Guest Post: Alan McManus on The Feast of St Francis

The Feast of St Francis is increasingly being marked in the church these days, most obviously by services for the blessing of animals. St Mary’s will be having just such a service on Sunday afternoon at 2.30 pm. However, Francis is about a good deal more than animal blessings. In this guest post, Dr Alan McManus reflects on the challenges that Francis presents to us as we celebrate his legacy on this his feast day. Alan is the author of, Alchemy at the Chalkface: Pirsig, Pedagogy and the Metaphysics of Quality, on  and, Only Say The Word: Affirming Gay and Lesbian Love, forthcoming from Circle Books. He runs Alchemical Life Coaching and is the animating force behind Tent City Theatre Company, both based in Glasgow. Alan attends St Mary’s Cathedral.

Did you see the news last week about the young Frenchman, the MIT (LSE?) drop-out who publicly kissed a paedophile priest, liberated twenty beagles from an in-vivo tobacco testing lab and then forced his way into the Stock Exchange – was it Wall St? the Bourse? – stripped off his clothes and left them at the feet of his father?

It may have been the son of a Cathar cloth merchant, a leper, a lion with a thorn in its paw and a market square in 12th century Umbria. I’m hazy on the details. Anyway, it was big. Unofficial Church sources say it’s “too politically sensitive to touch” but local people have reacted positively and are putting up bird baths in his honour.

Francesco, the ‘Frenchman’, was nothing if not theatrical. Which is one of the reasons why I love him and possibly one of the reasons why, twenty years ago, I spent a year as a Franciscan ‘postulant’ and novice. Although I didn’t know it at the time. What attracted me then was his simplicity, his spontaneity and his spirituality of identification with the poor.

The poor (like schalmtz) will be with us always. We had that on good authority 2,000 years ago and it’s one prediction that has stood the test of time.

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