The beginning of October is always special for Franciscans because of the celebration of the feast of our founder, St Francis on October 4. We call him our “Holy Father,” the one who inspires his followers to be truly brothers and sisters to one another and all creation.
Monday, October 3 was different from usual. The community, with invited friends, recorded a Mass for the feast day in the evening at 6:30 pm. This was then broadcast on RTÉ’s national news channel on Tuesday morning at 10:30am. It was an honour and a privilege to be able to reach out to thousands of watchers all over the country to celebrate this great saint.
The theme of the Mass was the motto of the Order, “My God and my all,” which comes from a favourite prayer of St Francis, and which encapsulates his vision of life. I preached on the fondness Francis had for this word “All” in his writings. In our Christian tradition, especially in scripture, God is said to be “Almighty” or omnipotent, but also all good, all loving, all seeing. In fact, if we think of any positive quality, God has it to perfection, infinitely.
This led Francis into constant prayer of praise to God. This God calls us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength, and to love all of creation for God’s sake.
Francis spent his whole life after his conversion attempting to make God his all, not simply a part of life. I went on to suggest that, for most of us believers, we are more comfortable with the term ‘some’ than ‘all.’ We give some of our time and energy to God and to others, but are reluctant to give our all, following Jesus who did give his all to his Father. This stress on ‘some’ is the basis of an often unconscious discrimination, where we can take for granted that people are more important than the rest of creation and that some people are more valuable than others.
Attitudes such as these lead to the abuse of our environment and to war between peoples among other things. Francis saw in his vision of a fraternal world, the logical implication of the life of Jesus, and St Paul’s insistence that the Lord came to break down walls between people and that there should be no distinction between Jew and Greek, slave or free, male, or female. All are one in Christ.
It took Francis a lifetime for him to be able to say with sincerity that God had become his all. His followers must continue that journey, for who can put their hand on their heart and boast that God is all to them?
Thursday saw the return of the Open Space discussion group after the summer recess. It began with a month’s mind Mass for Fr Florian, who had been a member for some years before his transfer to the friary in Donegal. After Mass, the group met to share memories of a much-loved friar, noted for his warm heart and gracious hospitality. Today’s 9:00am Mass was also offered for Florian and those who mourn his passing from this life. The homily likened Florian to Abraham, that great man of faith, expressed in warm hospitality, whether it was to angels in the Book of Genesis or Lazarus nestling in his tender but strong bosom in the Gospel parable.
May the angels lead him to the bosom of Abraham!
Kieran Cronin OFM