Monday, March 18, 2013

Saint Francis of Assisi


Yesterday, I was blessed to see one of my faithful readers.  The visit was much too short, but sweet just the same.  As I was leaving, she commented, “So which Saint Francis did the pope pick?  You didn’t put it in your post.”  Now, I know she is a faithful reader, but in the lonely hours I spend at home with just the cat and my keyboard to keep me company, I don’t “know” I have faithful readers.  My heart rejoiced when she asked.  Later I realized I let down my readers by not informing them.

For those who haven’t heard, it is said that Pope Francis took the name from Saint Francis of Assisi.  I am delighted.  The first saint, other than Mary, that I ever studied was Saint Francis of Assisi.  The main reason was because it was the first book I found in my library.  I fell in love with his humbleness, his love of nature, his love of animals, and his striving to live with less.  I keep his statue in my front flowerbed where he greets all my guests whether they like him or not. 

Saint Francis was never a priest.  He was a simple friar (deacon) who preached the gospel and took a vow of poverty.  I love his ideas of want verses need and try to apply it to my life when contemplating buying things.  It is said he preached to the animals which some people say he was a crazy old coot.  I find it enduring.  I talk to my cat and the neighborhood meadowlark.  Of course, I am probably crazy as well, so be it.  God spoke to Saint Francis and asked him to repair his church.  I find this interesting in this may be one of the reasons Pope Francis picked this name.  What course this will take is impossible for me to speculate, but I ponder.

There have been many books written about Saint Francis of Assisi.  He is beloved by many Catholics around the world.  I will leave you with some quotes that I have always enjoyed.

 “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.” ― St. Francis of Assisi  Many Catholics have left the faith which I think is true fall all generations.  I hope more will be able to come home with the guidance of our church leaders and lay people.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” ― St. Francis of Assisi  This is part of a song that I absolutely love.

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
St. Francis of Assisi, The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi  This quote brings to mine a song we sang at Search back home.  I love candles.

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” ― St. Francis of Assisi  Amen.

“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today” ― St. Francis of Assisi  I think I have written about this one before.  It is so very true.  Many people give up on church because our actions are not Christ like. 

 “I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, He can work through anyone.”― St. Francis of Assisi  I love this.  None of us are holy until the day we are cleansed and enter heaven.  Yet, God can still work through us if we are open to the Holy Spirit.  The flip side of this is that we need to remember those who offend us in the church are also unholy.  They are doing their best.  I am doing my best.  Pray for us.

Blessings to you all.

 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Pope


            As I sat down on Wednesday to my computer, I thought of the conclave voting for a new pope.  I felt a rush to get out on the web to see what was going on.  Deep down, I knew.  Sure enough about five minutes later, my husband called me to say the smoke was white.  Our good computer broke the day before so, yes, I was still trying to get on the Internet.  I bagged that task and went straight for the television to watch the proceedings.

            My first thoughts were I should be taking notes to have for a write up for my blog.  I realized a million people would be doing the same thing and the social media world would be flooded with the story and thoughts.  How could I compare with all of them?  I can’t.  What I can do is tell you my story of popes.

            I became Catholic at the age of 23 during the time of Pope John Paul II.  I knew he was a respected leader throughout the world and he led my new church, but other then that, I didn’t give him or the position much thought.  I also didn’t think much of Bishops, Archbishops, or Cardinals.  Speed up to his death, I was very sad.  We lost a great world leader.  I was more saddened for my husband who loved the pope.  He was stuck in Iraq and wouldn’t be able to watch the selection of the new pope.  I did watch, but it didn’t move me all that much.  In fact, I thought him a bit old and distant.  This time, I reacted much differently.

            Tears stung my eyes from the time I received the call and even today I get goose bumps about the event.  I sat watching Fox News waiting for our new papa.  I was amazed by the variety of flags in the middle of Saint Peter’s Square and smiled with pride as I saw my beloved American flag.  The crowd sang together.  I would have loved to have been there.  One announcer said the feeling in the square was a precursor to heaven with all the joyful celebration.  When I heard that, I realized my tears were tears of joy.  I felt joy!

            As I listened to the coverage, my heart swelled with love.  The two announcers on Fox were also Catholic.  What fun to have them talking about their faith.  I was proud to be living in a country where my fellow Catholics could share on national television during Catholic/World history in the making.  In fact, John commented that he had his Rosary with him in the studio.  Amen.

            Then I heard it.  “Pope Francis.”  Could it be?  Could the new pope be taking the name sake of one of my two favorite saints: Saint Francis of Assisi or Saint Francis de Sales?  I almost jumped for joy.  Finally, they announced Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina as the new pope.  I sat in anticipation.  Some commentators where speculating he would take the name of Pope Paul or Benedict.  “What about Pope Francis?  I want Pope Francis!”  The ticker across the scene finally read Pope Francis I.  At that moment, I knew he would be my pope.

            So, why did this affect me so differently?  I thought about it the rest of the day.  In the evening I figured it out.  In the last six years, my strong faith has grown in leaps and bounds.  I have been studying even harder.  But even bigger than that, I have grown to know our Bishop.  I am sure he doesn’t know me, but I have sat through many of his homilies and gotten to know him through his words and his actions.  He blessed my husband before he left for Iraq.  He chatted with us at a function and as I got ready to leave I spontaneously gave him a hug.  (I still don’t know if that was appropriate.)  He is a wonderful man.

            Through the radio, I have gotten to know Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York (I started listening to him when he was an Archbishop).  I told my husband I want to go on a pilgrimage to New York and attend Mass with him.  I want to meet him.  When he speaks through the radio, I really feel his sincerity and love.  I also enjoy his sense of humor.  I really think these two men who are larger then life have made me realize how the Pope can still lead me even though many miles and an ocean are between us.  And hey, taking the name Francis is some amazing icing on the cake.

            Of course, I love the fact that he didn’t move into the Cardinal’s palace in Argentina.  I love that he cooked his own meals, road the bus, and washed feet.  I cried as I added my blessing to that of all the world’s when he asked us for our blessing.  I knelt in front of my television as he blessed me.

            My biggest dream is to travel to Italy to go to Mass at the Vatican, see the sights, and drive up to Assisi and check out Francis’ digs.  During our countries time of financial uncertainty, my dream trip will have to be put off a couple more years.  But I will work hard at grasping Pope Francis and Saint Francis of Assisi’s humble attitude and patience.  Besides, I need to let the Holy Spirit decide when it is best for me to fulfill this pilgrimage.  And maybe in the meantime, I will make if over to New York to see Cardinal Dolan.

            So, I would love to hear your thoughts about Pope Francis.

            Blessings to you all.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Winter Blues


                Every year near the end of February and all of March, I struggle with the winter blues, aka depression.  I can have an amazing trip planned, be busy planning a graduation, or painting a new room.  It doesn’t really matter.  I get depressed.  Last year I put in my daily planner that I should do some fake and bake, salon sun tanning.  I can’t bring myself to do this though because of the expense in both time and money.  So yesterday, I decided to go for a bit of an adventure.  Okay, I drove to the local lake here in town and took some pictures to show you that even the weather is depressing.

                Mount Helena sitting sentinel dreams of the warm days of spring when the residents of the area clamor along its paths.

                A tree sits in the gloomy cloud covered day with dead grass protecting its roots.                                         

                A bird next hangs from the branch impatiently waiting for its vacationing owners to return from the south. 

                The colors of our days, though gloomy, do have an artistic feel to them. 

                The rough edges of the bark portray the roughness of winter. 

                Weathered wood standing tall in its old age. 

                An abandoned building with long forgotten thoughts of days long past. 

                I felt much better after my little drive to the lake and hike.  Today I anticipate another gloomy day.  My project will be to go through old photos and do some editing.  I hope to bundle up and take a walk around my daughter’s school.  I won’t take my camera.  But I will talk with God and try to encourage him to bring spring a little quicker.

                Blessings to you all.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fitting Some Pieces Together


Last night as I read my Bible reading for the day, I excitedly realized a connection between the book of Leviticus and Ruth.  I have read the book of Ruth a number of times.  This past November, I wrote the story of Ruth for part of my NaNo (National write a book in the month of November) project.  She worked very hard gleaning grain from Boaz’s field to feed both her and her mother-in-law Naomi.  The practice of allowing the poor the droppings has been common knowledge for me; however, I didn’t know it was a law.

                Leviticus is the book in the Bible with the laws of the Jews.  In chapter 23 verse 22 it states, “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop.  Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you.  I, the Lord, am your God.”  Boaz wasn’t simply being generous, he was following Biblical Law. 

                The other aspect I find interesting this morning as I reflect further is that this law sets up the idea of tithing and charity which of course are very important aspects of the Christian faith.  I must confess reading Leviticus has been a tad bit boring, but last night I started to see merit in this aspect of the old law.

                Blessings to you all.