St Francis of Assisi 2021

St Francis of Assisi–earliest known depiction
St Francis of Assisi – the earliest known depiction, from Subiaco, Italy

For a Benedictine, I seem to have written a great deal about St Francis. I don’t think I have anything to add to posts such as this, from 2011, or, this, about struggling with the divine will, from 2012, or my thoughts about sentimentalising St Francis here. But perhaps we could hold one more idea in mind today. St Francis has become the patron saint of the environment and ecology, and is often invoked as the go-to saint whenever climate change or kindred matters are discussed within the Church. But, as any Franciscan will tell you, there is more to Francis than concern for birds and bees and the salvation of planet earth.

The Fulfilment of our Hope

Today marks the end of the liturgical Season of Creation, but not the end of the liturgical year: it is not the fulfilment of our hope, only a stage on the journey. St Francis understood this better than most. The warm, fuzzy images we often have of him sometimes obscure the saint of steely determination, who looked beyond the present to eternity, whose hope was not for this world only. El Greco captured something of this when he painted St Francis entering upon the last years of his earthly life, his body marked with the stigmata, his gaze fixed upon the Cross. The youthful saint of the first image gives way to the bleaker, more profound image of the second. It is a journey we must all make. May St Francis aid us with his prayers.

St Francis by El Greco
St Francis by El Greco

Blog Problems

Our commercial hosting service’s transfer of our sites to new servers has caused us many problems which have taken time to sort out. Even now, there are matters I need to resolve. However, with regard to iBenedictines, I recommend that readers
(1) clear their browser cache and
(2) use the https://www.ibenedictines.org URL.

If you use https://ibenedictines.org (without the ‘www‘) or http:// (without the ‘s’ on http), a few browsers will continue to tell you that your connection is not private. You can override this by clicking on the ‘details’ or ‘more information’ links and proceeding to the site. So far, it is only in Safari that I have found the 301 redirect and the force https not working, and that’s because of the way I’ve set that particular browser to work!

The validity of the certificate has been checked and verified but if techy types notice anything else, please let me know as I installed the Let’s Encrypt certificate manually and there is always room for error on my part.

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The Duty of Delight

Christians often get a bad press, and no wonder. Our ambition is vast, eternal life and participation in the redemption of mankind no less, yet our achievement is not exactly commensurate. Everyone knows Nietzsche’s remark, ‘I might believe in the Redeemer if his followers looked more redeemed.’ Few of us would dispute that many Christians have a tendency to look glum and some seem to take special delight in castigating the shortcomings and sins of others. If you don’t believe me, take a look at social media. Even I have been taken aback by some of the things written by people I like to think of as my friends. But why should the nasties have the last word, especially on a great feast such as today’s, when we celebrate St Gregory the Great, apostle of the English? To Nietzsche I would oppose Dorothy Day and her championing of what she called ‘the duty of delight’. It is a phrase I think Gregory might have liked, for he was a master of the pithy expression, and although he was undoubtedly unenthusiastic about some things, Greeks and sailing ships, for example, he had a largeness of heart and mind I personally find very attractive.

From 1 September until 4 October the Christian Churches are marking the Season of Creation during which we give thanks for the world in which we live and seek to increase our love and reverence for everything in it. One of the best ways of doing that is also the simplest: to take delight in it. No matter how busy you are today — and Gregory often complained that he was so busy his soul was in danger of shipwreck, so you are in good company — no matter how ill or tired or just plain crotchety, take a moment to look at the sky, listen to the sounds outside your window or touch some living thing, even that half-dead houseplant you regularly forget to water, and give thanks. Just as grace grows in the spirit of gratitude, so does delight. I guarantee that will put a smile on the glummest of faces. It would be nice to prove Nietzsche wrong, wouldn’t it?

Note: if you are interested in previous posts more specifically about Gregory, please do a search in the sidebar. Here is one which may be of interest as it carries on from yesterday’s consideration of the prologue and deals with today’s section:
https://www.ibenedictines.org/2019/09/03/the-worker-monk/

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