Today is the Feast of St. Francis, a saint dear to my heart, for many reasons. First of all, my father’s name was Francis, and he started his life as one of the poor and in his later years moved on to serving the poor. Secondly, my beloved city is named for St. Francis, and his influence is shown here in the services for poor folks and the love we have for Creation. St. Francis, unlike my father, was not born among the poor. He was a rich man of status, and he left that position of power and wealth to live a life of service. It was explained to me recently that monastics leave the world to pray for the world — that they die to the world and hang all their hopes on the resurrection. If there is no resurrection, their lives will have been in vain. To have that kind of faith, to live out such commitment and hope — it is something I long for.
Last Wednesday at Potluck I heard one of the Franciscan Sisters mention to someone that she wanted to have a good amount of people at Eucharist on the 4th, for Francis’s feast day. Well, this Sister is someone I hold dear to my heart, so knowing I could do something small that would delight her, I decided to get up before the sun this morning and come to the community house. Of course, getting anywhere with a baby before 8am is quite a challenge, but with only a little drama we made it there in time for Mass at 7:45. The Sisters, most of whom we know from Holy Innocents, were indeed very touched that we made it, and overjoyed that we had Olive with us. Since St. Francis’s Day is a time for blessing animals, there were two very large dogs in our midst, which made Olive’s day. So, everyone was glad, either for the presence of a baby, a canine, or each other. The priest who conducted the Eucharist is also a Buddhist, and his remarks connecting St. Francis’s teachings and the teachings of Buddhism were so inspiring and lovely. Sister Cecelia led the hymns, many of which she had written and/or arranged herself, in her warbly, ancient, high, British-accented voice.
I loved having the Eucharist be the first thing I ingested that morning. I was moved by the beauty and simplicity of the community house. And, of course, I felt the challenge of the monastics — it is not all fun times with dogs and babies. The priest prayed for us to be freed from vanity, something I sorely need. I have chosen a life of service myself, being a therapist to homeless and low-income families as well as a worker at our church. Choosing such a life means you will never have this season’s boots, your kid will not have a flush college fund, and you will live in an apartment too small for you. I often feel ashamed of these things — just yesterday when the new nanny share family came to our house for the first time, I was sure they were going to take one look at it and say, “We can’t leave our baby here. It’s just too tiny and old!” But as the priest reminded us of St. Francis’s humility, I felt a holy shame — looking at the Sisters in their brown robes I felt myself detach from what my appearance says about me, and instead turned my focus on my soul. I found that though I have freely chosen this life of service, I have not truly Accepted it. I rail against it, spending much time and energy feeling angry that I have to work so hard for so little, and always feeling like I don’t have enough. It is not true poverty, it is simply a morass of desire and nothing-ness that I fall into frequently.
I truly believe that so much of what we feel we “should” have is shaped by our models. So, if I spend time reading Vogue magazine or watching most television, I will constantly be left feeling as if I am simply not enough. But if I spend time with people like the Sisters at the Community of St. Francis, I can perhaps be cured of this Affluenza, at least as I am receiving the gifts and creatures of Holy Communion alongside them.