Does history repeat itself? Has the life of St. Francis of Assisi returned and is now living with us as Pope Francis? St. Francis of Assisi was much at home in poor neighborhoods sharing the simple things like a piece of bread. Is Pope Francis any different? Instead of arguing theology, St. Francis would much rather wash the feet of the lonely, a leper or hold a small child in his arms. Pope Francis seems to go out of his way to find the same people to embrace. For both Pope Francis and Francis of Assisi, God and religion were something personal, sacred, not empty words to throw around in public places. Religion is something special to hold in the cave of the heart. Both St. Francis and Pope Francis were lifted into higher place to give answers they never expected to have to give. St. Francis suffered trying to find a rule for all his brothers to live by. The words and actions of Pope Francis are tossed around by the media and people in positions of power. Meanwhile both Pope Francis and St. Francis would spend days and much longer periods in doubt and in awe of everything they find in the human heart. Making retreats on mountain tops in the great silence, Francis of Assisi developed friendships with everyone and seemingly everything including the birds, the trees and little flowers. Are we too cynical and too modern for a little silence and enjoyment of the little flowers of life?
Church and state in the time of Francis of Assisi argued with, resisted, and yet came to honor their naked saint. Today, Pope Francis faces many of the same trials and welcome like Francis of Assisi long ago. The every day person recognizes here is a man very special, reminding us all of what is important. Politicians and religious leaders are not as certain as they try to bend their minds to love's simple truth. As they watch St Francis today in the actions of Pope Francis, kissing the feet of a Muslim woman, holding a deformed man, sharing cake and drink with people on the street, how much can the mind bend and open to what is in front of us? Pope Francis as St. Francis long ago is on a steadfast heart driven path showing everyone simple peace is the only way if we want a world of peace.
Neither left or right are satisfied. Liberals and conservatives want something more. Pope Francis like Francis of Assisi are ultimately not members of either group. Happiness is something inside of us. It is our service to others while letting go of some self importance. Happiness is life itself without argument. It is simple joy. When Pope Francis speaks he is hoping the best minds will be in realization of the potential of the heart. He is setting an example of a heart centered church praying for a heart centered world. As St. Francis long ago realized and became so popular because of it, God is love and love is God. It is all not so complicated!
Some people say the steps of St. Francis would never lead to being Pope, he was too close to the poor, the ground, the simple things in life. Others say St. Francis could be Pope or anyone because he was not for himself, for position or power. As a simple instrument, St. Francis or Pope Francis dine with royalty and nobility and they dine with the royalty and nobility of the poor. Pope Francis skipped lunch with Washington politicians to spend time with the homeless instead. Is this not St. Francis in our midst?
Do we see him? Do we appreciate him? Do we understand the gift of having so much of the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi alive and speaking to us today? And what about the world's pressing problems? Pope Francis as St. Francis long ago simply says "Do unto others as you would want to be done to you". Pope Francis is saying, what is needed is a "revolution of tenderness", "Better to not serve ideas but serve people instead". In the Church, Pope Francis is calling for a "a year of mercy". Church or no church, do we consider joining him? Do we think one year is enough?