When I was making my college decision (back in the dark ages before things like Facebook, Twitter and smartphones), I had no idea what Franciscan meant. I grew up Catholic, but as a public school kid who learned her catechism on Saturday mornings the nuances of different traditions within in the faith escaped me. I got a crash course when I picked St. Bonaventure as my institution of higher learning, a Franciscan university which at the time didn’t go over well with my Jesuit-based family. But all I knew was at St. Bonaventure I would get to study journalism and write for the school paper immediately. As a bonus, I would get to be a manager for the women’s basketball team. Score and score.
Turns out, for me, I was exactly where I needed to be. Not just because of the educational opportunities both in and out of the classroom. But because there was something very powerful in this Franciscan tradition I was learning about. There was something open and welcoming. There was something right about me being in this place, in this culture. Something tells me I was always a Franciscan. I just didn’t know it.
Today is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. Chances are you’ve heard the peace prayer at some point in your life. This the guy. One of the reasons I love him is for his contradictions. He enjoyed life and people and service. But he also enjoyed nature and peace and quite. He had a rowdy past that evolved into deep compassion and empathy. He was about being unique. Being yourself. And being in service. (At least this is my interpretation of him. I make no claim that this is definitive.)
As odd as it may sound, I thought of St. Francis this morning during my rest intervals of 600 meter repeats at the track. It was my first track workout in some time and I was a bit intimidated. I wasn’t sure I’d make my times. I wasn’t sure how my body was going to feel. But as my calendar reminded me of today’s feast day, I relaxed. Really? How fast I run 600 meter repeats does not define who I am. There’s no real reason to be nervous about my workout. I have the privilege of running for joy this morning. I focused on the joy. On the movement. On being outside. And yes, even on the revolt in my hamstrings and the puke factor I was pushing back by interval No. 4. Somehow, I think St. Francis might have enjoyed playing the track game with me. Because even when things are difficult or frustrating or boring, approaching them with kindness and heartfelt intentions can change the entire nature of the game.