Reminders of our fallen humanity appear around every corner these days. Violence, sickness, sadness, fear, depression. If we were ever tempted, like our first parents, to think we were gods—or even angels—I doubt that we are tempted any longer.
But this sad state isn’t the result simply of our humanity. Far from it. As a Franciscan, I’m especially drawn to St. Francis’ emphasis on the humanity of Jesus. St. Francis, of course, didn’t dare deny Jesus’ divinity, but he saw in our incarnate Redeemer the redemption of our own human nature. Jesus was—and remains—one of us.
Jesus was born like any man, so St. Francis popularized our devotion to the Christmas manger. Jesus also died as every man will, and St. Francis fostered the Stations of the Cross, those human scenes of Jesus’ suffering. So “in-tune” was St. Francis with our incarnate Savior that he received the stigmata, the wounds marking Jesus’ body. Let us recall St. Francis and, with his help, the blessed humanity of Jesus this October 4, his feast day.
There’s a second great feast day in October, that of Our Lady of the Rosary. This celebration remembers the great Battle of Lepanto in 1571. On October 7, the Catholic faithful, led by Pope St. Pius V, prayed the Rosary for a Christian victory over the Turkish fleet in western Greece. Since then, October has been a “month of the Rosary,” and October 7 the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
In light of these two feasts, October becomes a month to meditate upon our humanity falling upward! St. Thérèse of Lisieux (another October feast day—October 1), in fact, likened the rosary to a chain that draws earth to heaven.
Our humanity, though fallen, is meant to rise to great heights. “We were,” St. Paul writes, “buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
As we enter into October, don’t let the fall months eclipse our upward trajectory. Like St. Thérèse of Lisieux (October 1), St. Francis of Assisi (October 4), and Our Lady (October 7), we are destined for a glorious eternity.
+William Patrick Callahan, Bishop of La Crosse