Getting to Know the Real St. Francis – Crisis Magazine

Getting to Know the Real St. Francis – Crisis Magazine

Getting to Know the Real St. Francis


Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos. That is not Franciscan either! It is not Franciscan, but a notion that some people have invented!
These words were not articulated by a representative of the Texas oil industry. They were spoken in a homily given by Pope Francis himself during a much-publicized visit to Assisi in October 2013. Moreover, after emphasizing how Saint Francis underscored man’s need to respect the natural world and “help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be,” the Pope added: “above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbor, that the human person is at the center of creation, at the place where God—our creator—willed that we should be.”
Such ideas about Saint Francis don’t fit well with some portrayals of the medieval hermit and friar that have emerged in recent decades. Many of these have been developed, as illustrated by the doyen of Italian historians of Francis and the Franciscan movement, Grado G. Merlo, to exploit Francis for numerous contemporary religious and political agendas, ranging from pacifism to radical environmentalism. Franco Zefferelli’s well-known 1972 film Brother Sun, Sister Moon presented the saint, for example, as a type of winsome eccentric who was all about shattering conventionality. In his 1982 book Francis of Assisi: A Model of Human Liberation, the liberation theologian Leonardo Boff portrayed Francis as one who, conceptually speaking, would help us move away from a world dominated by “the bourgeois class that has directed our history for the past five hundred years.”
Then there are the outright myths. Francis of Assisi didn’t author the famous 1967 hymn “Peace Prayer of Saint Francis.” It was written by Sebastian Temple, a twentieth century South African born composer. The prayer on which Temple based the hymn can’t be traced further back than a French magazine published in 1912.
The text to which I always turn whenever claims about Francis of Assisi are made is Augustine Thompson O.P’s meticulously researched Francis of Assisi: A New Biography (2012). The real strength of this biography is the way it rigorously analyzes the documentary record and sources and shifts out what is reliable from that which is hearsay and legend.
So what are some aspects of Saint Francis’s life detailed in Thompson’s book that will surprise many? One is that although he sought radical detachment from the world, Francis believed that he and his followers should engage in manual labor in order to procure necessities like food. Begging was always a secondary alternative (29). Another is that Francis thought that the Church’s sacramental life required careful preparation, use of the finest sacred vessels (32), and proper vestments (62). This is consistent with Francis’s conviction that one’s most direct contact with God was in the Mass, “not in nature or even in service to the poor” (61). While Francis is rightly called a peacemaker and one who loved the poor, Thompson stresses the saint’s “absolute lack of any program of legal or social reforms” (37). The word “poverty” itself appears rarely in Francis’s own writing (246). It seems Francis also thought that it was absolute rather than relative poverty which “always had a claim on compassion” (40).
When it came to Catholic dogma and doctrine, Francis was no proto-dissenter. He was, as Thompson puts it, “fiercely orthodox” (41), even insisting in later life that friars guilty of liturgical abuses or dogmatic deviations should be remanded to higher church authorities (135-136). Hence it shouldn’t surprise us that Francis’s famous conversation in Egypt in 1219 with Sultan al-Kamil and his advisors wasn’t an exercise in interfaith pleasantries. While Francis certainly did not mock Islam, the saint politely told his Muslim interlocutors that he was there to explicate the truth of the Christian faith and save the sultan’s soul (66-70). Nothing more, nothing less.
Francis is of course especially remembered by Christians and others for his love of nature, so much so that another saint, John Paul II, proclaimed him the patron saint of “those who promote ecology” in his 1979 Bula Inter sanctos. Francis’s deep affinity with nature and animals was underscored by those who knew him. The killing of animals or seeing them suffer upset him deeply (56). In this regard and many others, Francis didn’t see the natural world and animals as things to be feared or treated solely as resources for use (57).
Unlike many other medieval religious reformers, however, Francis rejected abstinence from meat and wasn’t a vegetarian. Nor was there a trace of pantheism in Francis’s conception of nature (56). Francis’s references and allusions to nature in his writings, preaching, and instruction were overwhelmingly drawn from the scriptures rather than the environment itself (55). More generally, Francis saw the beauty in nature and the animal world as something that should lead to worship and praise of God (58)—not things to be invested with god-like qualities. G.K. Chesterton’s 1923 popular biographyof Francis makes a similar point: though he loved nature, Francis never worshipped nature itself. Francis’s relationship to nature, Thompson observes, shouldn’t be romanticized. The saint even viewed vermin and mice, for example, as “agents of the devil” (225).
No-one should be stunned by any of this. Saint Francis of Assisi was, after all, a Catholic. He therefore accepted the Jewish and Christian insight that not only is the Creator the Lord of his creation, but that the summit of his created world is man. Awareness of this basic truth, according to Saint Ignatius of Loyola—the founder of the Jesuit order to which Pope Francis belongs—is central to growing closer to God. In hisSpiritual Exercises, Ignatius identifies the “fundamental principle” for overcoming self as knowing that
Man has been created to praise, reverence and serve our Lord God, thereby saving his soul. Everything else on earth has been created for man’s sake, to help him achieve the purpose for which he has been created. So it follows that man has to use them as far as they help and abstain from them where they hinder his purpose.
Neither Ignatius of Loyola nor Francis of Assisi treated the created world as a rosy abstraction. Appreciating and respecting the environment didn’t mean disdaining everything else—including human beings, human work, and human creativity—or forgetting that, as the Church Father, Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, once wrote: “The glory of God is man fully alive.
However much legend and mythology has blurred the real Francis of Assisi over time, the genuine drama of his life and the forces he unleashed in medieval Europe mean that he’s perhaps fated to have any number of ideological programs thrust upon him. In the end, however, we should remember that while Francis of Assisi continues to have many things to say to everyone today, at the core of all those things is the Catholic vision of God, man and the world.
One can safely say that, for Saint Francis himself, any other interpretation would be impossible.

Judicial Decision 1366 Reflections — A Potter’s View

The One Church Plan takes the method out of United Methodism. That method has been connectionalism and it has been grossly redefined by the OCP and the Judicial Council: “As a primary principle in any organizational structure of The United Methodist Church, connectionalism denotes a vital web of interactive relationships—multi-leveled, global in scope, and local […]

via Judicial Decision 1366 Reflections — A Potter’s View

Facing up to reality by Fr. Freeman

Imagine that you have never seen a mirror, much less had a picture taken of yourself or broadcast your image on social media. Imagine, as well, that you’ve never taken advantage of a still pool of water to admire yourself. How would you know what you look like? Lost within our modern culture is the fact that the face is not created for its owner. For eons, human beings had little idea of how they looked other than what they were told by others. That is the true normal.

Nothing is more truly “personal” than the face. In Greek, the word for person, “prosopon,” means “face.” What we mean by the word “person” is a metaphorical extension of the face. Within, or upon, the face is placed “who we are.” But this reality is distorted by the modern fascination with our own face. What is most important about the face is not how I look, but how we look to each other, face-to-face.

When theologians get technical about the notion of “personhood,” they quickly tell us that it is “relational.” My face is only revealed as my face when it is seen by another face. Or, more correctly, when it is seen looking at another face by the other face. We only know ourselves as we see ourselves in the faces of others.

In a culture that increasingly exists as a mirror (selfie’s and such), true self-knowledge is more difficult. In a manner of speaking, looking inward at the mirror is looking in the wrong direction. Our psychologized society tends to direct our attention towards the self. “I have been working on some issues,” we say. But, if the faith is true, and love is that which most truly heals us, then the answer is not within my own face (gazing in the mirror), but in the encounter with others.

I have been writing, from time to time, on the topic of shame. It is an emotion that can be entirely crippling. Ironically, it is something that cannot be healed alone. One psychologist defines shame as “how the self sees the self.” Shame fears being seen. But it is only in revealing shame in the context of love and safety that its wounds can be identified and healed. Of course, it is a very deep wound within our “person,” for shame creates a wall between ourselves and others. And, not so strange, the primary expression of shame is looking away, or looking down. Shame does not want to see face-to-face.

But, my thoughts in this article, are on personhood, what does it mean to exist “personally.” I will suggest that we think of it as “who-I-am-as-I-see-and-as-I-am-seen.” These are simultaneous and cannot be separated. We are told by Christ, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” God can only be seen face-to-face because He is personal. The Lutheran Theologian, Robert Jenson, once said, “The Father only knows Himself as He sees Himself in the Son.” This is true. The very names by which God has made Himself known show this. The term “Father” has no meaning in isolation. “Father of whom?” we have to ask. “Son,” is the same. And if we understood the word for “Spirit,” we would know that it is the word “breath.” “Who’s breath?” In every case within the Trinity, there is only being-in-and-towards-the-other.

For convenience sake, we have created a false consciousness in which things-in-relation are separated and discussed as though they stood alone without reference. We imagine our human existence in this manner, though it is never true. We have no such existence. Everything within the created order has this same characteristic. Nothing exists apart from everything else that exists. But this is a difficult way to think (much less speak). And so, we resort (for convenience sake) to a shorthand version of existence, soon forgetting that it is shorthand and mistaking it for what is real and true.

This leads to the nonsense of atheist speech. If I say, “I am,” (which must be said before I say anything about myself), I have already invoked God, who is our being. Nothing has existence in and of itself, except God. He is the “author of our being.” He is “That-Within-Which-We-Exist.” He is thus a part of every conversation whether acknowledged or not. We speak God. He is the Logos, That-Which-Is-The-Order-of-All-Things. We do not make random noises when we speak, but evoke an order and grammar, meaning and sense, none of which exists apart from the Logos.

The most revealing thing within human history is the appearing of Jesus Christ in our midst. In this coming-among-us, we see the face of God. That face alone can tell us who we truly are. I can only know myself as I see myself in Him. He is the face of God and the face of man. I do not exist apart from His face, nor does Christ, as man, exist apart from us. It is only when we turn our faces away from Him, or worse yet, become enthralled to the false mirrors we have created, that we cease to exist, or begin a movement in that direction. In that movement, and its distorted mirror, the fullness and the wholeness of all things are swallowed up in the madness of solipsism. Nothing makes sense by itself, in itself, for itself. Nothing can be seen truly in that manner.

We have a greater hope.

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. (Rev. 22:3-4)

None Dare Call It Treason – Crisis Magazine

None Dare Call It Treason

One could be forgiven for thinking that a traitor is a rare bird. After all, most Americans can only name one traitor in American history—Benedict Arnold. And, if you know who he is, you probably went to school several decades ago when such things were still taught. Of course, there have been other traitors besides Arnold, but, except for students of history, few know their names.
Yet, there are, arguably, far more traitors on American soil today than ever before in history. They are not traitors in the legal sense, and this is because treason is defined as giving aid and comfort to an enemy in time of war, and the U.S. is not currently in a declared war with any nation. Still, many Americans can be considered traitors in the looser sense of the term. They may not be providing aid to an official enemy, but they are engaged in a serious betrayal, nonetheless.Whether or not we are officially at war, the U.S. does have enemies. The nation of Iran considers America to be its enemy, and so do a host of other Islamic entities including Hezbollah, Hamas, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and about a dozen or so other terrorist organizations.All of these groups justify their hostility to America, and the West in general, by reference to their religious beliefs. According to the Koran and the Hadiths we are infidels. Our crime of disbelief is sufficient reason to attack us. One would expect, then, that loyal Americans would not want to do anything to aid and support the ideological system which motivates these enemies of America. Instead, many segments of American society have, in effect, taken sides with our ideological enemy—not necessarily with ISIS and al-Qaeda, but with more the “moderate” Islamic entities that cleave to the same core beliefs. Meanwhile, they seek to silence other Americans who are critical of the Islamist agenda. The 1400-year history of Islam’s war against Christendom and the West provides numerous examples of traitors who went over to the side of Islam. Today there is a difference: While in the past traitors were individuals who gave strategic information to Muslim enemies or supplied them with money or transportation or troops, it is more accurate to speak in terms of a traitor class rather than traitorous individuals. The impulse to be aligned with the other side is now a widespread phenomenon.In the United States, the traitor class is well-educated, well-paid, and highly influential. They work in the media, universities, big business, politics, entertainment, and even churches. In short, the traitor class occupy important positions in the most powerful institutions in our society. The average person’s first encounter with members of the traitor class occurs in the classroom. That’s not to say that every teacher is a Benedict Arnold; it’s just to acknowledge that American schools have drifted leftward, and certain taken-for-granted narratives go with the teacher’s job. To depart from these narratives is to risk one’s career.Thus, if your child is in elementary school or high school, the odds are that he or she will learn a whitewashed version of Islam. History books will portray Muslims as innocent victims of Crusaders and imperialists. At the university level, students will learn about Islam from professors who draw their salaries from Arab-funded endowments. Meanwhile, speakers who are critical of Islam will be banned from campus. The narrative will be supported on every side. If a Muslim perpetrates a knife or car attack, local authorities will profess to be baffled about the motivation, or they may chalk it up to mental illness. For its part, the media will play along with the charade. They won’t bother to dig into the facts or to challenge the nothing-to-do-with-Islam narrative. By contrast, if a Muslim is the victim of a hate crime, the story will be magnified out of all proportion. If it later turns out that the “hate crime” was manufactured, there will be no retraction or else only a brief one hidden away on the back page. If, on the other hand, a counter-jihad website tries to expose the Islamic motivation behind the jihad attack, or attempts to reveal the fake nature of the “hate crime,” giant corporations such as Google, Facebook, and MasterCard will move to silence it.What is happening, in short, is that today’s Paul Reveres are being muzzled by the Benedict Arnolds who are running the show. This is not to say that the modern Benedict Arnold recognizes himself as such. Until it occurred to some that it might be worth trying to stick the label “traitor” on Donald Trump, the term had largely fallen into desuetude. To many, the concept of “traitor” seems a relic of another era—an era when people supposedly thought in terms of “black and white.” Now that the era of black-and-white thinking has been replaced by the reign of relativism, treason has become a problematic subject. When one system of government is deemed to be as good as any other, loyalty to one’s country and culture begins to seem less important, even quaint.

Admittedly, our present situation can’t be blamed entirely on a rigorous relativism. Most people aren’t relativist when it comes to things in which they strongly believe. The fact is that generations of Americans have been actively taught that their country and culture are not worthy of loyalty. The traitor class doesn’t want you just to believe that your civilization is no better or worse than others; It wants you to believe that it is the worst that history has ever produced. Moreover, the traitor class has conditioned generations of students to believe in a new set of loyalties—loyalty above all to diversity and multiculturalism (and perhaps also to whatever multinational company for which one happens to work).

The upshot is that those who stifle free speech for the sake of protecting Islam from criticism, or those who cover up for cultures that are misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian may actually believe that they are serving their country.

Sir John Harington, a member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, composed numerous trenchant epigrams. One of the most famous is this one:

Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.

The logic is impeccable. Once the traitors have taken power, it’s dangerous to call them traitors. Today, treason is prospering in America as never before. Professors, politicians, and pundits who are willing to jeopardize their country’s safety for the sake of a fashionable narrative will be well-rewarded in terms of salaries, promotions, and honors. By the same token, those who dare speak out about the dangers of Islamization will be increasingly at risk.

Once again, I am not speaking of treason in its narrowly defined Constitutional sense, but in its broader sense of a betrayal of trust or a breach of allegiance. You can’t be hanged for committing treason in the broader sense, but this kind of treason still has its victims, and some of them suffer profoundly. For an instructive example, let’s switch from the U.S. to the U.K. In Rotherham, England, gangs of Muslim rapists victimized teenage girls for a period of 15 years with almost complete impunity. Police, town council members, child protection workers and the media knew about the crimes. (With 1,400 victims, how could they not know?) Yet they chose to cover up the crimes. They betrayed the girls and their families because they didn’t want to be thought racist or “Islamophobic.” In a grotesque inversion of priorities they protected the Muslim gangs and allowed the lives of the girls to be ruined. This may not be treason in the narrowly defined sense, but any sane person would recognize it as a profound betrayal. It is with good reason that some in Britain have taken to calling the governing class the “traitor class.” And there is good reason to believe that a similar class is already well-established in America.

Source: None Dare Call It Treason – Crisis Magazine

Receive the Big Picture

This Day With God

There have been some amazing inventions in technology over the years. I remember when we went to the first birthday of my niece’s newborn son. The town we went to was small many years ago but today it is one of the fastest growing suburbs of Austin Texas. Finding the location of the birthday party would have been very difficult forty years ago but made easy today with GPS navigation.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, two viewpoints are considered; the world view and the God view. Pointed out is that the wisdom of this world has been made to look foolish at times. If you think about the history of the world, I think we could all agree that experts in various fields seem to miss what should be obvious. Wrong data is captured and various opinions interfere in the accuracy.

Yet, the God view allows us to factor in…

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Court Preachers

A Peculiar Prophet

I recently wrote a reflection for preachers in our current time, and shared it with Ministry Matters. Here is that reflection on the preachers who pander to the political powers, and the call to be gospel preachers with integrity and courage. I hope it is an encouraging word for you in your work for today.


There’s a history of preachers attempting to ingratiate themselves with the powerful; some clergy are always willing to sacrifice the gospel in exchange for proximity to the crown. Louis XIV had his pet court preachers like Bossuet and Massillon who came to Versailles and, in elegant sermons, told the Sun King what he wanted to hear. Encountering mild resistance from some German Protestant preachers, Hitler elevated a prominent pastor, Ludwig Müller, to the role of Reich bishop in his new German Church and the majority of the churches stepped into line behind the…

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