Most Christians have heard of him by now. St. Francis Assisi. Born in Umbria in 1182, Francis was responsible for the birth of the Franciscan and Dominican orders. He quite literally lived the Bible, the Gospels, and spreading the word of PEACE. Not just a verbal announcement of Peace, but in his everyday life's work. A man of small stature, Francis exuded JOY. Building a house, brick by brick, constructed of peace, happiness and a sincere longing and passion for others to experience the utter serenity that Jesus Christ taught throughout the Gospels. St. Francis also received the Stigmata; a replication of the wounds that Christ suffered during his Crucifixion.
So, how do I go from my usual rants and raves on all this political or of high anxiety, to a topic that is completely the polar opposite of that world? Great question. A catholic myself, I chose as my patron saint, Francis of Assisi. A true believer of his message, I also reveled in the fact that St. Francis is the patron saint of animals, and the State of Colorado. Those that know me well shouldn't be surprised when I say that I have rescued my fair share of wayward animals, much to the dismay of my parents when I was young, and now to my loving and tolerant husband John, who shrugs off a new furry friend as "well here we go again'.
This weekend, our beloved Monsignor Tom celebrated his 60th anniversary (and 85th birthday) of taking the Holy Orders. The joyous event was held at the Steamboat Sheraton Grand Ballroom. And it was GRAND! Fr. Tom, a Brooklyn native, known for is good nature, sharp wit and dry humor, packed the joint. It was a Rolling Stones concert, sans the Stones. Fr. Tom had past and present parishioners in attendance to witness a spectacular moment. People from Aspen, Vail, New York, the Bahamas, New Zealand - all over the country were packed into the standing room only palladium to witness and be blessed by Fr. Tom. Mass was celebrated with the presence of 8 priests, an abbot from nearby St. Benedict Abbey in Snowmass, CO and of course our own Fr. Ernst and Deacon John Franklin.
The guest of honor was there, in his wheelchair, but alert and gregarious as always. Time and age has begun to show in Fr. Tom's ability to stand for any length of time. His voice quivered when he stood to address the congregation after Mass was over. His sermon was to the point, direct and shot straight to the heart. PEACE, JOY AND LOVE. Fr. Tom called us to learn from the newly appointed Holy Father Pope Francis. He spoke of the ability to truly immerse ourselves in the spirit of what St. Francis of Assisi lived, and what our Pope Francis preaches to Catholics, in fact all people, all over the world. The message isn't complicated. In fact, it takes absolutely no extra time, strength or complication. It's the Golden Rule. Treat others with respect. Love with unlimited power. Exude peace in your everyday life. Toss a smile towards someone you may not know. These actions go a long way in making others feel better, and all the while, giving yourself a shot of gratitude for your own life.
A few years ago, I read the book, "The Shack". I did not give it much thought, as I perused the shelves in the book section of Target. I was on one of my many rendezvous to Moab, Utah where I garner my strength from the red rocks and peaceful beauty of the simplistic desert scape. I often stop in Grand Junction, Colorado to hit the potty, and perhaps grab a few books. I read almost anything available, and relish I each and every book I hold. Has anyone ever experienced the joy of holding a book? Sweet feelings!
At any rate, where was I? Oh yes, "The Shack". Starting out as a family who is grieving and attempting to come to grips from the horrific murder of their young daughter Missy, Mack, the father, is having a difficult time with his relationship with GOD. Now listen - before the eye rolling begins. No matter your religious, spiritual or high power beliefs, most of the free world has some sort of conversation and repertoire with GOD. We all experience a unique bond with the big guy. So, as the book carries on, Mack begins his long journey and then mystical meeting with God and the Holy Trinity. I fear that divulging anymore of the grit to the story will give away the final chapters and revelations that Mack experiences - but let's just say, I see some St. Francis all over the book.
St. Francis upon his death bed was to have recited Psalm 141., the Psalm of David. He lived his life for the Gospel, for servitude to the poor of spirit, the weak of heart and to teach the love of GOD. If during your reading of my blog entry today, you take an extra 5 minutes to consider the lesson to be learned from St. Francis, I can't help but wonder...
WHAT WOULD LIFE BE LIKE WITH A LITTLE MORE PEACE, JOY & LOVE?