This was a dumb idea, God.
Advent, the 4-week liturgical season that leads up to Christmas, is the beginning of the Church’s new year, so it’s a good time to reflect and repent and reform, or at least to start working up momentum to your New Year’s Resolutions.
I had just finished re-reading one of my very favorite books, Ian Morgan Cron’s Chasing Francis, which tells the story of a disillusioned megachurch pastor who finds a new way to God by following in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, the 13th century saint.
As a former Protestant, that book was kind of my gateway drug to studying Francis. I already knew his basic story, and had even read one of the more modern Francis biographies, The Reluctant Saint, but after Chasing Francis I dove in to a number of different books on him and on the Franciscan movement. (My second favorite, and more focused retelling of Francis’ life, is by my friend Bret Thoman.)
While I don’t think any of the books I read used this exact paradigm, I’ve seized on six key themes that marked Francis’ approach to following Jesus, and so, headed into Advent, I thought I would use those six as my examination of conscience, my yardstick, if you will.
My version of Francis of Assisi’s six themes:
Just know that using them as a yardstick was a dumb idea. Because, for all I can tell you about them, about how Francis lived each of them in radical and transformative ways that were motivated by his love of Jesus, about how they are maybe the genuine path to living a life that can be judged on love alone, you need to know that I am a complete fraud on every last one of them. I am, at best, the quarterback coach who can’t throw a spiral, the manager who couldn’t hit the curve. Fai come dico, non come faccio.
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