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02 March 2011

Charmed Life - My Saintly Inspiration

I purchased my charm bracelet around the time I was converting to Catholicism. (You can read more about that journey here.) I found quite a few "Catholic" charms as well, but none seemed to fit as well as my St. Francis of Assisi charm. He is, after all, one of my major inspirations to convert to the faith.

If you've never read about St. Francis and his pre-sainthood life, it is rather interesting. He was a VERY wealthy Italian who was wild and rambunctious and superficial and materialistic in his youth. He was one day inspired to turn to God and did so, leaving everything behind. And, when I say "everything," I mean EVERYTHING. He heard God command to him, "Francis, repair my church." He interpreted this in a literal way and began repairing the decrepit church in his village. He eventually came to realize that God was talking about His Church as a faith, not a structure. He spent all of his time in prayer and spreading the word of God. When there was no one around to listen (because many thought him to be crazy considering all that he had given up), he could be found wandering the countryside preaching to anyone and anything that would listen, including animals. This is why he is considered the patron saint of animals. And, given Bailey's many health scares, I have prayed to St. Francis on many occasions to bring my intentions and needs to the ears of God. St. Francis eventually founded the Franciscans and is attributed with many church reforms. He eventually died a horrible death of leprosy, a disease he caught while working with the poor and sick with no regard for his own well being. 

St. Francis is also the patron saint of Catholic action, and his feast day just happens to be October 4th. This date is significant to me because it was on that day back in 1996 when I turned my back on faith completely due to some relatively tragic circumstances. I think it very appropriate that the saintly story that inspired my faith journey is honored on the exact day that my heart broke from faith. It's very cyclical and whole.

The Prayer of St. Francis is also one of my favorite prayers (and, subsequently, hymns). It is simple, clear, and straightforward. Whether you are Catholic or Protestant, this prayer works. 

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."

Wearing his medallion on my charm bracelet reminds me daily of his inspirational life and my desire to live like him. Of course I fail at that every day, but, every day, I keep trying. And that, after all, is the whole point. 
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