‘We can’t escape St. Francis’ – OFM head

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Fr. Cielito R. Almazan, OFM blesses the friary of the St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Santiago City, Isabela. (Contributed photo)

QUEZON City, Oct. 4, 2015 – The Franciscan minister provincial of the Philippines has reviewed the legacy of their Seraphic Founder, noting how centuries after his death his memory continues to inspire those involved even in mainly secular discussions.

“In this postmodern era, which is highly globalized and secularized, but where joy seems to be elusive, when we talk about care for the earth, creation and nature, there is no acceptable saint that serves as an inspiration other than St. Francis,” says Fr. Cielito R. Almazan, OFM, Minister Provincial of Franciscan Province of San Pedro Bautista, in a letter dated Oct. 4, Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

“In other words, we cannot escape from St. Francis in any given talk,” he adds.

Growing popularity

While he admits Francis has worked few miracles compared to other saints, he considers him more popular today due to the current Pope, who took on his name, and released the encyclical “Laudato Si’,” which was inspired by a song the saint wrote.

Almazan points out that thanks to Pope Francis, St. Francis of Assisi has been “refreshed in the hearts and minds of many,” and his ideals “made more popular and palatable.”

“Pope Francis, though a Jesuit, acknowledges St. Francis as his inspiration when he served as a priest and then a bishop. All the more that he needs him now in his papacy as servus servorum Dei (servant of the servants of God) as he addresses the big problems besetting the Church, the global community and the planet earth,” he explains.

Pope Francis

The OFM head believes the Holy Father’s choice of name is apt and timely, noting that the Poor Man of Assisi is the only saint who has a universal appeal to address the many daunting concerns today.

“When we talk of respect for the Church and its authorities and obedience to her teachings, there is St. Francis. He asked permission from the Pope to institute reforms in the medieval Church, unlike the heretics who did it outside the Church. He reiterated his belongingness and loyalty to the Church,” he says.

Even when the topic touches on respect for the priesthood and the Eucharist, Almazan hails Francis as the saint for the occasion.

Universal saint

He stresses how St. Francis revered even sinful priests over the angels since only they can consecrate the host into the body of Christ.

Almazan points out St. Francis’ name is almost always heard in talks about mission, evangelization, ecumenism, and respect for other religions.

“During the time of the Crusades, he approached the Sultan in Egypt, not as a violent warrior but as a peacemaker. Many Franciscans priests and nuns are still present in the Muslim world because of him, even if it has become dangerous due to intolerance and fundamentalism,” he says.

The friar shares the memory of this saint who celebrated harmony among brothers also often crops up whenever discussions focus on the need for peace and non-violence.

‘Franciscan joy’

According to Almazan, Franciscans have a special place in the United Nations (UN) simply because they embody St. Francis’ ideals.

“When we speak of simple lifestyle and love for the poor and being poor, there he is. He followed the footsteps of Jesus literally. He lived the gospel sine glossa. No other saint has been identified so radical as St. Francis,” he says.

Moreover, Almazan says those who experience rejection and failure have much to learn from St. Francis who taught his brothers perfect joy.

“We celebrate today the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi in the context of the Pope Francis’ papacy and his Papal Encyclical, Laudato Si’. We praise God for giving us St. Francis. We pray to God that we may capture his spirit in following Jesus in the gospel in today’s world. Our devotion to him must be relevant as he was relevant during his times and even in our times,” he adds. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)

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