By Cliff Garvey
Francesco Bernadone was the medieval equivalent of the stereotypical college fratboy. He was obsessed with nice clothing, popular music, and pretty girls. He was rich. He was popular. He had many friends. And he kept those friend happy by using his father’s money and influence to pay the tab, evade serious trouble, and always be the proverbial life of the party.
By the time Francesco reached his early twenties, however, he had become disillusioned with life. Like many members of today’s 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 sinful. 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 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 chose 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 vengeance, and inclusion over exclusion wherever we can and however we can.
In the gospels, Jesus shows us the way by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, befriending the outcast, and welcoming the stranger. With his life, Saint Francis shows 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 rebuild the Church in all that we think, all that we say, and all that we do. But first, Francis chooses love; and choosing love is hard.
Shortly after his conversion, Francis is called before a public assembly to answer for his decision to leave his friends and his family’s business. He is 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 is called to face criticism and ridicule from everyone he had ever known. Faced with this enormous pressure from his family, friends, 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 businessman, or even a powerful politician. Instead, Francis answers Christ’s call to love. He turns away from privilege, prestige, and riches. He turns away from the ways of the world and turns toward the ways of the gospel. He takes the hard road of discipleship. He chooses to love. He chooses to love God and to love others.
More than eight centuries later, we know that living as disciples in today’s world poses its own 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 gossip to our families 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, and to bring home those who are lost.” This is our vocation, too. This is the vocation to love. So, let’s pray together for whatever we might need to choose love — today, tomorrow, and always. Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
About the Author & Presenter
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 in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation.
Thank you for listening to the Assisi Project Podcast: Choose Love. This audio recording is produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project and our ongoing programs and ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved. 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. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or smile.amazon.com; or by sending a donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. May the Lord give you peace!