The word “blessings” implies something unwarranted, the unearned gift. And it leaves dangling deeper questions about the source of such things, the experience of such moments and the possibilities this represents. There are all kinds of blessings: some are defined by clarity of purpose, some by the miracles that defy common sense and even scientific explanations. Some are shrouded in the quiet of prayer and others are blasts of energy at the finish line in a tough competition. Franciscan Benedictions are grounded in what it means to be a human being on the very difficult path of life. They resonate with the acknowledgement of shortcomings and limited perceptions and the reality of life as a collective experience. What happens to each of us somehow, incredibly, affects all of us.
The Franciscan Benediction offers particular hopes for humanity: for discomfort, for anger, for tears and for foolishness.
May God bless you with discomfort…
Discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
Discomfort, so that you will live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger…
Anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
Anger, so that you will work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears…
Tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, starvation and war,
Tears, so that you will reach out to comfort them
And turn their pain into joy.
And, may God bless you with foolishness…
Foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
Foolishness, so that you will do what others claim cannot be done.
The black bolded words capture what is so much a part of being human; culture and circumstance push discomfort, anger, tears and foolishness away too often. Each, however, is essential to realizing a full self. The green phrases stretch the depth of self into and through the importance of doing. And it is not about doing for self but about serving others. Nothing is more Franciscan.
The 12th century Francis is a voice speaking truth to the 21st century. His was a life that countered the dominant culture, earned him controversy, won him support and broke his heart. His was a vision that embraced uniqueness, demanded resilience, encouraged becoming and dared fidelity. He broke boundaries and named new ones: he both embraced and suffered change. He wandered through human suffering and found solace in silence; he was at home among the brothers and the formidable rocks of LaVerna. He knew illness and blindness and yet he could see so much of what was most meaningful in life. In other words, he was very human. And he was loved.
Francis was also Catholic. The Voice he heard and trusted was from the cross at San Damiano. The God he knew revealed his presence in others: in friars and Clare and in the people of Greccio. The energy he brought to life was about bringing hope and change: initiatives for peace, movements towards safety, encouragement to see the world as the gift it is in the enigmatic “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” And yet, blind by the end and suffering disagreements among the friars, Francis left a blessing for all. It is ours to choose to explore.