUT JESUS. THAT’S WHY THEY TURNED THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN.

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