Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible,
and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.
~ St. Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226)
Catholic friar, founder of the Franciscan order, and the patron saint of animals
Musings and Impressions
I came across this quote from Elephant Journal, a recent addition to my Instagram follow. The Elephant Journal is a tireless, relentless provider of ideas on how to live better lives, with quotes and wisdom from famous folks, not-so-familiar folks, their words winking at you and tickling your mind into fancy new terrains of smarter, better, and wiser living.
Visit Elephant, and you could well be sucked into your distraction du jour, the kind of phenomenon we like to blame social media for, but with Elephant, I like to think it’s not so much distraction, but a friend who urges you to snap out of it. And what could “it” be? Anything! A stupid streak of inertia, a phase of fear, a little bump in life that’s making you go all blah or boo hoo.
Now, about St. Francis. I think he’s an angel. Which person who loves and cares for animals is not? If you have any men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity,” he once said, “you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
I admire people with gentle hearts, largely because I’m working hard in this department. While I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, my fondest memories of my childhood were the early Sunday mornings of taking some triple-digit feeder bus to a hole-in-the-wall church in a Boon Lay public housing estate with my mother. The memory is so faded now but I remember the old, worn-out pews and how this little church seemed to be immediate neighbors with the ground floor shops in a housing board flat.
That church would eventually become the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, still at Boon Lay today. When we moved to the churchy church, the masses took on a different tenor. It felt bigger and more real, but less intimate. What I remembered most too, throughout the years going to Church in my teens and early twenties, is that beautiful hymn fashioned after the prayer St. Francis composed: Make me a channel of your peace.
In this prayer, all gentleness is brought to life in words. My favorite of favorite lines is this: For it is in giving that we receive / it is in pardoning that we are pardoned. So beautiful, all the more so because it’s humanly difficult to achieve, especially the pardoning part.
And so, when I hear some Christians speak ill of saints, oh, just because they see them as idols, cast into statues or depicted in murals as sheer objects of absurd adulation, it just feels so wrong. I used to be angry, but now I’m just sad. What if St. Francis of Assisi weren’t called Saint, and we dropped the St. from his name? This is what we’d get: Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone. Now, he sounds more like an artist I’d find at the Uffizi or the Louvre or the Met. Should I really care about his sainthood or his life’s works?
A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.
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