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Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says,
FRANCISCANISM
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Shillong, Oct. 11. St. Francis is one of the most popular, if not the most popular saint, in the Church and in the world.

Pope Francis has made him even more popular. We can speak of a revival of Franciscanism. The  visit of the Pope to Assisi was another sign that despite eight hundred years of history, the poverello still exerts a magnetic pull. In Pakistan, of all places, there is a village named after him and it is called Franciscabad.

Recently, I heard on the BBC a programme on St. Francis, called ``The Man who Turned the World upside down``. If we could go back in time to the thirteenth century and ask the saint whether it is true, the chances are he could not care less. Saints have no time for such questions. Their focus is on God whom they worship and on their fellowmen whom they serve. Narcissism is for lesser mortals who are far from the goal of sanctity. Careful if you look at the mirror too often! The more often you look at the man you see there, the farther he goes from the goal of holiness.

Saints have no particular constituency. They belong to all, even to all Churches and religions. There is a Franciscan religious community among the Anglicans. Conversely, wicked men belong to nobody and no group. Such men do harm to all, especially to their own. Most of the victims of Osama bin Laden were Muslims, the very people whose cause he claimed to espouse. This, in fact, applies to all fundamentalists and extremists.

Recently I visited a mission station, called Marmain, in the Shillong Archdiocese. St. Francis would have been delighted to minister there. Presently, a group of sisters, called Sisters of the Destitute, quite literally so, serve there. They run a little clinic in a hut. 100% air conditioned, that is, conditioned by the open air. In summer the heat can be oppressive. Electricity bills are regular, but not electricity itself. Patients come to the clinic, carrying their own beds. An open air hospital has always room for more patients, room made by God himself. Beds may be lacking. And Sr. Doctor is always ready to treat the sick.  

The sisters live in Franciscan poverty. Their  smiling faces as well as those of  the sick and  of the many school children of the mission told me, there is more to life than wealth. Jesus lived that message two thousand years ago ``Happy blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.`` St. Francis called the attention of the world to that message  eight hundred years ago. It is a matter of encouragement that there are people  still who take that message seriously.

I wish Pope Francis could visit this mission, one of the many places where his theme of poverty and concern for the poor is lived out truly and remarkably.  

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Paul Vadakumpadan(Shillong) vvpaulsdb@rediffmail.com
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