December 26. Day of Goodwill. As with creation the attitude of Francis and Clare to the incarnation event was not sentimental. They never forgot that the incarnation was costly. Francis focused on the self-emptying of Christ in obedience to the Father and saw Christ in the crib as an icon of obedience and humility. His key passage was Philippians 2:5-8. Clare focused on the generosity and poverty of Christ; how he gave up all that he had and came to be part of a poor family, vulnerable to the vagaries of politics and economics. Her biblical passage was 2 Cor 8:9.
Ecumenism. Francis and Clare lived in the time of the Crusades, the wars against the Muslims who had captured the Holy Land. They were loyal to the Pope and determined to obtain his approval for their new congregations of renewal in the Church. Francis was nevertheless called to peace-making for all and was open to exploring the Muslim religion of the sultan. The Franciscan Order later was tasked with the upkeep and maintenance of religious sites in the Holy Land even the parts occupied by Muslims. Their task still continues, nowadays with relationships with Muslims, Jews and various forms of Christianity all of which are not always on good terms with one another.
The Damietta Peace-Making Initiative (DPI) is a Franciscan project that is based in South Africa, and inspired by the encounter of St Francis with the sultan. The DPI mission is to build communities of non-violence, reconciliation and respect for creation throughout Africa. Training and deployment of conciliation teams of men and women occurs in areas where there are religious, tribal, socio-economic and other conflicts. Visit www.damiettapeace.org.za for info.
Pope Francis is a peace-maker in the tradition of St Francis himself and has met with leaders and members of many different religions. Fratelli Tutti is his message of peace to the whole world, focusing not on doctrinal matters but in a spirit of fraternity and social friendship, as brothers and sisters. He writes, In these pages of reflection on universal fraternity, I felt inspired particularly by Saint Francis of Assisi, but also by others of our brothers and sisters who are not Catholics: Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and many more. Yet I conclude by mentioning another person of deep faith who, made a journey of transformation towards feeling a brother to all. Blessed Charles de Foucauld directed his ideal of total surrender to God towards an identification with the poor, abandoned in the depths of the African desert. He expressed his desire to feel himself a brother to every human being. May God inspire that dream in each of us. FT286-7. For reflection and sharing. Who do we consider the greatest peacemakers in our time?