Monday, October 3, 2011

When Necessary

St. Francis of Assisi is said to have said, "Share the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words."  In actuality, there's no evidence within 200 years of his life and death that he ever said such a thing, let alone lived such a life.  Like the great troubadours of his time, Francis of Assisi was a wonderful storyteller.  He taught the message of Jesus five times a day, climbing onto bales of hay to gather a crowd, telling them of the wonders of Christ's birth, his ministry, his death - helping people to be in the stable at the birth, to really see what Christ did.  And at the drop of a hat, he could switch to talking about the evils of sin, and sermons of hellfire and brimstone emerged.  Mark Galli, author of Francis of Assisi and His World, suggested people today would prefer to see the kinder, softer side of St. Francis, rather than focusing on the man as a whole.

The very nature of the Gospel requires that it be talked about.  People can always live a good, moral, just life, performing excellent works of kindness, charity, healing and forgiveness.  These actions are important, and walking your talk is definitely needed to help people understand you're sincere in your beliefs, but you first have to have a talk you're walking.  For people to understand your motivation is to live a Christian life, a "Christ-like" life, words are absolutely necessary. 

Another author, Ray Comfort (written over 70 books/Christian apologist,, wrote:  "Saying preach the gospel, when necessary use words is like saying, feed the poor, when necessary use food.” 

Sharing the stories of the Gospel, the words of Christ - St. Francis did this on a regular, ongoing, life-long basis. And he ensured that his actions matched his words, and expected the same of those who chose to follow in his footsteps.
Adding a quote from our priest, PattiAnn Bennett about St. Francis, taken from The Lessons of St. Francis by John Michael Talbot, p. 192:
"Talk is cheap, but love is costly. When Francis and his friars went out into the world, thy didn't practice a form of hit and run, kamikaze Christianity. They didn't just preach and run. They reached out to people and did what they could do to serve. Thomas of Celano described Francis as "preaching  everywhere the kingdom of God, and rendering his whole body a tongue, in order to edify his hearers by his example as well as by his words."
I think this makes the whole thing make much more sense.

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