Saint Francis and Pope Francis: Inviting Us to Be Fools for God

Saint Francis was rejected and worshiped, scorned and adored. He called himself a fool for God. Many tried to build him up to be a great saint but he knew he was only a small worm in God's garden. That was enough.

This Easter season as people try to figure out who finally is new Pope Francis, Saint Francis gives us our best clues. Pope Francis is neither Left nor Right, conservative or liberal. He is listening to a different drummer. As people wait for the rules and regulations of the Church to change, like Saint Francis, Pope Francis is embracing the poor and asking everyone to restore forgiveness and compassion in our hearts.

Enough with pomp and ceremony, telling others what they should or should not be doing. Taking a look in the mirror and seeing our own nakedness, our vulnerability, is perhaps our best first step to seeing what we can do with a fallen Church and our own spirit yearning for reawakening. We can blame and complain, rant and rave but it is our own hearts which are sore and needing our attention. The enemy, if there is one, is our own burdened mind with too many thoughts and not enough joy. It was joy that Saint Francis shouted in small villages across Italy. And it is much needed joy Pope Francis is showing us as he mingles with the crowds, embraces the children, the poor and the unwanted. Saint Francis cried for life's beauty, life's aches and pains including his brother body. Saint Francis cried for everyone who could not cry. Its time for us to feel our own tears. Tears are the blood of the soul.

Let's be fools for God. This means helping a stranger in need, having ice cream on a cold day and sitting in the peace of this moment for a long time. And if someone asks what are we doing? We tell them we are doing nothing. Or we tell them we are doing everything! There is so much being to do and continue being. God is the river of our heart screaming "I am" into the vastness within. God is revealed in the world as we take what other's think less seriously and life's joy more earnestly. Saint Francis was a troubadour for perfect joy. He was a master of finding the perfection of this moment. Many hardened hearts were melted by Francis of Assisi. Souls are being moved today in many similar ways by Pope Francis.

As Pope Francis says again and again, let's get out of our buildings, our comfortable homes and discover the hurt and laughter in the streets. Saint Francis made a practice of loving those no-one loved. Today we need to love all including the parts of ourselves that we judge and turn away from. We can seek refuge in our minds, our material riches only for so long. Sooner or later our hearts, everything in our heart, must be embraced. As Saint Francis finally asked brother body to forgive him for his mistrust and lack of love, we too must not judge or avoid any part of us but offer gentleness and forgiveness. Saint Francis in his canticle to the creatures named all of nature worthy of our love. We too can not leave out anyone or anything. We too must love brother sun for the warmth and love as well as the cold and rejection in life. We can love sister wind including where life blows and carries us. Maybe as we love we find something greater carrying us all. It's all about love.

Of course we know this. But for love, we must be fools for God. Actually we are all fools for God even if we act proper and behave just right everyday. We are naked, vulnerable, no matter how much or how little we have around us. This Easter season let's do something we normally never do. Let's sit in compassion for the most difficult person in our lives. Maybe this person is ourselves. Can we sit with compassion, with understanding and heart for ourselves? Let's dance the dance of our heart with no excuses. We do have enough time. What is more important to spend money on than the dance of our hearts? Let's celebrate in the Franciscan way by being fools for God!

If God is love, this Easter season let's fast on everything that keeps us separate, distracted from love. Let's spend extra time with the source of this love, the deep silence in our hearts. St. Francis spent much of his short life time sitting in the silence of his heart on mountaintops all over Italy. It was in the peace and quiet of his heart that he found meadows and hillsides covered with golden wild flowers. There were mountain streams full of light and grace rushing down into every nook and corner of his being. Creatures large and small drew near to him to feel God's presence. Francis prayed and prayed to understand how could one small human heart find so much Divine? This was the secret of Saint Francis and perhaps now Pope Francis.

Self importance is not nearly as cool as dissolving the self into a fool for God. Riches beyond words are found in deep inner wells of our being. Easter can be a discovery of these riches and more. Fresh honesty, humor and gratitude can cleanse mind and soul just as much or more than giving up meat or sweets. Let's rebuild a fallen church by rebuilding our own trust in life, love and everything good. Let's listen to the person in our life who speaks the least. This Easter season let's turn down the noise in our world and turn up the beauty wherever we can find it.

In these times of serious Church, serious religion it is good to remember one of the last stories in the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was very ill laying in bed in Perugia. The brothers were coming to visit at all hours of the day and night. They were singing Hallelujah, partying. Francis was soon to be going to Heaven! The neighbors complained to the local bishop. "It is not proper for a great saint and his brothers to be singing in all hours of the night. It doesn't look right when our Saint Francis is so close to death." The bishop approached Francis and asked, "Can't you turn down the party? Your brothers are creating a scandal acting this way." Francis explained, "I cannot stop my brothers. Their hearts are so wonderful, so true..." Although Francis was very ill, the brothers obeyed the bishop and left Perugia. They moved dear Francis to just below Assisi where the angels came and lifted Francis into Heaven.

We are all called to celebrate God, love, in whatever form it maybe! Thank you Saint Francis and Pope Francis. Lets all be fools for God.