A Sweet Tooth
The 13th Century Francis of Assisi had a great love of “sweetness” (a sweet tooth). “Sweetness,” in fact, appears to be a concept dear to Francis. He considered it an attribute of God himself, as his Praises of God indicate: “You are all our sweetness. You are our eternal life. “In his Testament, he describes his own pivotal encounter with lepers in similar terms: “And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body:”
Almost eight centuries after Francis’s death, his example of savoring the sweetness of life remains compelling. As people informed by the tradition of Francis of Assisi, we are to recognize Christ in all people of good will, in Church in the Court of Br. Sun. We are called to a “cortesia,” an Umbrian word for a fundamental respect…It invites us to promote a unique face of peace in a troubled world.
He saw sweetness in the Church when many other people did not anymore. The clergy were rich and aloof from the reality of ordinary people. But he saw God in the whole assembly OF PEOPLE, especially in the Eucharist and in the lives of priests no matter how bad they were. He felt God in the Scriptures. He would never let papers lie in the streets because they were the same letters that composed the Word of God. And whenever he walked into Church, he said that beautiful prayer from Good Friday to salute the God he felt there….WE ADORE YOU, MOST HOLY LORD, JESUS CHRIST HERE AND IN ALL THE CHURCHES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD BECAUSE BY YOUR HOLY CROSS YOU HAVE REDEEMED THE WORLD.”
He found sweetness in people, especially the poor and he hated to meet someone who was poorer than he was. He’d usually give something else away. He was always coming home with most of his clothes gone. He recognized the beloved brothers and sisters of Jesus and he treated every person he met with that dignity. He delighted in forgiving enemies, in giving peace to the angry, and even in singing songs to his sibling, sister death.
His ultimate sweetness was his beloved “He saw…everywhere.” said St. Bonaventure. When we wrote the great Canticle of the Sun, he was in agony with an eye disease and TB…And living in a rat infested hut. The great killer of souls in Francis’ thinking was “appropriation…”a big word and a distorted sense of possession…to make MINE! Even to “my” religion…
Francis Day Greetings from the Franciscan Friars and staff of St. Mary’s: In his Testament St. Francis wrote…” I have concluded what was mine to do, may Christ teach you yours” In this old Arizona Franciscan shrine, we continue to seek what is ours’ to do as a unique multi-cultural community. Let us continue to pray for each other that we may share that special peace that Francis wished for his world and give flesh to it here in central Phoenix.
A gentle Week,
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM