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So I’ve been thinking A LOT about St. Francis lately. He’s actually been on my mind for a few years now, and after visiting Assisi two summers ago, many hours have been spent contemplating his life and works. It must sound really weird to you, but he’s my role model (even if I’m not doing the best job of following in his footsteps – yet).
Francis cared deeply for nature, and believed it was our sacred duty to protect animals and the land from harm. He believed in living simply, in taking care of the poor, in having sympathy and love in our hearts for everyone, no matter how “worthy” the world might find them. He also believed that singing, laughter and beauty had a place in worship, and that sharing the word of God was best done through living that word. He believed in fellowship, in building real bonds that helped everyone succeed. He also believed in the restorative process of travel. He said “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” In short, he’s my hero.
So here’s the deal: I want to be a secular Franciscan. However, I have a big problem that makes that goal an impossibility. There’s a huge chance that I’ll never be a Christian, because it’s illogical to believe that there’s a necessity for a barrier between myself and God, therefore leaving no reason for a Christ figure. (Yes, atheists, I can already hear the argument that there’s no logical reason to believe in God, either, but I do, so that’s that.)
Although I do believe that Jesus existed and was a great man with a powerful message that’s worth hearing (and following) still today, I can’t join the modern Christians who pray to Jesus and talk about him like he’s the primary portion of the triumvirate understood to be God. That’s theological mumbojumbo that Jesus himself never supported in his lifetime. Luckily, Jesus was very open minded, and just wanted his people to find a way to get to and be part of the greater good. And that’s what I’m doing, to the best of my ability, by aspiring to be more like Francis (who aspired to be more like Jesus). Basically, from where I’m sitting right now, I know I’ll be following many of the precepts of early Christianity, but will not be able to be part of a typical church organization since I don’t believe in the thing that they believe binds them all together. Kind of confusing, right? I’m just now starting to get my head wrapped around it after three years of contemplation.
So what’s an aspiring Franciscan lay person to do if she’s definitely never going to be a Catholic? I’m going to start at the very beginning, and see where it leads. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find a way to reconcile my logic with a 2,000 year old faith (or vice versa). You can’t start a journey without walking out the front door.
One of Francis’s initial good deeds was a moment when he gave everything in his pockets to a beggar asking for alms. My house is very close to an overpass that stretches across a decent chunk of my city. There’s a homeless colony underneath it, and at almost every intersection, there’s at least one person begging. I’m not brave (or stupid) enough to try to make a difference by myself, but I want to try to do something. In fact, I’ve been thinking about trying to find a way to learn more about the situation and see if it might be a field that I could one day find work in. Yesterday I contacted a local organization that fights homelessness, to see if they could use a volunteer. This morning they wrote back and asked that I come in to meet with the director. I think they might have been excited when they saw “marketer” on my volunteer application, but I’ll take what I can get. I just want to help, and learn how to help more efficiently.
That’s a good first step, I think. My next one might be more academic, but for now I’m going to wait and see what comes of the meeting with the homelessness organization. Who knows where my journey is going to lead?
Click through to read Judy Douglass’ blog posts on finding God at the beach