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Following Francis in a Time of Terror

imageIt was one year ago this week that the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan.

Yes, the same nation that introduced atomic weapons to the world on the Feast of the Transfiguration and invaded Iraq on the birthday of Dr. King continued its tradition of uncanny timing when it bombed Afghanistan at the very hour when children were gathering after mass to have their pets blessed in celebration of Francis’s feast day.

I have thought often of Francis this past year. Of the worldly soldier who threw down his sword and cast off his cloak of privilege. Of the radical friend of Jesus whose unflinching witness both inspires and haunts me.

Of the quintessential fool for Christ.

Contemplating the life of Francis against the backdrop of this past year has been a study in monumental contrasts and strange juxtapositions: poverty and corporate scandals; simplicity and Orwellian double-speak; humility and unbridled arrogance.

When I learned of the military’s enthusiastic response to the destructive capabilities of its high-tech “daisy-cutters” employed in Afghanistan, my thoughts immediately turned to the hillsides of Assisi and Jesus’ invitation to consider the flowers.

Indeed, it appears that the Sermon on the Mount has found its way into this administration’s shredder. This administration mocks the beatitudes and offers us . . . the Bush Doctrine, predicated on a commitment to world domination and war without end.

I suppose that my decision to place a homely clay statue of Francis in the front yard this summer was a gentle act of resistance. A countersign to the flags and strident bumper stickers that have proliferated in the neighborhood since 9/11.

I’ve also taken to wearing a medal of Francis as a subtle protest against the violent course our nation is taking. Yet, statues and medals are not enough.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

A dangerous prayer, given the times.

The friends of Francis are currently under siege by an administration that counts among its enemies Quakers and Catholic Workers. An administration that sows injury, doubt, despair, and darkness in its insatiable bid for power and assigns the label “terrorist” to any who dare question its policies.

Yes, this particular wolf is hungry and calculating and inclined to attack those who would hold it responsible for the damage it inflicts on the world community and its own citizens at home.

The prospect of rebuking this wolf and inviting it to learn a new way is not a pleasant prospect. Yet, this is the call.

On this the feast day of St. Francis, we ask for the grace to respond to this call.

May the example of Francis embolden us to speak and act in freedom as daughters and sons of the One who is Peace.

On the Edge, Catholic Worker, Dec. 4, 2002