People from all walks of life and from many religious traditions honor the holy man whose feast day is today, October 4: Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, known to us as St. Francis- a poor man with a wealth of wisdom and practical spirituality from the town of Assisi, Italy.
To relegate his memory to mere garden statues or quaint hagiography does not do justice to this man and his legacy. Born into a wealthy family, he experienced a profound conversion after serving in the army and recovering from an illness. Becoming an ardent follower of Christ, the charismatic young man embraced a life of profound simplicity, unitive prayer and exemplary love of the poor. His 500-year-old spirituality bequeaths us a contemporary reverence for creation, particularly our climate and natural resources.
Perhaps St. Francis' greatest legacy--and one which is needed right now in our country and throughout the world--is his commitment to peace. One could write volumes on each of the lines of the Peace Prayer (see below) which is attributed to the saint. However, due to the enormous challenges and realities of this year, the line which speaks to me is "Where there is darkness, light."
Covid-19 came to us in the winter darkness of this year (for those who live in the northern hemisphere). It brought with it many things: uncertainty, hoarding, fear, blame, toxic racism with impassioned protests and violence, along with massive financial stress. The virus also carried with it a death warrant for too many as well as the suffering and mourning for those who witnessed the same.
And yet through all of this, and because of all of this was born--and continues to grow--a sense of responsibility, compassion, cooperation, inventiveness, spontaneity and social outreach the likes of which I cannot remember in my lifetime.
Alice and I may be called out of touch or Pollyannas, but one thing (among many) that we know and believe and try to live is that how you see is what you see- meaning that our attitude toward the world is greatly determined by the world that we have created within. We choose, in the craziness and unsteadiness of this time, to bring light as we can, how we can, when we can.
We do not claim to do this perfectly or always. With the tumult of national politics and dis-ease of international unrest, there are times we have to coach each other back into the place and space where we drink of the truth of the goodness of life.
For that reason, we subscribe to the proverb that “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
Indeed, these are the moments that call for light. There's enough roller-coastering of emotions in "normal times". Disrupted lives, worry, loneliness, disorganization and just not-knowing can take its toll. But where there is darkness, we can bring light. Perhaps just to pause and think differently about a situation. Perchance it's re-prioritizing and really making someone or something matter.