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Franciscus vir catholicus et totus apostolicus

Francis, a catholic and totally apostolic man

By Pilar Huerta

Meditative prayer—Peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (Feast Day October 4)

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.



[Partial excerpt from St. Francis:  Reformer, true son of the Church, Oct. 2022]

Early in the life of what would become the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), Francis took them to Rome to see the pope.  He wanted firm affirmation, backed by the authority of the Church, that his way was legitimately consistent with the Gospels. 

Later, in his Testament, Francis would say that it was the Lord who gave him brothers and that the Lord himself revealed to him the way he should walk. In the mind of Francis, the order and its way of life were not his, but the Lord’s. As such, the order was always subject to the jurisdiction of the institutional Church. And he wanted to be faithful to that Church.

Francis also expresses his deep faith and reverence for priests “who live according to the rite of the holy Roman Church.” He goes on to state that even if they were to persecute him, he would still have recourse to them and honor them. Why this respect? For Francis, every priest—even those who sin—brings him the only visible sign on this earth of his Lord Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. They and they alone, bring him Jesus.  We can view this matter as Francis’ deep faith in and love for not only priests, but also in and for the Church and the Sacraments of the Church.  Francis is a man of faith and that faith is what makes him a “Catholic” man. 

Francis most likely spent about half his life actively evangelizing and the other half in quiet prayer or contemplation. In that calendar, there were many more Lenten-type periods of preparation for major feast days than we have today, and the saint often observed them alone in quiet prayer. For instance, when he was on the mountain of La Verna and received the stigmata, Francis was in prayer, St. Michael’s Lent, preparing for the feast of St. Michael. These preparation periods totaled approximately six months.

So St. Francis only spent about half the year actively preaching and evangelizing. It was in this context, however, that Julian of Speyer called him “totally apostolic,” not that he spent his entire life evangelizing, but that his prayer and active lives lent themselves to such an intimate union with God that his whole life became a lived presentation of the Gospel. And Francis had a great passion for living the Gospel life.  He simply chose a way of life that he felt God was calling him to live.

In the works of Francis, one finds someone fervently obedient to the Church and state, but not opposed to working quietly to improve either. There must be a deep love for the institutions and a willingness to purify them from within.

That is, in part, what made St. Francis a “catholic and totally apostolic man.”

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