The Favorite Saint of Number 266
Bearing a sharpness that energizes the soul and quickens the mind, October blushes with the splendor of the autumnal season. Nearly eight centuries have passed since the death of a man whose holy life would brighten a century noted for spiritual luminaries – Saint Francis of Assisi.
In his early life, Francis enjoyed every privilege of a privileged life. As a young man of means, he was the epitome of the bon vivant. His rambunctious, often wild, lifestyle betrayed the fact that he was a natural leader. Recriminations for his naughtiness were softened by his extreme and universal likability. His father, a wealthy merchant, had every reason to see in his son a Dickensian image of a young man of great expectations. A seeker of glory and noble distinction, Francis donned the armor of a knight and pursued distinction as a soldier and entered in a local contest of war with neighboring Perugia. Taken prisoner and held for ransom, he charmed his captors. On his return to Assisi, he resumed his man-about-town existence.
On a trip abroad, Francis had his epiphany. He sensed the call of God to abandon his wastrel life for one of holiness and service. Praying before the crucifix in the ruined church of Saint Domiano in Assisi, he heard Jesus call him to "Repair my Church." Thinking that the vision meant that he should rebuild Saint Damiano, he went about the task of refurbishing that edifice. Later, Francis understood that it was the Church itself that was in need of repair and that his humble life would address that need. Even as a youth, Francis felt for the plight of the poor. His desire to live a life of poverty, humility, and love attracted many to the religious order he founded, the Franciscans. The Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on the fourth of October. His life and death brings honor to this month.
And now, we have a Pontiff, the 266th successor of Saint Peter, who reveres the life and follows the lead of that saint of Assisi, Pope Francis I. In a similar fashion, Pope Francis also must address a Church in need of repair. This Francis must renew and reform the Church of Christ, restoring the greatness and the moral authority of a Church damaged by scandals from within and attacks from without. Pope Francis will have to welcome "Brother Adversity" and "Sister Challenge" in the work of his papacy. It has been shown to this observer and, I believe, to the Catholic world that he is up to the task ahead.
We have in Pope Francis a holy man, a dedicated man and a man who will lead the Church forward in its mission of the new evangelization.
Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
The 13th has been called by many Catholic theologians the "Greatest of Centuries" for the many saintly figures and the theological works of those years. One only can wonder what judgments will be attached to the current century. One thing is certain, the need for authentic Christian leadership and witness, highlighted by a pronounced evangelism, is imperative. Times of challenge are times of awakening, times for men and women of holiness to stand against the tide of unbelief. Interestingly, that very requirement tends to be satisfied. This is an age of saints. Let them come. When a Catholic looks into the mirror, may he or she see that person of determination and perseverance who will serve God well.
The process of institutional and personal reformation is ongoing. This activity ought not to be feared but understood as a necessary work when flawed human nature is involved. God's plan was to entrust his Truth and its proclamation to human beings. The awesomeness and magnitude of this mandate should not cause us figuratively to pull the covers over our head, but to accept the work of planting the faith so that the harvest can be great.
Among all of the well-known features of the life of Saint Francis surviving to this day is his great prayer of service. Saint Francis prayed that he would be a tool in the hands of God to rebuild His Church, that he might be an instrument to reveal God's love, peace, healing, mercy, and hope. I feel confident that Saint Francis will inspire Pope Francis to be a true instrument of God's grace, unity, and peace.