Today we Franciscans celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Angels. The little church in which St. Francis founded the Order of Friars Minor was so named. Today that little church sits under the dome of the great basilica in the city of the same name, nestled at the foot of the mountain on which Assisi is built. Thousands of pilgrims will come to confess in that basilica today as this feast has been granted a special indulgence. The friars will hear confessions all day in many languages and will simply admonish the penitents to "Go and sin no more," words taken from the Gospel of St. John.
St. Francis himself struggled with the idea of mercy and pardon. Until two years before his death, he was constantly nagged by thoughts of his former sinful way of life, wondering whether God had actually forgiven him. If my experience as a confessor is in any way typical, the same can be said of many of us. We are all of us guilty of sin in some form or fashion. We all realize that God's mercy is a free gift. We all doubt that we are worthy of such a gift especially since the majority of us will have the same sins to confess the next time we approach the sacrament. How can God forgive us if we continue to commit the same sins over and over again?
While the question may seem valid, the answer lies in the nature of God. If you have been paying attention to our Holy Father Francis, this has been a constant theme in his preaching. God is mercy. God proclaimed this truth before Moses as we read in the thirty-fourth chapter of Exodus: So the LORD passed before him and proclaimed: The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. (Exodus 34:6-7a) All we need do to tap into this fount of mercy is to confess our wrongdoing. "It cannot be that simple," the cynic cries. However, the simple truth is that it is just that simple.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator