Thursday, October 4, 2012

Doing the Impossible



"“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” -- St. Francis

Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi Day.  Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment and is probably the most popular of all Christian saints.  This weekend many churches will be celebrating a blessing of the animals in honor of Francis.  It's ironic the day to honor one of the great people of history who ate very little would be named a feast day.  (I know there is a long Christian history of feast days to honor the saints; it just doesn't seem the right word for Francis.)


The sight of Francis' death - October 3, 1226



St. Francis died in the night of October 3, 1226 in a small hut outside the small church, Porziuncola, where his order began.  Today the hut and the Porziuncola are housed inside the massive Santa Maria degli Angeli church which is below Assisi.  I'm not sure what sacred power there is when we walk where the saints and icons of history were born and died, but when I was there in July I was deeply moved by the experience.  Perhaps the holiest moments of life are those when we are born and receive spirit, breath, and when we die and spirit, breath, leaves us.  This is true for everyone one of us.  But for some people the place where those events occurred become pilgrim sites to be inspired, to reflect, hopefully, to get in touch with something that universal.

I spent the last two days at a Franciscan retreat center in Hiawatha, Iowa.  As I walked the labyrinth I reflected on the impact of Francis' life on my life.  For the last nine months I have read about him, I have walked where he walked, I have visited the places where he was born and died.  He was one of the first religious entrepreneurs in the world who achieved amazing miracles and left behind a legacy that is still touching lives almost 800 years after he died.   He has become part of my life, someone who sits on my shoulder silently whispering counsel and wisdom whether or not I want to hear it.  (I'm still working out the whole give away all my possessions and live a life of poverty thing, for example.)  I realize that I know more about his life than I do about the lives of those who I love.  While I can blame that on not having any biographies to read about my grandmother or any other family or friend, it's interesting none the less.

How will I celebrate today?  I won't be feasting but I will sit in silence before the two postcards/pictures I have on my altar of his famous prayer and the fresco from his basilica of being "naked before God".  And I'll do some of these suggestions from one of my favorite websites, spiritualityandpractice.com.  I invite you to reflect on some part of Francis' life as well.  Perhaps a good place to start is with his words above.  What must you do that is necessary, then what is possible and then what will happen that is impossible?  I can't imagine much better advice to calltrepreneurs these.  "Suddenly you are doing the impossible."  Francis' life is testimony to this, may ours be as well.



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