Sometimes he preached hard like a boxer’s jaw. 

But sometimes he preached soft as the underside of a kitten’s paw. 

And sometimes he preached so joyful it shone through the sweetness of his smile. 

But sometimes he preached so soulful it stung through the salt of his tears. 

But hard or soft, joyful or soulful, 

St. Francis preached for the same reason 

grain grows golden and grapes plump purple. 

Francis preached because it was as much 

his nature to preach Christ with his lips 

as it is the nature of babies to grasp with their fists.

Francis by nature childlike was by nurture Christlike. 

Thus conformed to the Lord he loved 

Francis wore His wounds and bled His blood.

However, Jesus is not rapturous over the miraculous. 

Jesus cautions the disciples about what fills them with zeal 

because what is important is only what the Father reveals. 

And what the Father reveals is not something up in the sky, 

but someone come down to earth. 

“No one knows who the Son is except the Father, 

and who the Father is except the Son 

and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” 

Revealing to those by nature childlike, 

the Father nurtures what is Christlike. 

Thus, Francis childlike 

Conceals the stigmata seeping 

But reveals the Christlike through his preaching. 

Thus, with the nature of the childlike, 

Francis nurtured the Christlike. 

Brothers, perhaps the old can teach you about becoming a child again. Because as you grow old, you lose things. I’m not talking about losing your glasses, although you often lose them and maybe your teeth or hair. I’m talking about losing what is irreplaceable: You lose strength, energy, flexibility, and stamina. You lose family and friends. You start reading the obituaries because grief is now your most constant companion. Age is an inescapable thief that vandalizes your vitality and ravages your family leaving you with nothing, but a choice. Will you only grumble about your loss or become grateful for what you have? If every day you choose to be grateful, you don’t become bitter, you become childlike. 

You’re young, but not yet childlike. However, like aging, this pandemic is an inescapable thief that makes you suffer loss too. You’ve lost not your glasses, but your freedom. You’re not free to go to restaurants and theaters, to have visitors or return home for the holidays. And when you lose what you value, you grieve. But are you still able to get up each day grateful rather than grumbling? Can you be grateful for what you have rather than grumble about what you’ve lost? Like aging, the pandemic robs you, but leaves you a choice. Choose to grumble and become bitter. Or choose to be grateful and become childlike.

The stigmata did not conform Francis to Christ. 

Thankfulness for the sun he was too blind to see 

and for the mother too long dead for him to hold 

is what so conformed him to the Lord he loved 

that Francis wore His wounds and bled His blood. 

What was hidden from the wise and learned probing the marvelous 

was revealed through Francis’ childlike thankfulness. 

Jesus rejoices in the Spirit 

Who hid from prophets and kings 

what is revealed to those by nature childlike 

in whom the Father nurtures what is Christlike. 

Because the mystery of suffering, death and resurrection with Christ,

Is hidden from the once beautiful but now bitter, 

and from the fearful formerly bold, but

is revealed to the grateful who are childlike 

even when they are old. 

St. Francis of Assisi preaching

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/profzucker/5718442441/