My personal devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi is multi-facetted. For one thing, being born on his feast day, October 4, makes him my patron saint. Additionally, his spirituality, that is, the qualities that characterize his relationship with God, is a further attraction. Francis was one who perceived a sense of unity in all of God’s creation. For him there was no disparity between the sacred and the secular; everything was created for a divine purpose.
It is not without reason, therefore, that Francis is regarded as the patron saint of ecology; he saw every living creature as his brother and his sister: brother sun and sister moon, for example. According to his philosophy, all things tend toward a common salvific end if they are allowed to fulfil the purpose for which they were created. That end, therefore, always constitutes an experience of well-being and of Peace. For similar reasons, Pope Francis too, has adopted Saint Francis as the patron of his pontificate.
Using Saint Francis as a metaphor for what our world and society needs today, we can deepen our understanding of the purpose and message of Christmas.
It is well to know that according to tradition, Saint Francis is credited with creating the first nativity scene—the first Christmas crèche, in 1223 at Greccio in central Italy.
It was created in an attempt to place the emphasis of Christmas on the worship of Christ rather than on secular materialism.” Francis was keenly aware that any form of greed, even that which can be expressed in the gift-giving associated with the festivity can be engaged for the wrong reason, and therefore may not lead to the desired peace for which is stands. For him, only Christ has the means towards complete Peace.
This is essentially the challenge of the much-abused notion of “bringing Christ back into Christmas.” The truth is, Christ can only be brought back into the festivity when He is allowed to play his rightful role in our lives; that is, to lead the human community to that sense of well-being and peace. Therefore, the presence of the Christmas crèche in our churches and parks serve to remind us of the presence of the Prince of Peace who is Christ himself.
In the aftermath of one of the most divisive General Elections in the history of Dominica, no one can doubt that Peace and Tranquillity should be the most precious objects of our desire in our quest to fulfil the divine plan here on earth in this historical period of our existence. What better time for us as Church and Nation to put some effort into that much-needed area but the seasons of Advent and Christmas. The message of the throng of angels on the first Christmas morn was: “Glory to God in the highest heavens and on earth Peace to those who enjoy his favour” (Lk 2:14). It stands to reason, therefore, that the favour of God is directly related to the pursuit of Peace in the human community.
We will recall also that the parting words of Jesus to his followers were: “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” (Jn 14:27). As Prince of Peace the Saviour departs the world of the flesh with the same message as he entered it—Peace. It is the one gift for which the human heart naturally yearns. With Saint Francis, therefore, let us pray that in this Yuletide season and beyond, the divine harmony which God desires for us and our nation may find a home among us. Therefore, we pray:
Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I am not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
A merry Christmas to you and your family!