Monday, August 6, 2007

San Francisco

At an early age I fell in love with Saint Francis. I first learned about him at a very important crossing point in my life. His great love, his humility, his tenacious foolishness in pursuit of Christ through Lady Poverty were inspiring to me. Saint Francis was a lover of all that God created. Because of that, people often look to him as the patron of animals. Make no mistake, though. Saint Francis was much deeper and more complex than the concrete statues of him that adorn birdbaths everywhere. His commitment to following Christ --totally-- is, in historical terms, singular.

He understood that love came with humiliation. After all, to take up one's cross means to march towards one's own crucifixion, the deadliest of all humiliations. And Francis did so with love. Not flowery, saccharine fairweather love, but stern compulsive conviction.

This conviction carried him through abandoning his father's wealth and life of ease, the ridicule he suffered when rebuilding the little church of San Damiano, through the many tests of faithfulness, and the painful honor to bear Christ's wounds in his own hands and feet.

It is this love and willingness to suffer any humiliation for Jesus, that marked Francis his whole life.

And I hear about what happens today in the city that bears his name. Crime, drugs, sexual perversions of every kind-- gay marriage, bathhouses, NAMBLA, a cross-dressing police commissioner, S&M demonstrations before churches. I saw photos from the March for Life in San Francisco a couple of years ago and was horrifed at what was thrown at the marchers. It has become a city that breeds death unto itself.

How is it that the modern Sodom and Gomorrah is the city of St. Francis?

There is no real explanation nor condoning it, but I can imagine that if any saint in heaven were asked to suffer the humiliation attached to such a situation, Francis would volunteer, offering the humiliation as a sacrifice for the conversion of souls. I doubt that this is theologically sound or even "historically" accurate, but it's how I like to think of it.

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