Monday, April 01, 2024

The Christian Ideal: St. Francis of Assisi

A permanent temptation is to see Christianity as a beautiful but impossible ideal, a pleasant fantasy that could never take root in the real world.  After all, we say to ourselves: How could we possibly love our enemies, or bless those who curse us? How, in the face of violence, could we possibly turn our cheek? How could we live in utter reliance upon divine providence, trusting that God will take care of us? How could we really embrace a crucified man as the source of salvation?

As G. K. Chesterton famously said, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."

Francis of Assisi vividly reminded his contemporaries, and vividly reminds us, that the Christian ideal CAN be realized. And he showed, furthermore, that the realization of that ideal unleashes enormous transformative power. Though real Christians will always be seen as a little eccentric, they will in time, always prove to be the true center and produce fruit, thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. - Bishop Robert Barron, The Pivotal Players

At an early age G. K. Chesterton ceased to accept the existence of a higher being, but later came to believe in a personal God and in the Christian faith. He eventually became a Roman Catholic, finding there the spiritual discipline and responsibility he believed were needed in an increasingly decadent world. In spite of his strong ties to the Catholic Church, Chesterton's writings spanned denominational lines with such apologetic works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man--writings that dealt with the core tenets of the Christian faith.

Saint Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in Roman Catholic history. He founded the Franciscan orders, including the Poor Clares and the lay Third Order. He and St. Catherine of Siena are the patron saints of Italy, and he is also the patron saint of ecology and of animals.

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