The last time I touched base with Fr. Francis, he was in the rectory’s living room, thinking back to the first time he was assigned to St. Boniface parish. Over the years, disappointments, disillusionments and distress at learning things he’d rather not know have nibbled away at the priest’s optimism. Physical, emotional and psychological losses piled one atop another. He experienced what we all do, life’s gritty reality fraying our innocence and wearing us down.
With each year, this season of giving makes losses all the sharper. As we pack up handmade ornaments and holiday décor, each with its own story, we put our memories back in the closet for another year. But the Prayer of St. Francis chides us not to seek to be consoled but to console; to be understood but to understand. “For it is in giving that we receive.”
How we deal with life’s losses is up to us. It’s one of the reasons that his namesake’s prayer is the priest’s favorite. It acknowledges our darker tendencies, but with help, whether temporal or divine, our better selves triumph. Pardon as response to injury. Hope over despair. Positives and negatives. It’s like one of those optical illusions in which you can see a beautiful young woman or an old hag, depending on how you look at it. Life as a glass half full or half empty.
Fr. Francis will make choices in Clifton that are influenced by experiences and tempered by prayer.