Thursday, January 28, 2016

St. Francis and Islam

The sometimes difficult relationship between Christians and Muslims brings to mind this story.

In his Major Life of St. Francis, St. Bonaventure  relates how Francis and Br. Illuminatus walked through line of crusaders besieging the Egyptian city of Damietta and were subsequently captured and beaten by the Muslim sentinels.  They were then dragged before Sultan Malik al-Kamil where Francis made his "pitch," inviting the sultan to convert to Christianity.  As the story has been related in other places as well, it seems that the two men conversed respectfully with each other--though neither was able to change the other's mind.

Before providing safe escort back to the Christian army, the sultan offered many gifts to Francis.  The Poverello refused them all--except, it is said, for an ivory horn which had been used to call the Muslims to prayer.  Once back in Italy, Francis would have someone blow that horn when he was preparing to preach.

I was hoping to find some written record of this meeting from the Muslim perspective, but apparently none exists.  I did find this interesting tidbit, though.  Apparently on the tomb of one of Malik al-Kamil's advisers there is an inscription to the effect that: the things which befell al-Kamil on account of the monk are well known.

Stained glass window in St. Francis Church, Teutopolis, IL

Monday, January 18, 2016

St. Francis Describes the Perfect Friar

Here is one of my favorite stories about St. Francis--a story that has given me pause for reflection and material for more than one homily.  Francis is preparing to welcome Sister Death, and the friars around him ask him to name the perfect friar.  This is his response:

A good Friar Minor should imitate the lives and possess the merits of these holy friars: the perfect faith and love of poverty of Brother Bernard; the simplicity and purity of Brother Leo, who was a man of most holy purity; the courtesy of Brother Angelo, who was the first nobleman to enter the Order, and was endowed with all courtesy and kindness; the gracious look and natural good sense of Brother Masseo, together with his noble and devout eloquence; the mind upraised to God, possessed in its highest perfection by Brother Giles; the virtuous and constant prayer of Brother Rufino, who prayed without ceasing, and whose mind was ever fixed on God, whether sleeping or working; the patience of Brother Juniper, who attained the state of perfect patience because he kept the truth of his low estate constantly in mind whose supreme desire was to follow Christ on the way of the Cross; the bodily and spiritual courage of Brother John of Lauds, who in his time had been physically stronger than all men; the charity of Brother Roger, whose whole life and conversation was inspired by fervent charity; the caution of Brother Lucidus, who was unwilling to remain in any place longer than a month, for when he began to like a place, he would at once leave it, saying, ‘Our home is not here, but in heaven.

What are some life lessons that can be drawn from this story?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reminder: Year of Mercy

I think it is important to periodically remind ourselves that we are living in a Year of Mercy.

Corporal Works of Mercy

Feed the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Shelter the homeless
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead

Spiritual Works of Mercy

Counsel the doubtful
Instruct the ignorant
Admonish sinners
Comfort the afflicted
Forgive offenses
Bear wrongs patiently
Pray for the living and the dead

If you have not yet read Pope Francis' "The Face of Mercy," here is a link:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Please Remember Africa

Here in the St. Louis area, people are still trying to recover from the recent flooding that took lives and destroyed property.  After dealing with too much rain, we might forget that there are some parts of the world that don't receive enough rain.  Please remember that the Franciscans are raising money to dig wells in South Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Those two countries are served by Franciscans, including members of our own Sacred Heart Province.

If you wish to make a donation, please go to our Franciscan Charities webpage.  You can make your contribution either online or via "snail mail."  Your help can make people's lives happier and healthier.

Franciscan Charities

Disqus for Fr. John Eaton, OFM