St. Francis of Assisi modeled for us how to share the Good News during troubling times
by Sister Elise Cholewinski
As our country prepares for a presidential election, our neighborhoods are dotted with signs encouraging residents to vote for one candidate or the other. In the midst of all the hype surrounding the election I recently noticed a number of signs around our parish property and on the street where I live. Black and white, and of the same size as the presidential signs, they carry a simple but profound message: “God for a change!”
Celebrating the feast of St. Francis this year, we can aptly connect those words to the era in which the poor man of Assisi lived. In the thirteenth century the Church was involved in the Crusades. Little wars, too, were being fought between towns in Italy. Churches were dirty and in some cases, falling apart. Ignorance of the Catholic Faith prevailed among the laity.
Traveling through a town shouting, “Love is not loved”, Francis called the people’s attention to the most important relationship in their lives. Through his emphasis on the humanity of Jesus and his focus on the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Eucharist, Francis led the people to a deep awareness of the Presence of God in their medieval culture. St. Francis and his followers, through their preaching to the common folk in the streets, brought about a spiritual renewal in a time of upheaval. The people turned to God for a change.
Our call and challenge in today’s secular society should be obvious. Can we meet people where they are? Can the Church truly be a field hospital? Can we enlighten people’s understanding of their Faith? Can we lead them to a deeper experience of the most important relationship in their lives? Are we willing to bring about “God for a change”?
"Change my heart, O G O D ......." goes the song by Maranatha, and the psalm  from whence it has come....... "Make it ever true. Change my heart, O G O D. May I be like You." With a little help from Jeremiah, the song by Maranatha continues, "You are the potter; I am the clay. Mold me and make me -This is what I pray."
And, from the giftedness of Rory Cooney, we sing, "This Time, Change Our Hearts."
"We are the people your call set apart, Lord, this time change our hearts. Show us the way that leads to your side, Over the mountains and sands of the soul. Be for us manna, water from the stone, Light which says we never walk alone. And Change our hearts this time, You word says it can be. Change our minds this time Your life could make us free. We are the people your call set apart, Lord, this time change our hearts."
So, yes, it is G O D Alone, although with our desire of it, our openness to it, and our receptivity of that which seems 'UN'known, yet, in some very real and 'peculiar' way is KNOWN to us - as if "It's" Been There All the Time .... Our willingness to say, "I trust you ...... This PRESENCE that I feel .... This Person that I Know to Be True .... That I Know to Be Real .... Take me where you want me to be ......"
What Francis experienced, we can experience, too. Offering ourselves as available ...... wanting and longing for 'a change ......, ' i.e, conversion-of-heart-and-mind; for true and real healing, for wholeness .... for 'seeing' and honoring the Presence of Holiness in All Creation, in the Dignity of the Human Person and in All of Humanity ...... Yes, these precious, priceless, timeless gifts are ours, when we give our full-hearted "YES ....." to The ONE Who SAID, SAYS, and FOREVER HONORS that Beautiful, Mysterious, Awe-Inspiring "YES" first said to US.
Thank you, Sr. Elise, for reminding us of this through the life-experiences of Francis of Assisi. So that, we, too, can know these same kinds of conversion experiences are meant -- and available -- for US, too -- HERE and NOW, in These Times. We don't have to be a priest, a nun, a religious, a cloistered, a monk. We just have to be US, who we are --- and pray for G O D - S P I R I T - B R E A TH - THE CHRIST to come into our hearts, change them, make them new, whole, beautiful, loving, and wise .... as is the ONE we call out to.