They levitate, bi-locate, and read hearts. They suffer through the mysterious depths of the dark night of the soul, not to be confused with the dark night of senses or depression the rest of us may experience. Why, oh why, can’t the Saints be merely human like the rest of us, ordinary?
I love St. Francis of Assisi and it’s not because he emotionally swung from the mountains of ecstasy to the depths of internal suffering. In my ever-doubting mind I sometimes wonder if he had bipolar illness. How comforting that would be for those who struggle with it now.
I love St. Francis because of the commonplace ways he grew into Sainthood beginning with his love for the outcast, ill, crazy, and poor. I love him for his patience and perseverance in faith when his desire and attempts to rectify a corrupt Church, facilitate peace between Muslims and Christians, and create a religious order that maintained strict poverty failed. That makes me ask, how do I deal with failure?
I love St. Francis for his prayer of physical and emotional suffering in the last years of his life, stigmata being the visible sign of his total union with our Lord in that suffering. I already know how I deal with suffering and it’s a far cry from how Francis suffered. There’s much to learn and pray for.
St. Francis of Assisi is someone I could have hugged and asked for a blessing. He likely would have given it with the instruction I do the same. You see he didn’t consider himself above anyone else. In fact, he insisted that he die on the ground naked. He did this in total acceptance of his worth as a human being but also as a creature of God, not a god. He never confused good self-esteem with ones place in the universe. Can I do that?
We can all follow the example of an ordinary St. Francis. We can embrace without judgment those who are different from ourselves. We can offer prayers of gratitude for God’s gift of imperfect humanity and act with kindness, generosity, and charity even if judged, criticized, mocked, and ostracized in return. We can follow the peaceful St. Francis by avoiding militantly spoken sweeping criticisms and generalizations especially online where the impact is so great. Really now, does such engagement as poster or reader fill our hearts with God or the devil?
There’s a long way between how I love and how the self-forgetful Francis did but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Hopefully you feel the same way. So rather than seek to be awed or excused from the call to holiness via the Saints-on-a-pedestal method let’s look to our Saints, Francis included, for instruction about how to live rightly in this life’s joys, pains and yes, struggles with emotional problems. God knows what He wants for us. He wants us to be in union with Him, whatever it takes for us to get us there.
”Most high and glorious God, bring light to the darkness of my heart. Give me right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity. Lord, give me insight and wisdom that I may always discern Your holy and true will.” -St. Francis of Assisi