English writer and lay theologian G K Chesterton, in his biography of St Francis of Assisi said that to understand St Francis, one has to really understand how he saw the whole world “upside down”.
It is this “upside downness” of the world that is important for all to understand because “just like me, upside down in the kayak gasping for air, we gasp for emotional air so often. And in gasping for emotional air, we do the opposite of what the Kingdom of God invites us to do. And we have to unlearn our natural response if we are to learn the Kingdom response.”
So said Archbishop Jason Gordon in his homily for the double celebration of the Feast of St Francis of Assisi and the 130th anniversary of the parish, St Francis RC Church, Sangre Grande, Sunday, October 2. The actual feast day was October 4.
Parish priests Msgr Michael de Verteuil and Fr Matthew Ragbir concelebrated.
According to the Archbishop, whenever a parish is named and given a patron, that patron brings a grace to the parish that allows the parish to find her mission.
He outlined that St Francis was a man of peace. “And the reason why he’s a man of peace, remember he’s an upside-down man. It’s because he doesn’t go by his natural instinct. Our natural instinct is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and Gandhi said that would leave us a half-blind, toothless world,” the Archbishop said.
Members of St Francis of Assisi parish are called to build a space of peace. “And that is the mission of your parish,” the Archbishop said. He told parishioners that this impetus to peace must become important to everyone. It begins by restoring broken relationships in the family.
Quoting Chesterton, the Archbishop said that St Francis went through the eye of the needle and there, he found great joy. The Second Reading from the Book of Galatians speaks about the marks that Paul had on his body for the sake of Christ.
In a similar way, the Archbishop said, St Francis had the marks of the stigmata in his body.
“You think it easy to walk around with a hole in your hand, in your side and in your feet? It was painful, but Francis was the most joyful of all people who lived at that time. He gave everything to God and he was filled with the joy of the Lord….that’s what we are called to do.”
Archbishop Gordon commented that Pope Francis gave the Church two major initiatives: Laudato Si’ which he described as the “praise canticle of St Francis” and Fratelli Tutti, two encyclicals which speak of a “wonderful way” of seeing the parish in an “upside-downness of the Kingdom of God that Francis portrayed so beautifully.”—KJ