By Cliff Garvey
Francesco Bernadone was the medieval equivalent of the stereotypical college “fratboy.” He was obsessed with nice clothes, popular music, and pretty girls. He was rich. He was popular. He had many friends and he kept those friends happy by using his father’s influence to evade serious trouble, paying the tab, and being the life of the party. But by the time Francesco reached his early twenties, he had become disillusioned with his life. Like many members of today’s so-called “millennial” generation, Francesco longed for meaning, purpose, and peace in a world that seemed fraught with superficiality, temptation, and violence. After stumbling into a church and finding himself face-to-face with the Crucified Christ, he heard and embraced a call to love that changed his life and the lives of countless others. Francesco Bernadone was just like us. He was broken. He was wounded. He was a sinner. But because he chose love above all else, he became a saint. He became Saint Francis of Assisi.
Just like Saint Francis, each time we enter a church, we are confronted by the Risen Lord who lived for us, suffered for us, died for us, and rose from death for us. We are confronted with Christ’s Great Commandment to love God and to love others, regardless of who they are, where they are from, what they have done, or where they stand on the issues of the day. We are called to choose love in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our parishes, and in our workplaces. We are called to love without counting the cost and without expecting anything in return. We are called to choose love over hate, mercy over judgment, and inclusion over exclusion whenever we can and however we can. In the gospels, Jesus showed us the way by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, befriending the outcast, and welcoming the stranger. In his life, Saint Francis showed us the way by caring for lepers, mending broken friendships, building bridges between different cultures, and rebuilding the church — brick by brick, person by person, soul by soul. Sometimes called a “Second Christ”, Francis teaches us to live the Gospel, share God’s love, and strengthen the Church in all that we think, say, and do.
But first, Saint Francis chose love. And choosing love is hard. Shortly after his conversion, Francis was called before a public assembly to answer for his decision to leave his friends and his family’s business. He was called to answer for the crimes of disrespecting his father and using his family’s financial resources to repair an almost forgotten local church. He was called to face criticism and ridicule from everyone he had ever known. Faced with this enormous pressure from his friends, family, and fellow citizens, Francis could have apologized for his recklessness, returned to the fold, and lived as a prince among men. He could have been a knight, a successful business man, or even a powerful politician. Instead, Francis answered Christ’s call. He turned away from privilege, prestige, and riches. He turned away from the way of the world and he turned toward the way of the Gospel. He took the hard road of discipleship. He chose to love. He chose to love God and to love others.
More than eight centuries later, we know that living as disciples in today’s world poses itsown unique challenges and temptations. Each week, we must choose between going to church or going to the mall. We must choose between praying for guidance or texting the latest news to our family and friends. We must choose between giving ourselves in fellowship and service to our community or binge-watching the trendy new television show. We must choose between finding common ground or sitting in judgment against those who see things differently than we do. Above all else, we are called to choose love. Saint Francis once said: “This is our vocation: to heal wounds, to bind what is broken, to bring home those who are lost.” This is our vocation, too. This is the vocation to love. So, let us pray for whatever we might need to choose love — today, tomorrow, and always. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! May the Risen Lord give you peace!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a spiritual director, retreat leader, writer, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Cliff can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
The Assisi Project
Saturday Morning with Saint Francis
Saturday, November 24th
Founded in 2007 by Father Jim and Cliff Garvey after their first pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers in the United States, Canada, Africa, and Europe. Our mission is to help adults of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ and grow closer to the Church through the inspiration and intercession of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi.
The Assisi Project meets on the last Saturday of every month in Saint Ann Church (located at 74 Pleasant Street in Gloucester, Massachusetts) for the Celebration of Mass, formation, fellowship, and faith sharing. Our next “Saturday Morning with Saint Francis” is November 24th beginning at 8:00am. This month, we will continue our reading and reflection on the saints, including Saint Agnes of Assisi and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. All fellow parishioners are invited to join the Assisi Project! You do not need to travel with us to Assisi to be a member of the Assisi Project!
Members of our fellowship all around the world, who range in age from 16 to 93, also pray for those who ask for our prayers. If you would like to join us or if you would like us to pray for your special intention, please contact Cliff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of Angels, pray for us! All are invited! All are welcome! May the Lord give you peace!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with members, friends, and followers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. For more information about the Assisi Project and upcoming opportunities for faith formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. May the Lord give you peace!
Follow us on Twitter: @Assisi_Project