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St Francis di Girolamo
(entered heaven on this day, 1716)
You are understandably looking forward to a well-earned vacation. But I can’t help thinking that you are looking forward to it a bit too much. Is it possible that you have fallen victim to the rampant “weekend mentality”? It’s the mentality that “lives for the weekend” (or for the vacation). In other words, instead of finding meaning in life as a mission, as a task that includes work and friendships and family, plus a bit of relaxation and entertainment to keep balanced, the weekend mentality considers everything else to be a means for achieving the longest and most indulgent relaxation/entertainment activities possible.
Underlying this devilish mentality is the assumption that we exist merely in order to enjoy ourselves, not to give ourselves. It’s the “fulfillment from self-indulgence not from self-giving” approach to life. And it’s a deadly one. Today’s saint may help shake you out of it, if you happen to be falling into it.
Francis was energetic by nature. He was the oldest of eleven children, and while still a teenager impressed the priests of his town and was taken on by them as a Catechism instructor. Later, he moved to Naples with one of his brothers, where he studied Canon and Civil Law. He finished his studies rapidly and received a special dispensation to be ordained when he was still under 24 years of age (the minimum required by Canon Law).
His brilliant intellect and powerful communications skills won him a position teaching at the Jesuit Collegio dei Nobili (school for aristocrats) in Naples. He held that position for five years. Then he convinced his family to allow him to join the Jesuit Order. For the rest of his life, he threw himself into missionary activity there in southern Italy, around the beautiful but chaotic and vicious city of Naples.
His official position was preacher at the Gesu Nuovo Church, which became his center of operations. From the start his concise, energetic rhetorical style (plus his holiness of life) attracted huge crowds to his sermons. And he began to teach other missionaries so as to multiply his efforts. He was tireless in his efforts to win sinners back to Christ and to show Christ’s love to the poor and indigent. He traveled from village to village on foot, visited prisons, galley slaves, and even preached to the brothels. He became the father of Naples’ poor, and they flocked around his coffin when he finally died, exhausted by his labors and worn out by a painful sickness, at the age of 75.
For St Francis, there wasn’t enough time in the day to do what ought to be done for Christ and his Kingdom. And I must say that times haven’t changed that much – perhaps even more nowadays than back in the 1700s suffering souls are dying to hear the Good News. They just need someone to bring it to them in a way that they can relate to, in a way that makes it understandable and relevant. Maybe you can think about that during your vacation, which ought to be a time to recharge your batteries, not run them down.
Your loving uncle,