Friday, October 04, 2013

Accompanying the poor with St. Francis

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

In the last year or so, the place of Francis in my life has become much more central.

There is much to learn from the Little Poor Man from Assisi, especially for one who works among the poor in Honduras. Francis is central to my understanding of my mission.

This year, though, I will not celebrate the feast there but in the Us, visiting St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, the church where I served in campus ministry for 23 years and which supported me in my mission. 

On the plane yesterday, I began to read Jon Sweeney’s collection: Francis of Assisi – In His Own Words.

Image of a poor man, outside San Damiano, Assisi
This quotation from the Earlier Rule for the Lesser Brothers struck me:
they should rejoice when they have an opportunity to talk with people who are easily despised, with the poor and the weak, with the sick and lepers, and with anyone who begs in the streets.
That is what I most love in my ministry in Honduras – the chance to stop and speak with those at the margins.

I do have to admit, though that there are some people I try to avoid – the drunk who is always asking for money, the pastoral worker who always seem to be complaining (and who speaks so fast I cannot always understand him).

But just standing around and listening to people sustain me. It is also important for them, for so many people ignore and do not even listen to the poor.

But listening is the first step in recognizing the dignity and the worth of each person. It is the first step in seeing Christ present in the poor.

I need to do it even more.

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