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FSC Associate Articles

Francis and the Lepers: A Conversion Story in Three Movements - Sister Maryann Dosen, OSF

Saturday, June 17, 2023 - By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

The story about Francis of Assisi and the leper is a familiar one to many people.  Francis was afraid of lepers and made an effort to avoid them, but God was working in Francis’ life to bring about a conversion.

 

The story about Francis’ conversion was presented as having three movements: 1) before Francis’ encounter with the leper, 2) Francis’ encounter with the leper and 3) after Francis’ encounter with the leper.

 

Sr. Maryann explained what leprosy was and how it affected a person’s life. Leprosy was a communicable disease that didn’t have a cure. Leprosy damaged the nerves, skin, eyes, and nose of the affected person. Towns in Francis’ time had narrow streets, so lepers weren’t allowed to be near other people. When they were found in the city, lepers were fair game for beatings.

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St. Francis and the Leper

If a person was found with something resembling leprosy, they were taken away from their home to a leprosaria which is hospital or center for the care of people with leprosy. Any money the person had was confiscated for their care. Wealthy people, poor people and nobles were afflicted with leprosy. No one was immune to this disease.

 

The city of Assisi is perched on a hill. Lepers in the time of Francis lived below the city. When the lepers looked up towards Assisi, they were reminded of what they had lost because of their leprosy.

 

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The group of Associates and Sisters gathered for Sr. Maryann’s presentation speculated that the lepers would have felt alone and abandoned by God. Another assumption is that the nobles and wealthy people would have wondered why they were singled out with the affliction of leprosy despite their money and status. 

In The Testament of St. Francis, Francis talked about his experience with the leper: “And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world.”  Francis experienced God’s presence which caused him to see the leper as a person. Because of his encounter with the leper, Francis walked away from his previous life; family, money, and security.

 

Other lepers and passers-by most likely witnessed Francis’ encounter with the leper. We considered what their reactions may have been. Some may have been curious about Francis’ intentions or were stunned by what they were witnessing. Others may have wondered if Francis was crazy or if he was acting out a ruse that would result in harm to other lepers.  

Assisi, Itlay

 

After his encounter with the leper, Francis and the Brothers as well as Clare and the Sisters cared for the lepers.   

 

Sr. Maryann posed a question to the group. What did each of the characters in this story have to overcome?  We determined that Francis had to overcome fear, preconceived notions, and his repulsion to the lepers. The leper had to overcome fear, a lack of trust in Francis’ intentions, and his feelings of being worthless. Other lepers also had to overcome a lack of trust in Francis.

 

Sr. Maryann also asked what conclusions we can draw from Francis’ encounter with the leper. One answer from the group was that we always need to see others as people.  Also, we shouldn’t judge others or fear them because of their circumstances. 

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St. Francis and the Wolf of Grubbio near the entrance of the Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of Victory Convent in Lemont. 

Discipleship for Easter People - Presenter: Sr. Janice Keenan, OSF - Saturday May 13, 2023

By Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

To begin our Associate day, we heard a reading from Matthew 5:43-48 where Jesus teaches His followers about loving all people, not just people who are like them. The lesson Jesus taught in this reading was echoed in a video clip from The Chosen that Sr. Janice showed us.

 

The Chosen is a TV series about the life of Christ. The video clip gave examples of Jesus’ mercy and love. Many familiar miracles that Jesus performed were portrayed in this clip such as curing the woman with the hemorrhage, healing the crippled man, casting the demons out of Mary Magdalene, and multiplying the loaves and fishes to feed the multitudes.

Sr. Janice asked the group of Sisters and Associates gathered in Marian Hall to give examples of Jesus’ interactions with people that showed God’s mercy. We shared the first example that came to mind with our table mates along with a reason why we chose this example. Afterwards, there was sharing among the larger group.

 

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One example given was the healing of Bartimaeus because Jesus gave Bartimaeus a voice in his healing. Another example was when Jesus fed the multitudes. He was moved with pity because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The example that came to my mind was when Jesus saw Zacchaeus up in the tree and told Zacchaeus to come down. The story reminded me that God sees everyone and always has time for us.

We watched another video clip from The Chosen where Jesus called Simon. In this video clip, Simon and Andrew are in their boat near the shore. They had been fishing all night without any luck. Jesus was nearby teaching a group of people. Jesus asked if He could use their boat because He had one last parable to teach.

 

When Jesus finished His lesson, He told Simon and Andrew to go out a little ways and cast their nets. Simon was tired and frustrated but did as Jesus had asked. Many fish jumped into their net, and they struggled to get the net into the boat. Simon realized who Jesus was, knelt before Him, apologized for the mistakes he had made in his life and asked Jesus what He wanted. Jesus told Simon “Follow me”.  Jesus showed compassion towards Simon and Andrew by providing fish to catch after they had no luck on their own.

Sr. Janice gave us a handout titled Meditation on Mercy by Sister Celestine Menin, AVI and we were given some time to read, reflect, and answer the questions. After the group got back together, we reviewed the meditation. One of the reflections was a sharing exercise for everyone gathered in Marian Hall. We were to fill in the blank of this statement:  My heart is moved with pity for _____.  Many people gave a specific name of someone who needed compassion and kindness.  Since May is the time of year for graduations, what came to my mind is young people who are struggling with the next step of their schooling or finding a job after graduation. We did another sharing exercise with our tablemates. This reflection was to acknowledge someone who has shown us a human face of mercy. The person that came to my mind was someone who had forgiven my mistakes multiple times.

Another part of the reflection was to think about how we can offer mercy to others. The reflection offered some suggestions. For example, forgiving those who hurt us, bearing wrongs patiently, consoling the afflicted and recognizing that people who are hurting may not show any physical signs.     

 

Sr. Janice started off her presentation by telling us that Jesus is the face of mercy, and we are made in God’s image, so we are also the face of mercy. Sr. Janice’s presentation was a good reminder to me that showing mercy towards someone doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. There are things one can do every day to show kindness, compassion, and mercy towards others.

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