St. Francis giving his mantle to a poor man by Giotto (1299) Public domain.
As the feast of St. Francis approaches, we asked the friars how the beloved saint continues to inspire them to be instruments of healing and peace in their ministries, through their daily encounters with others and in fraternal life. These are their responses:
Fr. Dan Anderson, OFM
While there are a lot of qualities in St. Francis that inspire me, I think the one I try to keep in the forefront of my mind and attitude is Minority. I try to focus on Francis putting himself at service to the brothers and to those with whom he came into contact. He was able to take the “high road” by not presuming to be high.
Br. Jerry Beetz, OFM
Dr. Albert Schweitzer once said “that our vocation in life is to be glad instruments of God’s love and presence in a very imperfect world.” St. Francis still calls me to be this response to our divided world, explaining that the ingredients for a good Franciscan heart continue to be purity, humility, love, faith, courage, joy, praise (Psalm 139), gratitude (stop complaining), kindness (especially to myself), hospitality (Do I wear a “no vacancy” face?) and hope. With these and with God: “All things are possible.”
Fr. Loren Connell, OFM
Of all the places on my pilgrimage to Assisi 120 years ago, Fonte Colombo made the greatest impression on me. There, Francis, at the insistence of the Holy See, had come out of retirement to write a new Rule, replacing the one that the Lateran authorities had rejected. I am retired. I left St. Aloysius Parish three years ago. If some or all of what the friars began and fostered there has been put aside, I have to let that be. For the past year, I have been editing our provincial necrology. If the final product doesn’t reflect my vision for the work, I have to let that be. Francis was no doubt saddened at the rejection of his first Rule, but without bitterness, he continued to open himself to the Spirit’s next movements. That is the Francis who speaks to me today.
Fr. Al Hirt, OFM
I think of Franciscans as being “set among” the people, not “set apart.” Because we closely identify with all the struggles of ordinary people, I think we are equipped to be instruments of healing and peace. In the midst of a nation and church often sadly divided, I think humility is a key virtue. I don’t know all the truth; I can’t judge and condemn. I try to address the issues that affect people’s lives without being partisan. I don’t pretend that I am always successful at this. At 72, I am still an idealist. I want to know the joy of living simply. St. Francis continues to inspire me to want a life among the poor, to live simply enough, to not hold on to lots of things. His love for all creatures, that sense of everything in the world is a brother or sister, is a spirituality that inspires me.
Fr. Dennet Jung, OFM
I see St. Francis as a man of awareness and a man in touch with God and all God’s creation. His awareness moved him to an attitude of reverence, a positive response to the goodness and beauty he saw in every human being and in the world around him. He was a man of reverence because he was a man filled with gratitude to God. I try to live my day with this awareness, this reverence, in my conversations and dealings with God’s people. Hopefully, I will be an instrument of peace if I can have in some way the awareness of St. Francis.
Fr. Carl Langenderfer, OFM
St. Francis continues to inspire me in my parish ministry as I attempt to include Franciscan values in my preaching and in my interactions with our parishioners and townsfolk. I encourage concern for the poor, the immigrant and the persecuted people of all nations and races. I try to be friendly and accepting to anyone I meet in the stores, on the street and wherever people gather. I try not to cause conflict or hostility among people, whether they are parishioners or not. I try to be open to others’ opinions and beliefs. I inquire about people’s concerns and how their lives are going, especially our farm families, parents and children. I try to respond when people ask for prayers, for pastoral visits, for blessings or for advice and counsel. I try to be a brother to the other friars with whom I live, as well as to our parish staff and volunteers. I try to live St. Francis’ admonition that “what a person is before God that he/she is, and no more” (or less).
Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM
St. Francis of Assisi was the walking definition of humility: “You are who you are before God, and nothing more.” I always remind people, “And no less!” It’s easy to be around genuinely humble people. Not so with people seeking to create some aura other than who they truly are before God.