One thing amazed me about the new pope being appointed last week. For the first time in Church history---after about 800 years---a pope chose the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. I hadn’t realized this was the first time ever. Well, it’s about time.
Francis of Assisi, for whom one of our great cities is named (San Francisco) was a delightful Christian example for Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians alike. If more of us who profess to follow Christ were more like him, we would have a much stronger witness before the watching world.
Francis Bernardone (1182-1226) grew up the son of a wealthy merchant, but upon receiving a divine calling, he forsook a life of comfort and ease, choosing instead a life of poverty and simplicity to serve the Lord. Centuries later we still remember him.
According to author Marc Galli (now the editor of Christianity Today), "’Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace,’ sometimes called ‘The Prayer of Saint Francis,’ was not written by Francis--though it does embody his spirit. It was probably composed at a Catholic congress in Chicago, in 1925” (Christian History Magazine, Issue 42, 1994.)
I find the Prayer of St. Francis prayer quite liberating. After some recent personal conflicts, I make it a conscious goal to pray it, along with the Lord’s Prayer, every day.
Part of that prayer includes: “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”
I’m reminded of the opening concept of Rick Warren’s mega-bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life. The key to understanding life is this: it’s not about you, but the Lord.
This is such a winning approach to life, come what may. I especially find helpful the line, “It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned.” As was said by Christ, whom Francis patterned his life after, we should pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Forgive others instead of clinging to simmering resentments, which ultimately ruin us.
Human nature, being what it is, is bound to produce conflicts. Francis recognized that. One of the geniuses of the founding fathers of America was recognizing man’s moral limitations, and putting in place safeguards to protect us---from each other.
James Madison, direct student of the Scottish Presbyterian head of Princeton, Dr. John Witherspoon, said, “All men having power ought not to be trusted.” That’s not a cynical view of human nature. It’s a realistic one.