ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, STORMS, AND INDIGO MUFFINS
St. Francis of Assisi (Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone) is a beloved and well-known saint throughout the world. He was born in either 1181 or 1182 in Assisi, Italy. He founded the Franciscan Order of Friar Minors and Sisters, lived the gospels in obedience to the Church, traveled in peace to the Middle East during the crusades, created the first Nativity scene, saw God in everyone and everything, received the Stigmata of Christ Crucified, inspired countless people in his lifetime, and continues to inspire us as leaders today. He died on October 3 (my birthday), 1226 in Assisi, Italy.
He is the patron saint of animals and ecology, and he’s honored in the Roman Catholic, Anglican (including Episcopal), and Lutheran Churches on October 4 (my daughter’s birthday). St. Francis is the patron saint of Italy (along with St. Catherine of Siena) and other places throughout the world. Many parishes celebrate his feast day with a Blessing of the Animals on October 4 or the Sunday before or after.
St. Francis of Assisi is my birthday patron and inspiration. I love this guy so much, I could go on and on about everything he is. But, for my tenth Franciscan post, let’s talk, instead, about what he is not.
He is not the only divine being I connect with. But, he’s nearly as important to me as St. Michael the Archangel, who guides and protects me; and Blessed Mother Mary, my namesake and muse, who forever points me toward her Son. It’s not a coincidence that St. Francis of Assisi connects strongly with them, too. For example, their intercession was instrumental in his devoting himself to a month-long fast centered on the Passion of Christ during which he received a powerful vision and the Stigmata of Christ Crucified.
St. Francis of Assisi is NOT the author of “Make me an Instrument.” I can’t even with this one. Suffice to say, it first appeared in a French magazine in 1912, then some dude mashed up an English translation with an illustration of St. Francis of Assisi on a prayer card in 1915. Furthermore, nothing about this prayer, although lovely, reflects the writing or speaking style of St. Francis at all.
He did not utter nor write, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Although his humility prevents him from being popularly remembered as a preacher, it was one of his greatest gifts:
His words were neither hollow nor ridiculous, but filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, penetrating the marrow of the heart, so that listeners were turned to great amazement. — Thomas of Celeno
I first learned of St. Francis’s gift of serving as a conduit for God in preaching when I studied the night he created the first Nativity scene. In his role as deacon at the Christmas Eve service, he read the Gospel passage and preached a sermon in which he was so overcome with emotion, he could not speak the name of the Lord, calling him instead “Babe of Bethlehem.” In the pronunciation of these words, many in attendance heard the bleating of sheep around the manger. He spoke of the poor King, the Son of God born in the flesh as a helpless infant in a stable with farm animals. Francis saw the entire life of God Incarnate in the precious gift of the Baby Jesus. He cried tears of devotion, piety, joy, and gratitude.
So, yeah. He preached with words. In fact, when he received permission from the pope to create his order, the pope added the instruction, “Preach penitence.” Preaching with words was a major part of St. Francis’s mission from God.
Let’s see. What else was St. Francis not? Ah yes, he was not like the character St. Bonaventure pontificated about in his THE LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI. I mean, if St. Francis got one look at what this guy wrote about him, he’d be pretty miffed because it was too much with the grandiosity. It’s as if St. Bonaventure were using St. Francis to make a point about his own take on theology, or as if he were writing a long-winded obituary. Granted, St. Bonaventure is a highly respected Franciscan theologian, but he didn’t study the father of his order well enough to understand that Francis would not have liked his book at all. In other words:
As an obituary writer for the Chilkat Valley News, I do my best to capture the truth and the essence of a life. A good obituary shouldn’t make someone out to be a saint. I have a feeling St. Francis himself would insist that he wasn’t so special, or deserving of his title. – Heather Lende
I understand that during Bonaventure’s life time, saint biographies, also known as hagiographies, were written as inspiration, not historical record. To write of a saint’s humanity would have been considered disrespectful. And, I even agree that legendary “biographies” of the saints have their value and place. If they are well written, they are fun to read.
But, this was such a difficult book to read I stopped halfway through. It was either that or write a bad review for it here as my annual St. Francis of Assisi birthday post. And, who wants to be negative on their birthday?
On the other hand, let’s talk about Hurricane Florence. I live in Wilmington, NC. Many folks in my community and throughout the state are still suffering negative effects of this storm.
My own experience was not so bad. I stayed because my county was on voluntary, not mandatory, evacuation, and I have experienced many hurricanes here over the last twenty-five years.
When Bertha hit in 1996, my son was only 18 days old. We put him in the pantry during the worst of it.
(The Grateful Dead have a song they wrote about the pedestal fan which broke it’s cover off, got loose, and oscillated itself right into their manager’s office wall. It’s called, “Bertha.”)
This time, I was in a minimal-risk flood zone, my apartment is on the second floor of a three-story building, and in the center of the apartment complex’s parking lot is this amazing rain garden/flood water drain. Also, and this is the most important part, when I prayed for guidance on my decision, I clearly received the message, “Stay put.” I asked twice more, and twice more I heard, “Stay put.”
I lost power the night the storm hit, endured a barometric pressure headache for over 24 hours, experienced fear and apprehension, slept on the floor in the hallway twice (the second time due to tornado warnings), and suffered the hopelessness and grief that come with natural disaster survival. Oh, and three of my son’s large pet koi died during the storm. And, that was sad, too.
I turned to Jerry Garcia to find my feelings expressed in a song called, “I Hope It Won’t Be This Way Always,” and listened again to “We Can Run,” a Grateful Dead song written by Brent Mydland and John Barlow in 1989 that predicted everything we need to feel about climate change right now.
But, my negative experiences are minor compared to what many folks in my community suffered and continue to suffer. So, you know, continued prayers and donations to reputable organizations would be greatly appreciated.
The day after the storm, light struck – electricity and internet back on at exactly 11:11 a.m. Eleven eleven is a significant angelic number related to new beginnings. I’ve BIG TIME experienced 11:11 before. Something so miraculous happened to me on 11/11/15 that I was interviewed by the local news about it. And, in retrospect, it WAS a sign of the new spiritual beginnings that led to my Awakening on May 10, 2017.
Full disclosure: My apartment complex is on the same power grid as the New Hanover County Hospital, so we were attached to that priority need. But, I didn’t know that when I moved in last summer. Miracles. Time line. Everything connects.
Anyway, my mission was clear. I had electricity and a bunch of friends who did not. So I invited people over for hot food, coffee, showers, and working outlets in which to charge their electronics. It took a few days for them to get their power back on, and when they did, I turned to hurricane relief-food prep. First, I volunteered for a shift at World Central Kitchen, an awesome organization. Then, I switched to muffin baking to add to the meals my friend and her daughter were delivering to on-duty linesmen and police officers, plus other hungry folks she happened across as she drove around town. We did this for about two weeks. It was tiring but enjoyable work. And, I know my nutritious muffins were a good thing to add to my friend’s wholesome meals and all the different ways this community came together to provide relief from this latest storm in our lives.
Sadly, I’m dealing with two other storms in my life right now. I’m divorcing; and I had to leave another church because, as an intuitive empath, I’m a target for psychological abuse. This time though, my codependency recovery process aided me in recognition and escape. No longer do I grant anyone permission or power to keep me small, ashamed, and quiet.
I’m taking a break from church attendance. I just can’t go through all that again somewhere else in this town. Again. Last week, I was missing the Eucharist to the point of tears when I “randomly” came across this poem in a friend’s post on Facebook:
He was old, tired, and sweaty, pushing his homemade cart down the alley, stopping now and then to poke around in somebody’s garbage. I wanted to tell him about Eucharist but the look in his eyes, the despair on his face, the hopelessness of somebody else’s life in his cart, told me to forget it. So I smiled, said “Hi”—and gave him Eucharist. She was cute, [had a] nice build, a little too much paint, wobbly on her feet as she slid from her bar stool . . . so I said, “No thanks, not tonight” and gave her Eucharist. She lived alone, her husband dead, her family gone, and she talked at you, not to you, words, endless words, spewed out. So I listened and gave her Eucharist. Downtown is nice, lights change from red to green and back again. Flashing blues, pinks, and oranges! I gulped them in! I said, “Thank you, Father!” and made them Eucharist. Tired, weary, disgusted, lonely? Go to your friends. Open their door. Say, “Look at me” and receive their Eucharist. My father, when will we learn, you cannot talk Eucharist, you cannot philosophize about it. You do it. You don’t dogmatize Eucharist! Sometimes you laugh it, sometimes you cry it, and often you sing it! Sometimes it’s wild peace, then crying hurt; often humiliating, never deserved. You see Eucharist in another’s eyes, give it in another’s hand held tight, squeeze it with an embrace. You pause Eucharist in the middle of a busy day, speak Eucharist with a million things to do and a person who wants to talk. For Eucharist is as simple as being on time and as profound as sympathy!
I give you my supper.
I give you my sustenance.
I give you my life.
I give you me.
I give you Eucharist. – R. Voght
My tears turned joyful in understanding and gratitude to my friend, and Facebook, and R. Voght (whoever you are), and connections, and my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who sends me messages when I need Him most — Breathe. You’re in transition. I got you. Breathe.
St. Francis of Assisi was all about Eucharist, and it appears in much of his writings. In one, he goes off about his disapproval of portable altars which he argued were too casual to be respectful enough for the sanctity of the Eucharist.
Yet, he was not a priest, nor educated in theology. His education was the norm associated with the noble merchant class of his day. For instance, he wrote in vernacular Italian, not Latin.
For the members of his order, he didn’t mind book learning, in theory. For example, he encouraged St. Anthony of Padua and Lisbon to not only preach, but to teach his brothers how to preach. Nevertheless, St. Francis had a problem with those who believed book learning was more important than people.
He was obedient to Church authority, and it was his love of the Eucharist that made him deeply respectful to those who were responsible for serving it — priests. But, priests are human, and, therefore, fallible. To grant priests too great a respect or influence over one’s life and self perception is a mistake.
St. Francis was a human being who was not correct in his take on priests. We tend to cut him slack here because he was a little bit crazy and took his humility to unworkable levels. This made him a poor leader. Which sucks! Because he was great at leading people. He just kept deferring to others over and over. And, as much as he wanted his order to be a certain way after his death, it split into two factions — those who followed his Rule to the letter, especially regarding poverty, and those who allowed for copious book learning and the accepting of Church funds to support this activity including the large, comfortable housing in which to own and display said books.
In other words, while we can be inspired by so many of St. Francis of Assisi’s recipes for spiritual living, we have to remember that he was a little bit crazy, or at least inconsistent, so we can honor him without following ALL of his ways.
Be penitent to God, go to church, follow the rites, sing the songs, pass the peace, receive Eucharist, be thankful, and go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Get out there and give people Eucharist. Do it your way.
Or, if you want, do it my way.
My way involves honoring my spiritual connection to St. Francis of Assisi in the above words. And, in the words of the recipe below, I give you Eucharist. When you share these products, you give others Eucharist.
Such a cool concept! Almost as cool as the color and flavor in these:
1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil for greasing
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oat meal
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons ground flax seed
2 teaspoons baking POWDER
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (or 1 stick of) butter, melted and cooled slightly
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups frozen blueberries, defrosted
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degree.
Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
Combine flour, oatmeal, sugar, flax seed, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla in a small bowl.
Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
Stir in blueberries.
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
In a small bowl, mix sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Sprinkle mixture on top of each muffin.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean or with a few crumbs.
Cool slightly before popping out of muffin pan and serving warm, or cool completely on rack before storing for delivery.