Monday, October 31, 2016

The Vigil of All Hallows Eve

(re-post from 2009 with some additions)

"If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” -- Luke 11:36, ESV

The Vigil of All Saints, also known as All Hallows Eve or Hallowe'en, has been celebrated since 835 A.D. when All Saints Day was moved to its present date, November 1. All Saints' Day is the celebration of all who have walked the pilgrim pathway on the straight path, entering by the narrow gate. We can admire these saints and emulate their lives as we, too, journey this pilgrim pathway trod hard and fast by the footsteps of those who have traveled it before us.

However, Hallowe'en, the Vigil of All Saints, has been transformed from a night of fun and "well-mannered frivolity" to an evening that is dark, even dangerous. In my childhood, I remember Hallowe'en being a night of fun and neighborliness, and in our small mountain village, it remains so with several families providing small parties in their front yards for the parents to sit down around small fire pits and chat while the kids visit the houses on the street.

In our village, there's only one area with street lights and concrete curbs (nope, we have no sidewalks in our town--concrete curbing is the best we have, and even that's rare), and that's where most of the Hallowe'en activity is concentrated. In the middle of this area, our local church used to host a "Gospel Barn" in a large front yard with stories and treats for the kids while parents mill around, chatting and drinking hot cider. This year Pine Valley Community Church is combining a "Trunk or Treat" with the "Food Truck Friday" community events we held during the summer. So the whole village is invited to eat, "trunk or treat," and just hang out together around some fire pits.

After Trick-or-Treating, it's a wonderful night to curl up with the kids, a bowl of popcorn in our laps and a "scary" movie on TV, watching Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi. But Hallowe'en seems to have been co-opted by older teens and adults, and a distinctly sinister tone exists that didn't when I was a child (or perhaps I was merely oblivious to it).

As states:
While this autumn feast can be used for evil purposes, our culture celebrates it as an innocent night of begging and fun. We who believe in the light of the world can use it to celebrate the Light. "Hallow" means holy and the word Halloween refers to the night before the feast of all holies, or All Saints Day. Emphasize all things good, joyful and pure. Let your children know that they are "children of the light" called to walk in the light.

Remember, though, that All Hallows Eve is a distinctly Christian feast, and Fr. Bosco Peters posted the actual Hallowe'en liturgy on his website Liturgy New Zealand which I reproduce for our use below:

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (tempera on wood) by Fra Angelico, c. 1423-24

All Saints' Vigil (Halloween)
(congregational responses are in bold)

Liturgical Colour: White

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia! 

Let us pray.

God of glory, as daylight fades, we give you thanks for surrounding us with the brightness of the evening light; as you enfold us with the radiance of this light, so shine into our hearts the brightness of your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ the light of the world. Amen.

Grant us, compassionate God, the lamp of love which never fails, that it may burn in us and shed its light on those around us, and that by its brightness we may have a vision of that holy City, where the true and never-failing Light lives: Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

God of the universe, you are the source of life and light: dispel the darkness of our hearts, that by your brightness we may know you to be the true God and the eternal light, loving and living, now and for ever. Amen.

Be our light in the darkness, God we pray, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Eternal God, who led your ancient people into freedom by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night: Grant that we who walk in the light of your presence may rejoice in the liberty of the children of God; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Any of the following may follow: Evening Prayer, Night Prayer, readings, a sermon, baptism, the eucharist. A Renewal of Baptism may be used at an appropriate point.

A Renewal of Baptism
I invite you (to stand) to affirm your commitment to Christ and your rejection of all that is evil.

Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Those who are baptised are called to worship and serve God. From the beginning, believers have continued in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.

Will you commit yourself to this life?

I will, with God's help.

Will you forgive others as you are forgiven?

I will, with God's help.

Will you seek to love your neighbour as yourself, and strive for peace and justice?

I will, with God's help.

Will you accept the cost of following Jesus Christ in your daily life and work?

I will, with God's help.

With the whole Church will you proclaim by word and action the Good News of God in Christ?

I will, with God's help. (NZPB p. 390)

Let us give thanks to God.
It is right to offer thanks and praise.

We thank you God for your love in all creation, especially for your gift of water to sustain, refresh, and cleanse all life.

We thank you for your covenant with your people Israel; through the Red Sea waters you led them to freedom in the promised land. In the waters of the Jordan your Son was baptised by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit. Through the deep waters of death Jesus fulfilled his baptism. He died to set us free and was raised to be exalted Lord of all.

We thank you that through the waters of baptism you cleanse us, renew us by your Spirit, and raise us to new life. In the new covenant we are made members of your Church and share in your eternal kingdom.

We pray that all who have passed through the waters of baptism may continue for ever in the risen life of Christ. Through Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all praise and thanks be yours, Redeemer God, now and for ever. Amen. (cf. NZPB pages 385-386)

God our creator, the rock of our salvation, we thank you for our new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, for the forgiveness of our sins, and for our fellowship in the household of faith with all those who have been baptised in your name; keep us faithful to the calling of our baptism, now and for ever. Amen.

A Blessed and Safe All-Hallows Eve to you and yours, my blogging friends!!

In God's Holy keeping,

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Even More Book Reviews!

So here are a few more book reviews, mostly dating back into August and early September when I had my Kindle Unlimited account and took a rest between finishing up teaching my Fan Fiction summer course at Brave Writer and starting the new school year....

Darcy Goes to War: A Pride and Prejudice Re-Imagining Darcy Goes to War: A Pride and Prejudice Re-Imagining by Mary Lydon Simonsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set during World War II, everyone at Longbourn is doing his/her part in the war effort. Elizabeth drives a lorry, delivering food and supplies where needed. But Elizabeth refuses to fall for anyone when men and dying left and right; the death of Jane's fiance (who was also Elizabeth's childhood friend) taught her that. But what can she do when fighter pilot Darcy starts pursuing her? Set during the rocket attacks in Britain in the days before the attack on Normandy, this book is historically accurate and emotionally compelling; I simply could not put it down!!

Love Never Fails: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Love Never Fails: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jennifer Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another lovely variation of Austen's beloved Pride and Prejudice. In this variation, Mr. Bennet passes away the morning of the Meryton Assembly; thus, the Bennet women are in mourning and do not meet the Bingleys or Darcy. However, Darcy met Mr. Bennet the day before his death and is carrying guilt regarding the elderly gentleman's passing. Darcy writes a letter that Mrs. Bennet, thinking it a bill, burns. Elizabeth turns down Mr. Collins' proposal despite the fact that marrying him would allow her family to continue at Longbourn, but Charlotte, when she accepts Mr. Collins' offer of marriage, persuades him to allow the Bennets to remain at Longbourn at least until their year of mourning is over. Mrs. Bennet, indignant at Charlotte's acceptance of Mr. Collins and declaring that Longbourn is no longer their home, quits the estate practically overnight, selling off her husband's library (which grieves Elizabeth to no end) to finance her and the older two girls' stay in London while bringing Lydia with her as well; the other two girls remain with the Phillipses. Once in London, the fireworks begin.... ;)

An enjoyable variation of Austen's famous novel, and a delightful summer afternoon read!

The Resolute Suitor: A Pride and Prejudice Variation The Resolute Suitor: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Don H. Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful and dramatic variation on Austen's Pride and Prejudice, The Resolute Suitor introduces a very resolute Darcy who, despite Elizabeth's refusal, continues to pursue her. Elizabeth is slowly introduced into the ton and becomes a fixed figure there, and finally she and Darcy become engaged. However, tragedy strikes, and life changes for all of the Bennet girls...and that's all I'm gonna say for now. But it's good. Really good. Unable-to-be-put-down good. Yep. This one is a keeper.

In the hundreds of variations of Austen's novels I've read, I've discovered that some of the most profound versions have been written by men, and Don H. Miller is at the top of that list...along with Austen Variations' Jack Caldwell.

Rumours & Recklessness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Rumours and Recklessness: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Nicole Clarkston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Rumours and Recklessness starts with a tragic accident at Longbourn that changes the situation of all of the Bennet family on the morning after the Netherfield Ball. This alteration causes the party at Netherfield to not leave, as occurred in Austen's novel, and Elizabeth, practically forced into a marriage she does not want, rebels at the highhandedness of the men who visit her at Longbourn during this difficult time. Will Fitzwilliam Darcy be able to win her heart and hand after all that's happened?

I thoroughly enjoyed this variation of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I don't usually give 5's to books that are not classics in their own right, but this book was practically un-put-downable. I had to force myself to hide my Kindle out of sight so that I could devote time that I would rather be reading to actually teaching my online classes.

And as I read the author biography at the end, I was thrilled to discover that she is also a homeschooling mom and is also an ardent admirer of Elizabeth Gaskell as well as Jane Austen...just as I am!

So Rumours and Recklessness provides a wonderful excursion back to the Regency era, allowing us readers to revisit our favorite (and not-so-favorite) characters from Austen's most popular novel and enjoy the humor and romance that makes us adore Austen's books and characters so greatly. Read and enjoy!!

Hope For Mr. Darcy Hope For Mr. Darcy by Jeanna Ellsworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always love Jenna Ellsworth's variations of Austen's novels; they are well-written, romantic without being too detailed, contain great character development and exciting plot twists, and contain subtle Christian themes.

Much like Georgia McCall's Obligation and Redemption, the Christian themes are at the heart of the novel, but not in a clingy, saccharine-sweet manner. And while these themes pervade the novel, they add to the plot and the character development rather than detracting from it. For the most part, I have not been a fan of Christian romance novels, but Hope for Mr. Darcy was a delightful read. Much lighter and more accessible than McCall's novel (which I just finished reading before starting this book), it doesn't have the depth and angst of Obligation and Redemption, but Hope for Mr. Darcy, like all of Ellsworth's books, is a wonderful variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice and should be enjoyed by all devotees of continuations and variations of Austen's novels, whether the readers are Christians or not. And I am looking forward with great anticipation to the second and third volumes in this trilogy series.

The Mistress of Longbourn The Mistress of Longbourn by Jann Rowland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very interesting variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, The Mistress of Longbourn finds a very diminished Bennet family. An epidemic struck the village of Meryton, taking the lives of many; hardly a family was left untouched. But Longbourn received the worst of it: the only survivors were Elizabeth, whose strong constitution allowed her to be the only one at Longbourn to fall ill and survive (although her convalescence was lengthy), and Kitty, the only one in the household to never fall ill. With their Uncle Gardiner in London as their guardian and their Uncle Phillips in Meryton to watch over them, Elizabeth and Kitty grow close during their year of mourning. Elizabeth learns to run the estate and Kitty the house, and with wise decisions thanks to a wonderful steward who marries the replacement housekeeper after Mrs. Hill's demise (as well), Longbourn is thriving.

And then Netherfield is let by a single man in possession of a good fortune....

A definite twist or three from the Austen's original, I found myself unable to put this book down. It was well-written, with delightful character development and plenty more twists and turns along the way as Elizabeth, now the mistress of Longbourn, has plenty of admirers to deal with.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

More Reviews of Recently-Read Books

I have been so busy with teaching three online Brave Writer courses this autumn that my book review posts from Goodreads have fallen sadly behindhand. I tend to read variations of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for two reasons: firstly, I am currently working on two novellas in this genre, and secondly, I haven't the brain power to meet and get to know new characters, so I stick with long-beloved book series or Austen variations. Some of these reviews date back to late August, but I'll try to post a few groupings over the next week to catch up completely.

Oh, and I rarely give "5" scores except for incredible classics such as Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Hamlet, etc. So a "4" on a non-classic is really a great score--it means that I enjoyed the book very much indeed. And a "5" on a non-classic is really a "Wow!!"

The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet by Caitlin Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Coming of Age of Elizabeth Bennet is not a short novel, but I managed to finish it in fewer than 24 hours, partly because I took a sick day and partially because I simply couldn't put it down. Darcy meets Elizabeth Bennet when she is only 15, and mayhem ensues, with Elizabeth squarely in the middle. I don't want to write anything further because I don't want to spoil the myriad twists and turns this story takes over a six-year period. But it's an immensely satisfying read...and is definitely impossible to put down. I strongly recommend reading this book when you can clear a day to enjoy it all in one (very long) sitting, because it's quite the roller-coaster ride!!

I've given the "5" rating to only a handful (as in fewer than five) Pride and Prejudice variations out of the hundreds I've read over the past few years, but this one definitely deserves it!

Although I've read this book on Kindle Unlimited, I may have to invest in my own copy so that I can return to it again and again.

(Yes, it was *THAT* good!!)

Darcy's Ultimatum: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Darcy's Ultimatum: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Jennifer Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another wonderful variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice in which Jane and Elizabeth attend the London season with the threat of marrying Mr. Collins hanging over Elizabeth's head if she does not marry during the three months. And Darcy has a similar ultimatum: after Anne de Bourgh's rejection of his suit, he must marry within three months or his father will disinherit him. And then mayhem ensues (as it always does as soon as Elizabeth and Darcy meet). ;)

I have become quite a fan of Jennifer Joy's variations of Austen's novels; she writes with humor and depth at the same time. This is the first of the "Cousins" series, and I am definitely going to read the next two books in the series!

An Heir for Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Short Story An Heir for Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Variation Short Story by Jane Grix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A sweet short story of the birth of Darcy and Elizabeth's first child, written in third person from Darcy's point of view. I would have loved to have had this vignette expanded somewhat because it is indeed *very* short, but it was a lovely read nevertheless.

The Angel of Grove Street: A Novel of the Darcys and Bennets The Angel of Grove Street: A Novel of the Darcys and Bennets by Don Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delightful variation of Pride and Prejudice, The Angel of Grove Street shows us a very strong and independent Elizabeth who, after the death of her father at the news of Lydia's elopement with Wickham, transitions from country girl to a woman of the city. Living with Kitty at the wealthy Gardiners' after Jane's marriage to a doctor, Elizabeth devotes her time to working at and to singing to help fund Hope House, a charity for homeless girls. This charity remains dear to Elizabeth's heart after Lydia's disappearance two years previously. But while Elizabeth catches the eye of two suitors of the Ton, Darcy and a young Earl, she remains too scornful of the Ton and too independent to marry either man, good though they may be. And the story rolls on from there....

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this very well-written variation was written by a male author, and I was further pleased to come across a nice long list of previous Austen variations written by Don Miller. I think I will be reading many more of them in the future.... ;)

Earning Darcy's Trust: A Pride & Prejudice Variation Earning Darcy's Trust: A Pride & Prejudice Variation by Jennifer Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another wonderful and thought-provoking variation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in which Darcy learns to trust and to depend on others, including Elizabeth, in order to protect his family against the wiles of Wickham and Caroline Bingley. A terrific plot with a theme that should make us all consider trusting others rather than trying to handle our problems all alone.

Progression Vol. 1: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Progression Vol. 1: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice by Jodi L. Covey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read Progression (now separated into two volumes) on, and I was enthralled! I absolutely adored it, and re-reading it now was even better. A delightful continuation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, chapters 1-36 may be found in Volume 1 and chapters 37-61 may be found in Volume 2.

Starting with the Darcys' double wedding with Bingley and Jane, we follow William and Elizabeth through their honeymoon period and into Elizabeth's (and Georgiana's) introduction into London Society at the behest of Darcy's aunt, the Countess of Matlock. Caroline Bingley is also pursued by the mysterious Marquess of Thornhaugh. Anne De Bourgh manages to stand up to her mother and remove herself to London for the Season. And Colonel Fitzwilliam goes against his family in order to go to war against the French in the Spanish Peninsula.

Much more happens in both volumes of Progression, but I'll leave that for you to enjoy...and enjoy it you will!

Second Impressions Second Impressions by Amy George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very different variation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Second Impressions begins two years after Darcy and Elizabeth part at Lambton with the news of Lydia's elopement with Wickham. Afraid to meet Darcy after the ruin of her family and especially after he does not return to Hertfordshire with Bingley, Elizabeth travels to Boston to stay with her cousin, Emeline. After Lydia marries Wickham and Jane marries Bingley, Elizabeth begins her journey, requesting Jane, who now lives a very short distance from Pemberley, to not write her any news of Darcy. But with the news that Jane is again expecting after the birth of twins a year previously, Emeline persuades Elizabeth to returning to England and even accompanies her despite her disdain for the many rules of the ton.

Much has happened during those two years in Darcy's life, and Elizabeth returns to Derbyshire to find quite a different Darcy--a gaunt, haunted man. What can Elizabeth do to revive this shell of the man with whom she had been falling in love before she left? And whom does the highly independent American cousin Emeline (despite her jaded past) find to marry in staid old England?

That should be enough reviews for now. I'll post a few more in the coming week. Kindle Unlimited is wonderful--that's how I could manage to read so many books for so little cost! :)

Reading with you,

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Thoughts on Sky Mesa Journal

Sky Mesa Journal by Judith Deem Dupree, published by Wipf and Stock Publishers

FOR LOCAL READERS: Judith will be featured at an Author Talk at the Alpine Library (1752 Alpine Blvd.) this Thursday, October 20, from 6:00-8:00 PM. She will be reading from Sky Mesa Journal and discussing the genesis and the publication of the book. Judith will also have some books for sale, and she will happily sign copies.  

*  *  *  *  *

"One could say Sky Mesa Ranch is a smallish noun, verbed out by the countryside around it. . . . 

"And, in a way, all that lies upon this small uplift, all that transpires, that respires here, is a microcosm of the Life beyond life that draws our eyes upward. A parable, something of a parallel. The mundane, the spiritual, nature in its every aspect." 

~from Sky Mesa Journal by Judith Deem Dupree

Sky Mesa consists of pale shades of brown, beige, and gray pierced by the vibrant blue skies of late summer in the arid hills of Alpine, east of San Diego.

Judith and I drove slowly through the remnants of Sky Mesa Ranch on a day in late August. Not much remains of the ranch that becomes yet another quirky character in Judith's nonfiction book, Sky Mesa Journal. In fact, the setting of Sky Mesa Ranch assumes a life of its own, complete with vagaries of mood, its ancient secrets wafting on dry puffs of breeze not at all refreshing. Just hot . . . breathlessly hot.

Houses that can best be described as cookie-cutter mansions, tall with pretension, perch on hillsides stripped of spicy-scented, pale green chaparral. Instead, manicured landscaping fills the empty spaces between newly-stamped luxury homes which stare down their long noses at us. Windows shimmer--empty eyes in empty neighborhoods--as we navigate Judith's Camry Hybrid through the narrow, winding streets, perfectly asphalted. The once expansive acres feel closed-in; I fight a swelling of claustrophobia rising in my throat.

The corner of Sky Mesa Road and LaForce Road in Alpine, California

Finally we find the corner we're looking for: Sky Mesa Road, named for the extensive ranch where Judith stayed the summer twenty-five years ago and wrote Sky Mesa Journal, meets LaForce Road, called after the former owner of the ranch, Bea LaForce.  Appearing from time to time in Judith's journal of that long-ago summer, Bea LaForce was truly a Force to be reckoned with in the village of Alpine. A town, still rather small, nestling into the nooks of hills, boulders, sharp-smelling chaparral, and wizened oaks.

But Judith describes more than the coming demise of Sky Mesa Ranch in her journal of memoir and meditation that she drafted that summer of 1991. Writing of far more than the ranch that outstripped Bea's ability to care for it, far more than the odd collection of critters at the ranch: Linda the donkey, Vesla the cat, Annie Goose, and Cockadoo the proud rooster with his bevy of hens, Judith ponders her spiritual life . . . and ours as well. How do we push forward into the places of God's richness and plenty when all seems arid, blowing further out of reach with every puff of heated wind?

Yet here at the ranch-that-was-no-longer-to-be, we can glimpse Truth with Judith through the wealth of solitude well-spent, alert with listening ear and rambling pen and eyes that see beyond hillside and boulder to the very Kingdom of God.

In Sky Mesa Journal, Judith invites us to journey with her through the hard, painful, dry places into the refreshment of spiritual oasis. Her poetic words and musical phrases mirror the rhythm of nature that surrounded her that summer a quarter century ago. Yet she revised this journal over the last few years as Writer-in-Residence for Ruminate Magazine, shaping and reshaping it with meditations on our modern world and its problems to be solved: Our crumbling environment. Our greed and covetousness. Global hunger and poverty. The "Mid-East mired in deeply and viciously in fratricide." The ever-present problem of evil and the sin in our own hearts.      

Near the end of Sky Mesa Journal, Judith writes:
You, each of you, need a Kingdom-of-God place--a Sky Mesa--some-Place to go to within when your soil is baked and cracked with drought and there is no water, no cloven clouds on your horizon. May you find your way to it. May he lead you there! For you it will be smaller or larger, greener or hillier or flatter, a back lot or back country or back bedroom, alone or not. But within its fluid borders lies your Promised Land. It's all there inside you, waiting.
That's where we want to go. That's where we need to go. We each need to find our Sky Mesa.

And may we do so.

*  *  *  *  *

It has been my privilege to assist Judith with some of the proofreading and "techy" side of publishing Sky Mesa Journal. From employing my grammar-Nazi "skillz" to learning how to insert edits into the publisher's proofs to posting Judith's amazing blogged thoughts at This Higher Point of Land to assisting with social media promotion, it's been wonderful to come alongside Judith and be her "right-hand woman." And I was fortunately one of the first to read Sky Mesa Journal . . . which is a prize in and of itself.  

This is a book unlike most others. Yes, I can claim the cliche: "I laughed; I cried." And I did. But my heart also swelled with wonder and my soul somehow grew three sizes bigger as a result of reading and pondering this little book so chock-full of truly God-sized thoughts. 

It's the Kingdom, baby. That's what Sky Mesa is.  

Wishing you all a wonderful week,

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Saint Francis of Assisi

I have always been fascinated with the lives of the saints. Whether I'm reading about the Catholic saints of yore or the modern saints'lives highlighted by Voice of the Martyrs and other sources, I love reading about the lives of God's people. in their lives, I find inspiration and a new sense of dedication.

Yesterday I was reading some canticles by Saint Francis (who lived from 1182-1226) and was impressed by the beautiful simplicity of his poetry. And so I thought I'd share the story of his life today, his Feast Day.

From Saint of the Day at

Saint Francis of Assisi’s Story

Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit, and without a sense of self-importance.

Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi’s youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: “Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy.”

From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, “Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down.” Francis became the totally poor and humble workman.

He must have suspected a deeper meaning to “build up my house.” But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor “nothing” man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels.

He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis’ “gifts” to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, “Our Father in heaven.” He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evoking sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking.

But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: “Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff” (Luke 9:1-3).

Francis’ first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no intention of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church’s unity.

He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade.

During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side.

On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, “Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death.” He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.

Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He recognized creation as another manifestation of the beauty of God. In 1979, he was named patron of ecology. He did great penance (apologizing to “Brother Body” later in life) that he might be totally disciplined for the will of God. His poverty had a sister, humility, by which he meant total dependence on the good God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the gospel life, summed up in the charity of Jesus and perfectly expressed in the Eucharist.
Saint Francis of Assisi is the Patron Saint of:

Metal Workers
Soli Deo Gloria,


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