Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Eucharistic Catholic Church, Toronto
Transitus and Solemnity of our Father Saint Francis October 3 2016
Celebrating the Transitus of our Father Saint Francis and the Mass of the Solemnity one after the other is unusual. But doing so, as we do this year, gives us an opportunity to experience anew the power of the Resurrection of Christ through the example of Saint Francis. This evening we commemorate both his death and his entrance into new life in Christ.
Saint Francis called death “Sister Death”. As he did with all other creatures, Saint Francis enters into relationship with death, and calls her ‘Sister’. How can one truly embrace death in this way?
I remember as a teenager in High School, when I was considering a vocation to the Franciscans, at a time when I was quite taken by Saint Francis, coming across Saint Francis calling death “Sister Death”, and not able to understand how he could do this; what it could possibly mean. I don’t pretend that I understand it that much better now!
We might think that Saint Francis embraced death because he didn’t suffer; that, somehow, he was so saintly, so united with Christ, that what seemed like suffering outwardly was not experienced as suffering inwardly. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. Saint Francis suffered in his body. He wasn’t able to call death “Sister” because he didn’t suffer, he was able call death ‘Sister’ because he accepted death as one of the many facets of life. And, he experienced death as the necessary passage to his beloved.
And so, while death, and the time preceding death, involved a real suffering, Saint Francis understood, and accepted in faith, that it was a necessary passage, a necessary passage in every life, a necessary passage to life with God.
And death is not only our physical death. There are many deaths in our lives. This afternoon I had to make time to wash our car floor mats. As I was scrubbing in the backyard, the memory came to mind of having gotten those car mats while visiting one of our convents. These Franciscan companions of ours are no longer with us, having decided to leave us. This too is a death. Any transition that imposes itself on us, any broken relationship, any move which leaves loved ones behind, all these are deaths. They are all “Sister Death”.
Let us rejoice then, that Saint Francis shows us that the way to a good death is in living our lives in Christ; that, if we truly experience God in all creatures, we will experience God in death as well.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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