Friday, October 03, 2014

Francis Of Assisi

Tomorrow, October 4th, is the day that the Catholic Church honors the memory of St. Francis of Assisi.  He is my favorite Christian holy man.  He lived in the 12th century and was the founder of a religious community that became known as the Franciscans.  They still exist in today’s world and I have several friends who are Franciscan priests or brothers.  My first serious exploration as a young Catholic boy into the spiritual life was with the Franciscans.  I left my parent’s home in 1965 as a 14 year old boy and I went to Cincinnati to attend a seminary.  This was common in those days.  I had a tough time for a lot of reasons and I left after a year.  I finished high school in Louisville.  It was the sixties and I soon morphed from a seminarian into a hippie.  Around 1970, at the height of my original hippie experience, I felt like God was chasing me.  Unable to get away I re-joined the Franciscans and headed to a Franciscan community outside of Detroit, Michigan.  I was surprised and happy to discover that some of the Franciscans were basically hippies in brown robes.  This time around I stayed with the Franciscans for two years before following another voice that led me to the more austere Trappist monks at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  I stayed there for about a year before I began the life I have now.  All of these experience were very positive and they had a huge impact on the kind of person I have become.  It was during my second sojourn with the Franciscans that I first met my good friend, Fr. Dennis.  At one time we lived in the same Franciscan community.  That was over 40 years ago.  Sadly, Dennis passed away a little over a year ago.  I miss him very much.  He was a big brother to me as well as a spiritual mentor.  In a strange twist of fate, it is my son, rather than me, who has become a priest.  St Francis is still a big influence on me.  His peace prayer is universally known and he is also the patron saint of animals and ecology.  In churches all over the world tomorrow people will bring their pets to church to be blessed.  The joyful spirit I experienced with the Franciscans and the simplicity of the Trappists are still an influence on me as I try to live my own version of a simple and joyful life.       

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