Saturday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

Roadside weeds
The centurion said in reply,
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word
and my servant will be healed..

There it is! The roof that we’ve been talking about since last December. And here I thought it was the roof of my mouth; or perhaps the roof of my skull. So when I say, “Lord I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…” I am citing this story in the Bible. And Protestants think Catholics don’t know the Bible! Ha!

Americans are not culturally illiterate. We understand allusions as when a politician demands of his opponent, “Where’s the beef?” (a TV commercial for Wendy’s) and when a president says, “Make my day!” (Clint Eastwood, “Sudden Impact)

But we don’t like to be stretched by unfamiliar allusions. Either they’re obvious or there not; and unfamiliar ones make us feel stupid. When a fellow in a black hat threatened to blow the Lone Ranger “to kingdom-come” even I knew what he meant. It wasn’t a great allusion but it caught my attention and made me feel smart when I was ten years old. And some Americans, ignorant of allusions, will think it should be taken literally. They'll wonder "What roof is that?" 

But an allusion should have a point besides making us feel smart. I don’t think that black-hatted bad guy or his script writer was promoting spirituality when he referenced the Lord’s Prayer. What is the point of “enter under my roof?”

This is a story of Jesus’ encounter with Roman authority. We can only suppose he was taught to despise centurions as a class. Perhaps his gentle mother never said as much but the ethos of the time would have insisted, “We hate gentile soldiers, and especially their centurions!” Jesus and his disciples might not have showed their fear at this man's approach, but they felt it in their bellies. 

But the officer with his military posture and air of command begged the Lord for a favor. He asked a healing for his slave. Surely, Jesus was not the only surprised person in the crowd. His disciples, bystanders and the centurion's body guards were also astonished. No doubt some were surprised when Jesus set out to visit the man's home. "Our rabbi will enter a gentile's home?" they wondered. "How can that be?" 

But the astonishment continues as the officer declined Jesus' offer, asking only the favor of a word. The soldier had a peculiar insight into reality and Matthew shares it with us. The entire universe is built upon a word.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be....
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. 

A word of authority carries weight. Words that mean nothing betray human relationships and sabotage the foundations of reality. 

Jesus could only respond with another amazing word: 
"Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,

and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven,
When we declare with the church, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof" we take our stand with the centurion. We honor the Word of God who has authority over us. We accept our humble station before the Lord even as we accept his mercy. We remember that no one is worthy to receive the Eucharist, and accepting this honor it is not a statement of superiority. We receive it only because he gives it to us. 

Solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles

I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

That God should become a man is hard enough to swallow; that this man should appoint another man as his vicar is an enormous challenge. Why should I follow a vicar?
The obedience we owe this man has challenged the church since the beginning. It is controversial during the best of times; and when a successor of Christ at any particular time proves manifestly unworthy of the title, it becomes too much for some to bear. The Church must inevitably split asunder.

To counter the scandal the Church does not try to sanitize the history books or sterilize our collective memory, as many governments do. Even before digital photography the Soviets were adroit at removing people from their group photos. Once a friend of Stalin, Khrushchev or Brezhnev fell from favor he completely disappeared. His past with all his influence, sacrifices and contributions vanished under the official historian’s eraser. Even speaking of the fellow as if he might have existed was a punishable crime.

The Church has a different strategy: we honor the saints who remained loyal to the Church and its leadership despite the scandals. Saint Francis of Assisi, called “the most Catholic of all saints,” taught in his 26th Admonition:
Blessed is the servant of God who exhibits confidence in clerics who live uprightly according to the form of the holy Roman Church. And woe to those who despise them: for even though they [the clerics] may be sinners, nevertheless no one ought to judge them, because the Lord Himself reserves to Himself alone the right of judging them. For as the administration with which they are charged, to wit, of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they receive and which they alone administer to others—is greater than all others, even so the sin of those who offend against them is greater than any against all the other men in this world.

With the stories, teachings and example of the saints we avoid the sectarianism which has plagued the Church ever since Saint Paul complained to his Corinthian disciples:
For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. (I Cor 1: 11)

Americans are especially challenged by the institution of the papacy. First, we suspect it’s undemocratic. Then we think that religion should be spiritual, and not sullied by human interaction. There should be no authority in the spiritual world; but every person is his 
own prophet, knowing the will of God through direct, personal revelation. As if...

Some observers believe the papacy of this early 21st century has never been more powerful -- or more vulnerable. With modern communications the Vicar and his secretaries can keep an eye on nearly everything that happens in the farthest hinterlands of the church; but they are also challenged for a judgment, teaching or opinion on every little thing. Every misstep is reported instantaneously throughout the world. 

In such an environment the papacy and its policies seem brittle. Can it maintain a male-only priesthood and oppose almost all forms of birth control in the face of a world-wide movement to empower women? Can it defend the Church’s definition of marriage in a multicultural world? Can it represent Catholic moral teaching when so few Catholics accept that teaching? Can the papacy survive?

If I didn’t believe in the Holy Spirit I would not bet on the pope. But I do. Give it time; wait another century. Peter and Paul and the college of apostles have survived worse than this. Despite all appearances to the contrary, structures of leadership do change over time, even when they are loath to admit it. We we will always need leadership and God will always provide for those who wait on him.

Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr 

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple,they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.They have given the corpses of your servants as food to the birds of heaven, the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth.

The scripture once again recalls the rape of Jerusalem, when the Babylonian army leveled the city and exported its inhabitants. Only the poorest of the poor, the apparently useless human beings who had no particular skills, education or standing -- "the meek of the earth" -- were left to inherent the ruined city. I suppose they were the ones we see standing on street corners and sleeping  under bridges in our own ruined cities. 

This tragedy is, in a sense, the "crucifixion" of the Old Testament. From that time on Jews would be a nationless people; even those who returned to the city when Babylon fell to the Persian Empire were subjects of a foreign power. Although the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been captured and depopulated before Jerusalem fell, we date the diaspora from this incident. 

Unlike the crucifixion of Jesus, the fall of Jerusalem was not overwhelmed by a tsunami of blessings. There has been no resurrection for the Jews, although they have survived in many places, and prospered in some. Many in the 19th century hoped the Nation of Israel, established in 1948, would signal that rebirth of  the Jewish faith and tradition, but it has only taken its place in the perpetually troubled sea of the near-East. 

I sometimes wonder if our whole planet is doomed to suffer a similar fate. There will be no foreign invasion from outer space -- I don't espouse such nonsense -- but we seem headed for a train wreck. 

I wish I could believe that the nations of the earth, led by the United States, will come to their senses and make changes in the way we handle our precious resources. But our leaders -- Americans in particular -- seem intent on wrenching every cent of profit from the Earth. Every time the price of gasoline goes up people rush out and buy small cars; and when it goes back down they rush out and buy the big ones again. Democracy may be the best form of government in times of plenty and prosperity, but the last thirty years have shown its inability to make sacrifices during the hard times.

The via dolorosa of Earth and its resources, along with its billions of impoverished people, must continue until something truly apocalyptic happens – or incredibly gracious.As tempting as it might be, we must not despair. Hope is a power that changes by moving people like you and me to make a difference; and we make a difference by being different. We don’t buy the gas guzzlers; we live simply and seek continually simpler ways. Since our treasure is God we can renounce the delightful things that beguile others; we are satisfied with enough and, often, with less than enough. 

Our faith discovers endless resourcefulness because it is rooted in the mysterious depths of God. I certainly cannot imagine how God will rescue us from the American way of life that has spread like a contagion to the ends of the earth, but I am ready to see a rebirth of wonder.

Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes,
that I may exactly observe them.
Give me discernment that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.

The Church is always holy, always sinful and always repenting. Today’s gospel reminds us there are wolves in sheep’s clothing among us. They have been there since Judas Iscariot joined the group of twelve. They persisted during the earliest days of the church as a nuisance to disciples and a headache to apostles. All of the New Testament authors were well aware of criminals among us. Saint John would explain,
… now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number.

Recently, the church has suffered what many consider a scandal equal to the Avignon Papacy and the Great Western Schism. We are horrified to discover heinous crimes within our own rectories, sacristies and religious houses. We hope this trial will be a purgation of the Church, and that it will force us to follow our Penitent Shepherd more closely. 
Today’s first reading also reminds us of the continual need for reform. Second Kings describes a reformation of Jerusalem’s temple worship. It seems the Torah (the core of the Old Testament) had been lost amid the many reconstructions of the temple. The old building was riddled with lost and secret passageways like the Parisian opera house in Phantom of the Opera
And the religion too, like many an old building, had lost its original purpose. The holy city had long been home to foreign dignitaries and merchants with peculiar gods and strange beliefs. Each one came with a retinue of wives, slaves, children and hangers-on. The official religion of the city was tainted by popular notions that spoke in the current idioms and relevant ideas of a melting pot culture.

When the dusty tome was presented to the boy King Josiah, he read it with wonder and horror; he realized how far their religious practice had strayed from its Yahwist foundations. Immediately Josiah called for sweeping reforms of the rites, prayers and practices of the Jewish faith. He went so far as to gather the people and renew the covenant of Moses by reading the ordinances, statutes and decrees of God’s law, And all the people stood as participants in the covenantAnd God blessed his efforts.

If only there were a fool-proof way to prevent our wandering.. We renew the covenant every day, every week and every year; we do that by our daily prayers, Sunday masses and Easter cycles. But there is something about the human spirit that refuses to be nailed to the cross of fidelity by oaths, vows, or promises. Despite our best intentions we can live only one day at a time, and every day we must decide again.

We might despair of our good intentions except that God is faithful. He comes for us again and again. He does not leave us orphans; he does not abandon us to our foolishness. It is God’s own spirit that gathers us and moves us to say, Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.”

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time

"Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Proverbs, sayings, adages and riddles were the stock-in-trade of sages who kept the wisdom of the ancient world. They didn’t earn doctorates by doing original research; rather, they learned how to apply the right proverb to the right situation. For everything there is a season, and the wise know which proverb applies to which season.

Among the thousands of proverbs in the Bible we find many that are contradictory. Simple-minded people may think there is only one way of thinking about things, and that one will apply the same adage to every situation. He will earn the title of fool.

Today we hear Jesus tell us not to give to dogs what is holy; or to swine, your pearls. But we have also seen him assuring us that the farmer who broadcast his seed in every which direction gathered a bountiful harvest. Which should we do?

Should we baptize children when we know their parents will never bring them back to Mass? Should we witness the marriage of a couple who have never darkened the door of the church? Isn’t that throwing pearls to swine?

But perhaps our hospitality will make a difference. Perhaps those few minutes in the sanctuary will soften their hearts. Perhaps we’re planting seeds that will need a long time to germinate in the dry, stony dirt. Perhaps the rain of some future sorrow will rouse those slumbering seeds into faith.

Ministers in the church struggle over questions like this. Optimists might be too generous; pessimists might be too severe. Sometimes we can only act by the lights we are given and trust the Holy Spirit to work things out for the best. 

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

They rejected his statutes,
the covenant which he had made with their fathers,
and the warnings which he had given them, till,
in his great anger against Israel,
the LORD put them away out of his sight.
Only the tribe of Judah was left

In Minnesota several years ago, a lone fisherman drove his truck out on the thick ice of a frozen lake, sawed a hole in the ice and began fishing. Another fellow drove by and asked, “Are they biting?” Receiving an affirmative he parked his truck, opened a hole and began fishing. Soon a third fisherman pulled up in a third vehicle; and a fourth, and a fifth, and so forth – until the ice gave way and all the trucks sank. So who sinned that they should suffer such a punishment?
We might ask the same of Israel and Jerusalem. Is it fair of God to punish a city for the sins of its people? Aren’t cities by their very nature multi-cultural conglomerations of people with varying tastes in religion, culture and values? Some are scofflaws but most people comply with the law most of the time; only a few are scrupulously, habitually honest. If God would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of ten honest citizens, could he not spare the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem for their ancient, holy traditions, despite their sins?
Historians and anthropologists will say Israel and Jerusalem were doomed from the start, as are all cities and nations. Human beings don’t stay anywhere very long. History is replete with nations and cities that have appeared and disappeared. Inevitably, there is climate change or the depletion of resources. Cities consume the land around them, cutting down trees and stripping the soil. If they do not simply disappear they are overrun and sacked by the neighbors who have not yet consumed their own resources.
North America has witnessed the rise and fall of several civilizations before the coming of the Europeans. Even Rome, the “Eternal City,” suffered neglect and fell into ruin when the Avignon popes abandoned it. Their collapse had little to do with their morals. Ancient traders like Abraham frequented the ruins of cities that had disappeared centuries before they were born. Is it fair to say the fall of nations and cities is due to sin?
Doctors, police, social workers and ministers are familiar with the secret sins of the city. Can anyone expect the general population of husbands and wives to be always faithful to one another? Children to care for their aging parents? Neighbors to repay their debts? Teens to wait until marriage? Aren’t these ethical demands too much to ask?

The scriptures say "No. God is right to judge his people, their nations and their cities." He claims them as his holy people and they have repeatedly renewed their covenant with him. God wants more than mediocre virtue for all the blessings he has poured upon them.

Despite our persistent failing and continual sins it is not impossible to live by grace. In the Book of Deuteronomy, the Lord insists:
For this command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

Recently the Catholic Church has taken what appears to be a foolish stand. The bishops insist that the Church opposes abortion, artificial insemination and birth control. They make their stand despite the majority of American Catholics who do practice, or have practiced, birth control; and the many Catholic women who have had abortions. The bishops seem to be charging up a hill without an army behind them.

Are their demands "too wondrous or remote" for us. Are the Bishops simply behind the times? 

But sexual standards have shifted so far that few remember the core blessings of marriage. When sociologists teach young people to expect to be married three times and divorced twice we have lost our bearings altogether. When "gay marriage" is treated like a human right comparable to intermarriage between ethnic groups and races, we have forgotten the reproductive nature of sexuality. 

Perhaps we should expect the ice to break beneath us. Like the foolish, eager fishermen, we've forgotten common sense. A house built on sand, no matter how well pretty, will collapse. 

The Catholic Church may lose another generation in the United States and around the world during this controversy. Many people expect it. Or, what is more likely, a generation of people will come to their senses and thank us for our fidelity to the truth. 

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit
and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys
and my rest you scrutinize,
all my ways you are familiar.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother's womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
are your works.

The responsorial psalm is the 139th. I think of it as the prayer that taught me to pray. In Washington DC, as a theological student – we called ourselves “theologians” in those halcyon days – I would occasionally pass an hour or more in the friary chapel. I had a lot of troubles then, though I can’t remember what they were. Eventually I would lose interest in my troubles but discovered that I was still there in chapel. My wandering mind began to recite prayers from our Divine Office, “O Lord, you have probed me, you know me. You know when I sit and when I stand….”
One evening I said, “What is that prayer?” and found it in the Psalter, Psalm 139.

The psalm certainly belongs to several biblical persons. The prophet Jeremiah, perhaps sacred history’s loneliest man, described his own calling:
The word of the LORD came to me:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said,
“I do not know how to speak. I am too young!”
But the LORD answered me,
Do not say, “I am too young.”
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak.

As Jeremiah’s prayer, Psalm 139 is the prayer of the introverted prophet. He found something within himself that set him apart from his family, friends and nation at the very beginning of his life. He often complained of his loneliness and the enemies who surrounded him, and yet he loved to be in God’s presence.:
You seduced me, LORD, and I let myself be seduced;
you were too strong for me, and you prevailed.
All day long I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage I proclaim;
The word of the LORD has brought me
reproach and derision all day long.
I say I will not mention him,
I will no longer speak in his name.
But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding back,
I cannot!

But no sooner did he finish his complaint than consolation came:
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not prevail.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion…

But his misery would return as surely as night follows day:
Cursed be the day
on which I was born!
May the day my mother gave me birth
never be blessed!
Cursed be the one who brought the news
to my father,
“A child, a son, has been born to you!”
filling him with great joy.

Jeremiah’s message was unbearable; he had to announce God’s punishment on Jerusalem. They would not outlast the army that besieged the city. Their walls would be breached; their men, slaughtered; their women, enslaved; and their city, destroyed. What pleasant, private blessing could offset such a curse? Rightly is Jeremiah called the most Christ-like of all the Hebrew prophets.

Catholics recognize three other persons who could own Psalm 139:
First there is Mary, the Immaculate Conception. She could say:
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother's womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
are your works.

And in her Magnificat she would sing,
            All ages to come will call me blessed.
Sadly, Mary’s vocation is not well understood among Catholics, despite our doctrine of her immaculate conception. She is regarded as special, but we fail to see how the blessing God gave her graces the entire universe.

Secondly, John the Baptist could claim Psalm 139 as his own, for he recognized and honored the Messiah even before he was born. His own mother Elizabeth said “the infant in my womb leapt for joy” upon hearing Mary’s greeting. We celebrate his birth today, six months and one day before Christmas, because the Angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was in her sixth month.

Finally, and most importantly, Jesus found his calling in Psalm 139. (Traditionally we understand all the psalms are fulfilled in the person of Jesus, which is why the Church hesitates to translate the psalms using inclusive language.)

The Evangelists Matthew, Luke and John insist that God chose Jesus as the Only Begotten Son of God before he was born.
 Matthew recalled Jesus’ vocation,
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
And Luke, of course, records Gabriel’s announcement to Mary:
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
John goes so far as to say,
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.

Psalm 139 belongs to every Christian who loves the Lord. We find our vocation, identity, purpose and meaning in the Word God speaks to us. The Word is our healing and wholeness; salvation and justification; sweetness and delight; privilege and pleasure. Praying the Word day by day it takes possession of our inmost being and reforms us in the image and likeness of Jesus. In the end each of us will pray:
you knit me in my mother's womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
are your works.

Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(The prophet Zechariah) took his stand above the people and said to them: "God says, 'Why are you transgressing the Lord's commands, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have abandoned the Lord, he has abandoned you.'

Not even a simplistic history of Jerusalem would say the city, its kings and people were always faithful to the Lord. Though the city was the center of Jewish worship and its temple one of the wonders of the world, there were alien shrines and foreign religions in Jerusalem. Like any large city of today it was cosmopolitan with many cultures and many values.
But that galled the Hebrew prophets who remembered the ancient traditions of Abraham, Moses and David. They treasured the origins of the city and despised the foreign elements who brought weird ideas and worship to Jerusalem. They resented the ambassadors and tradesmen from Africa, Europe and the mid-east who settled in the city. They were appalled that their rulers would compromise the worship, values and principles of ancient Israel.
The two Books of Chronicles records the “sacred history” of the city, and how God dealt with its infidelities. There is reward for piety and mercy toward the poor, and punishment for impiety and cruelty.
Stories like those we hear in today’s first reading are often misread as a history of the arbitrary, cruel God of the Old Testament. Christian ministers and teachers with only a superficial understanding of the Bible will use these texts to underline their love of Jesus, who is always gentle and kind. They overlook the gospel passages where he, like the slain Zechariah, chastised the city for its infidelity.
Today’s Christian leaders are also apt to suppose that God never disciplines his church as he did the Holy City. The Church, they assure us, is always holy.
I agree wholeheartedly that the church is always holy, true and pure – insofar as the Church is the Blessed Virgin Mary. I think of her as the Jovian planet which orbits our Sun. Astronomers say that, compared to Jupiter, the rest of the solar system is hardly worth mentioning. Compared to Mary, the holiness of the rest of the Church is hardly worth mentioning.
And we do need God’s discipline, and we do call down upon ourselves God’s punishment. It would be hard to reckon the Scandal that afflicts our Church today if we did not see God’s punishing hand in it. Even secular journalists consider the latest embarrassment a part of the overall pattern of scandal.
I am sure there is no bishop, priest or catechist today who has not had to face that shame in their classroom and counseling chamber. Many are deeply shocked by the stories and rumors; some have been personally traumatized.
Nor does “an answer” appear to the question. There is no formula for what went wrong or what should go right. Is there something we did wrong that can be corrected? Not really. We can learn from this crisis and we can make changes but we cannot guarantee anyone that these crimes will never recur.
Rather, we must etch this story into the history of the church and “Never Forget,” just as the Chronicler etched his stories into our Bible. And we must pray that God will forgive and restore the Church for which Jesus Christ gave his life. 

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary time

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.
But store up treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

The story is told of Saint Anthony of Padua that he was invited to preach at a wealthy man’s funeral. He chose this text for his sermon and pointed to the strongboxes of money sitting close by. “Look inside that chest,” he said, “and you’ll find this man’s heart!”
They looked and, sure enough, there was the grisly evidence, for “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
The “occupy movement” has sounded the alarm about what thoughtful people predicted thirty years ago: while the nation dithered about homegrown and foreign terrorists, our economic leadership gained control of banking, the news media and the electoral process, -- and robbed us blind. Now they are too wealthy to fail, and far too wealthy to care.

Jesus teaches his disciples not to be so stupid about money. While it has its uses, it is not a good investment. It is better to invest your time, energy and affections in family, neighbors and faith community. These graced relationships provide the essentials of security, companionship and affection. Money is for losers. 

During the 13th century, the prophet Francis of Assisi appeared as the European economy shifted from barter to capital, a less personal way of life. While it allowed some to escape poverty through hard work, education and wise investments, it also encouraged violence on a wider, deeper scale. Small armies could expand into empires; the poor could be further removed from the concerns of the wealthy. A man could be “wealthy” although he owned nothing but money.

Francis resisted the cultural trend toward greed and, in his Order, set up a bulwark against it. We found complete freedom, security, family and joy in Christian poverty. With attitudes of service and simplicity, Franciscans humanized what promised to be a vicious economy of exploitation. 

Nine hundred years later his heirs must reclaim his generous spirit if we would restore the principles of equality and democracy to this troubled world