Personal Musings: October 2010 Archives

15. Francesco va e ripara.jpg

The Real Saint Francis

There is no denying it: Saint Francis appeals to all sorts of people. Animal lovers, pacifists, environmentalists, non-Christians, secular humanists, and even atheists acknowledge that Francis -- or, at least, their idea of Francis -- has something to say today. Poor Saint Francis; he is more often portrayed in the middle of a birdbath than at the foot of the Cross. Francis, apart from Jesus Crucified, is completely unintelligible. A certain superficial and worldly iconography of the saint betrays the real Francis by presenting him as an amiable non-conformist; a gentle poet in love with the sun, the moon, the rain, and the earth; a magnet to birds and the tamer of a wolf.

The Embrace of Crucified Love

The world shrinks from showing us the real Francis: a man drawn into the embrace of Crucified Love and marked by Love’s own wounds; a man who went about weeping uncontrollably and saying over and over, “Love is not loved! Love is not Loved!”

The Saint With a Skull at His Feet

Francis was the first saint I came to know after Mary and Joseph. I grew up in Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in New Haven, Connecticut and, like my father and his mother before him, went to Saint Francis School. Our church’s statue of Saint Francis fascinated me. Flanked by Saint Patrick on one side of him and Saint Anthony on the other, he stood above a flaming bank of flickering red vigil lights. The statue showed him mysteriously wounded, dark eyed, with a human skull at his feet and the book of the Gospels in his pierced hands. We little boys were fascinated by the skull. It was a long time before we discovered that it wasn’t real; it was nonetheless a very convincing plaster imitation.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory