Our Holy Father Francis

Yesterday morning I arrived back at San Francisco, appropriately enough on his feast day.  And what a day it was!  I was invited to the Palo Alto Serra club meeting as a guest and representative of the current Laboure Society class – Cy Laurent was the guest speaker and what a privilege to share the work of Laboure Society with others.  Serra, named for a Franciscan priest and missionary, Bl. Junipero Serra, was formed to support and foster vocations in the Church, so it was truly a joy to talk about vocations and invite them to join in fostering vocations yet another way.  And the encouragement and enthusiasm was wonderful!  I am truly blessed by the wonderful people I met and am eternally grateful for their prayers and generosity.

The feast of St. Francis is also a special day for Dominicans.  From the beginning of the two orders, there has been a commonality between them, though they remain distinct in their charism.  St. Francis and St. Dominic were contemporaries.  It is believed they met while attending the Lateran Council.  Both founded a new way of religious life – one that was mendicant and apostolic.  Both, when frustrated with their respective sons’ extravagance in building, would hold up the other order as an example of simplicity.  Pope Innocent III was inspired to recognize their orders when he had similar dreams about the two men: in the dreams, one or the other was holding up a tottering Church, lest it fall into ruin.  Today, large statues of Dominic and Francis flank the Chair of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  To this day, members of the Franciscan and Dominican orders refer to both saints as “Holy Father.”

Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira describes the complementary mission of the Dominican and Franciscan orders this way:

“St. Francis and St. Dominic both received visions that allowed them to recognize one another. So when St. Dominic saw St. Francis in one of the churches of Rome, he went to him and embraced him. They both expressed their enthusiasm for the mission each had received and for the fact that they would support one another. This was the embrace of two souls, each one with every reason to hold the other in the highest esteem: on one hand, because their missions were very similar; on the other hand, because they were very different.

According to Catholic criteria, a great similarity leads to friendship, but so also does a great dissimilarity when it is not the dissimilarity of opposition, but rather one that is complementary. One had something that the other was lacking. Together they constituted a harmonic ensemble. For this reason, they admired one another.

Both saints had a profound Marian devotion. St. Francis was a great palatine of the Immaculate Conception centuries before it was defined as dogma. The Franciscans would spread that truth throughout the world. St. Dominic was the great apostle of the Rosary. Through the devotion of the Rosary the Dominicans would effect immediate and spectacular conversions. The Dominican is the Order of the Rosary par excellence. So, from the Marian perspective, there is a great similarity in the Orders.

However, even with this similarity of mission, there are also differences. The two Marian devotions represent in the minds of the faithful two different floods of light. Still, they are convergent lights, because it is not unusual for the person who believes in the Immaculate Conception to pray the Rosary, and vice-versa.

This balance between similarity and dissimilarity can also be noted in another point. The Dominican Order was called to convert persons by speaking to their will through their intelligence. It is clear that part of the Dominican mission is an intellectual work–the study and teaching of philosophy, theology, and apologetics. On the contrary, the dominant note of the Franciscan Order is to move the will through a manifestation of zeal. The great conversions of the Franciscans came about through the consideration of the Wounds of Our Lord, His Passion, His poverty and spirit of sacrifice. Once again, they are harmonic differences that merge in the spirit of the faithful. A Catholic instructed in the arguments of apologetics by the Dominicans should also be touched by the fervor of the Franciscans.

That embrace in a church of Rome, therefore, was not just the embrace of two saints, but something more. It was the missions of the two Orders that embraced in that moment. The two Founders were like the two hands of God uniting their efforts to work on this earth, to bring holiness and happiness to men and glory to the Catholic Church.”

Our Holy Father Francis, pray for us!

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