I’m a Secular Franciscan and there’s nothing that bothers me more this time of year then parishes reducing St. Francis’s feast day to a Pet Blessing. Yes, St. Francis loved creatures, but this man was far more than an animal lover!
Most parishes don’t spend time talking about the amazing disciple that St. Francis was and how he truly aimed to live the Gospel as radically as Jesus did. They don’t focus on this man’s embrace of poverty, detachment from possessions, humble leadership, and love for his brothers and sisters - especially the ‘least of these.’ They don’t mention how much he tried to rid himself of sin with penance. We never hear about how he kissed a leper and not many of us know how devoted he was to the Eucharist, and how truly united to the Lord and filled with the Spirit he was.
And sadly, most of our churches never tell us that we all could live a Franciscan life if we feel called to, and that so many Franciscans have become saints. We don’t have to be Friars or Poor Clares!
St. Francis created a Franciscan secular third order that lay people could live, married or unmarried, called the Secular Franciscans. It is a true religious order that you profess into with obligations suited to secular life. I found this mysterious order about 4 years ago and it’s been true gift to me, enabling, forming and challenging me to live a Franciscan life focused on the Gospel. Learn about it here: https://secularfranciscansusa.org/.
Like other religious orders, too few younger people are becoming Third Order Secular Franciscans, and this order is in danger of dying out.
Too often St. Francis is reduced to a lover of animals and nature, and described as a party boy who later converted to sainthood. But this saint has far more to teach us than that. This feast day, learn some new things about St. Francis and let him inspire you in your walk of faith - maybe even towards becoming a Secular Franciscan!