The Fear of Francis
Through the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi we learn that God offers us in full all the desires of our hearts to be loved and cherished.
I remember exactly where I was the first time I read the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. I had just gone to confession at a local parish during my sophomore year of college where an unfamiliar prayer had been given to me as my penance. Halfway through, I remember feeling excited with the idea of being an instrument of God’s peace to bring about more love, pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy into the world. However, as soon as I read the line, “Not so much seek to be consoled as to console,” I was immediately filled with fear. I struggled to even finish the prayer as my fear grew with the words that called me to abandon my own human desires of being understood and loved by others.
At the time, this fear was justified in my mind - who would not be terrified at the idea of being loved by no one? Maybe I should've prayed more deeply with the words in this prayer to fully understand its meaning, but that fear caused me to turn away. In a few short minutes, the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi had quickly become my least favorite prayer to pray.
However, on January 30 of 2019 I was inspired to learn more about St. Francis of Assisi when during my prayer I came across an image of him embracing Christ on the cross. During this time I was brought back face to face with the “beast” of the St. Francis Prayer. This time however, my experience was different.
I finally understood what this prayer was actually trying to communicate to us: It wasn’t my desire to be consoled, understood, and loved that was bad in nature, but how I desired it. I did not just desire these things, I needed them to be complete. The Saint Francis prayer tells us that we do not need to seek these things because our God already offers them to us in full. Why waste our time searching and aching for someone to offer us full understanding, love, and consolation when God already has offered these to us? Even better, there is no one who will ever be able to understand, console, and love us in the way that God can. It is natural for us to look to others in our life to fill these holes in our hearts, but God offers a simple solution to filling these holes: Him. When we turn to him for these gifts we find those feelings of completeness, joy, and peace that we so desperately seek. We often look to the world and find disappointment and brokenness, but should we expect anything else? We are only human, and as humans, we are deeply flawed and subject to sin. Why not instead put our faith in the divine, guaranteeing ourselves an offer of joy unknown to this world? Let us look upon the face of the heavenly Father the way a child looks at their earthly father, with full trust and abandonment knowing that He will only and can only lead us to a fulfilled and joyous life.