Monday, May 5, 2014

Francis of Assisi and Western Catholicism

The following comes from Archbishop Chaput:
I want to start with a simple statement of fact.  All Christian life is a paradox.  What I mean is this.
In Isaiah 55, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts [higher] than your thoughts” (8-9).  Then in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “You therefore must be perfect, [even] as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). 
Scripture tells us that God is utterly different from us, vastly higher than us.  Then it tells us to become like him.  Therein lies the paradox.  The task seems impossible.  And yet weknow it to be possible.  We know it through the witness of the saints.  In Hebrew, God is called hakadosh, “the Holy One,” with the word kadosh meaning holy.  Our English word “saint” derives from the Latin word sanctus, which means the same thing: holy.  Holy does not mean “good,” though holy people are always good and often – though not always – nice.  St. Jerome was certainly holy and good, but “nice” might not be the first word that springs to mind in remembering him.
Holy means “other than.” It means different from the world; set apart from the profane; sacred.  The saints are ordinary men and women — persons with every kind of talent, weakness and personality — who took a different path, one step at a time, away from the routine habits of the world.  They fell in love with God.  They followed him.  They conformed their lives to him in simple ways that became extraordinary ways.  And now their example and their intercession give us hope that we can do the same.
I mention all this because my job today is to talk about “St. Francis and Western Catholicism.”  I’m a Capuchin Franciscan, so I’m happy to do that.  But I want to do it by posing three questions:  Who is Francis, this pope?  Who was Francis, the man of Assisi?  And after 800 years, what, if anything, can a man from the Middle Ages teach us about being alive and free and human?

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