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27th Ordinary Sunday - Solemnity of Saint Francis of Assisi

For over 800 years, we Franciscans have been trying to change the public image of St. Francis. Much of the world knows him as a harmless, wimpy little man sitting in rags and in the middle of someone's birdbath. The official stories of his life show him to be a man a little more imposing and forceful. In the TRANSITUS prayer service of Friday night, we remember how he asked just before his death to be stripped of his clothing, "naked on the naked ground so that he could wrestle naked with a naked enemy." This was not a gentle quiet little man. Ask our pilgrims who just came home from Assisi this past week if the Francis they met on their journey looks like the one in the birdbath.

I have always felt that Francis was a wrestler. For such a short Italian man, he was a spiritual giant. But, I don't think of him when I see the wrestling shows on television. The Francis I know wrestled with his family, with lepers and the poor, with his society, with the powerful and the rich, with the military and with the major Christian enemy of his time Islam, with the Roman church and her leaders, finally with his own ego, sexuality, fear and pride and finally even with God.

God's vineyard is abandoned and ruined in today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah. Francis’s conversion at San Damiano in the late thirteenth century was in a similar context of a church in ruins. “Go and repair my church which is falling into ruin.” Church repair is what we do in our own conversions. What we do in our own little worlds, affects others. It is hard work. It takes wrestling. It takes large quantities of God’s grace.

We remember this weekend one of the unsung Franciscan heroes from St. Mary’s, John Van Hangel who died October 5th 2005. With support from Fr. Ronald Colloty, the pastor of St. Mary’s in 1967, he founded the nation’s first food bank which grew slowly into America’s Second Harvest , a network that converts the food industry’s left overs into meals for the poor.” It helps to feeds 23 million Americans every year. (Patricia Sullivan, Washington Post,10-8-2005) Leadership from St. Mary’s Food Bank join us this weekend to honor Mr. Van Hengel’s legacy with the “poverello” of Assisi.

The Saturday, Oct 4th Mass and luncheon honors St. Francis in a place where friars have served for over a hundred years. Bring your pets to the Blessing of animals at 5PM on Sunday in the courtyard. Forty Days for Life continues with prayer and activities. Rosary Sunday is coming next weekend as well as the parish’s ministry fair. Consider joining a ministry of Saint Mary’s if you are not involved; or changing to a new one, if your service is getting a little rusty.

A gentle week.
Fr. Michael

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