Franciscan Spirit Blog

Novena to St. Francis | Day Eight: Joy

Novena day eight .... St. Francis and joy

If you Google the words saintFrancis, and joy, you’ll get over 52,100,000 hits! It’s hard to think about the life of Francis without smiling. 

When I do, I picture him playing the fiddlesticks, preaching to the birds, writing poetry, singing and dancing God’s praises, and smacking his lips every time he mentioned Jesus’ name. He was so in love with the Lord that it even affected his tone of voice. St. Bonaventure tells us that whenever Francis told the Christmas story and he came to the word Bethlehem, his voice sounded more like the bleating of a sheep.

But, as tempting as it may be to stop at the humorous legends and tender tales of Francis, we have every reason to believe that he would ask us to go much deeper than that. You see, beyond the mere image of him as God’s court jester is someone whose true source of joy was inextricably bound to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His understanding of God as Love, who was willing to empty himself to become one of us, brought Francis an incomparable joy that not even human suffering could take away. He tells us why in the story about true and perfect joy.

In that tale, Francis instructs Brother Leo “to write down and note carefully” that no number of miracles performed by any friar could ever result in perfect joy. Rather, it’s the ability to accept willingly, out of love for Christ, “all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt.” Being able to do so, as counterintuitive as it may sound, is where true and perfect joy can be found.

These were no empty words to Francis. Once again, the example of his life bears them out. While in the throes of tremendous pain and suffering, and not too long before his death, he managed to create one of the most beautiful and joyful poems ever written. In his “Canticle of the Creatures,” Francis spells out for us why he managed to remain truly joyful, despite the miseries of the world that surrounded him, the conflict within the order he founded, or even his own bodily sufferings and death.

He would let nothing get in the way of his proclaiming the truth that had set him free. And it’s nothing less than that kind of joy that God would have us all come to know; that fruit of the Holy Spirit that nothing and no one can ever take away. Not even death!

Now, some of the same challenges that Francis knew in his lifetime are facing all of us today: division, disease, and war. And maybe one of the remedies to all of this can be found in the sharing of Franciscan joy. Granted, it’s not for the faint of heart, but if embraced and shared with others, as Francis did, it could just be the wake-up call the world so desperately needs.

We know because one of the reasons our current pope chose the name Francis was because of the way his namesake was able to maintain a sense of joy even as he grappled with some of the hardest challenges in life. We may not be able to be as single-minded in our efforts as St. Francis or Pope Francis, but just imagine if each one of us were able to bear just a little more insult, just a little more personal criticism or offense without immediately responding in kind. What kind of impact would that have on our fellow human beings and on the world?

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Let Us Pray

Loving God: There isn’t any one of us that you do not call into being with every breath.
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Help us share with one another the perfect joy that comes from knowing the extent of your love. 


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