The stars looked down upon a happy man. G.K. Chesterton wrote a biography on St. Francis of Assisi, one of my two closest saints (buy it here – it’s good). As I was reading it, that line struck me. The stars looked down upon a happy man. Two years later and it still strikes me. A man who grew up prosperous, knowing the thrills of the world, with a father who literally clothed him in jewels, a man who was magnetic and generous with his friends. But a man, though rich in appearance, had a heart unsettled. Uncharmed. Slowly his heart changed. Conversion. From that San Damiano Cross, when Jesus spoke to him saying “go and rebuild my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins,” this was only one of a series of conversions (First Bio of Francis).
Francis abhorred lepers. Until he kissed one. He never felt poverty. Until he traded clothes with a beggar in St. Peter’s square. His heart slowly turned, through physical encounters of love and solidarity. It wasn’t until 9 or so years after his initial conversion that he began preaching to animals. And they listened? If all we need in life is what the world can offer us, then we would never have had a Francis of Assisi. Fortunately, we do. And through these small conversions of the heart, in little ways, Francis became the great saint he is. As his father took him to the Bishop of Assisi to charge him as a thief for giving away his money, Francis’ actions perplex me in such a beautiful when he answered, “Up to this time I have called Pietro Bernadone father, but now I am the servant of God. Not only the money but everything that can be called his I will restore to my father, even the very clothes he has given me.” And he took off all his clothes, except a hair shirt.
“He was penniless, he was parentless, he was to all appearances without a trade or a plan or a hope in the world; and as he went under the frosty trees, he burst suddenly into song.” – GK Chesterton
He suddenly burst into song? What Francis found was joy. He found the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ. He found that Jesus was the only thing that would give him profound, authentic, and enchanting joy. And isn’t that deep down what all of us are looking for? A spark in our soul that fills us with vigor? The knowledge that we are greatly loved and that we have the blessing to share that love endlessly? The gift to the heart to burst out in song when everything else crumbles?
I pray that God might continue to grant me the grace to know joy more fully and the capacity to laugh more easily.
This is Christian Joy.
I decided to try and write this blog to share and dialogue with you about the joys and questions that I’ve found in my life. I hope that through comments below, or maybe emails, or messages, that you can share insights, questions, joys from your life. I have many wonderful friends and acquaintances that I’m blessed with in life, and over the years we’ve gone and journeyed down different roads. But I think we have a lot to offer each other, especially as we come to the world from countless backgrounds. I hope St. Francis can continue to teach us through the example of his life. Pope Francis too. I hope I can share some of my joy from this beautiful life that I’m blessed with in seminary. And, I hope that your wisdom, and maybe even pains, can help to teach me about the great mystery that we live in. And maybe the stars will look down upon a few more happy men and women.
I’ll share my life with you. I invite you to share your life with me as well.
The grace of Lord Jesus be with all.