St. Francis of Assisi, Apostle of the Mixed Life
August 27, 2009 § Leave a comment
Thomas Merton, in his book No Man Is An Island, describes St. Francis in glowing terms as the exemplary “Apostle of the Mixed Life”. I found this to be the best title for my dear patron St. Francis that I have ever heard. What does Merton mean by the mixed life? To paraphrase, the mixed life for Merton is a middle way between the contemplative life/vocation and the active life/vocation. To live the mixed life is to ground oneself firmly in the Rock that is Christ (the contemplative side), and allow daily life to flow out from this central point (the active life). Daily activities never impede the recollected soul from uniting itself with Christ; daily activities and goals never distract from the ultimate goal of salvation.
From this description, it seems that most of us – young singles in particular – live the mixed life. Perhaps we haven’t thought about it before, being anxious about discerning one of the two major vocations. But we are living a vocation in the here and now, the one to the mixed life. Whether or not God calls us to another later is His business, and He will do it in His good time. That said, let us take a look at St. Francis, the Apostle of the Mixed Life.
St. Francis felt called to live the Gospel out in his daily life. Originally, he did not want to become a religious; he did not want to start an order. For most of his life as a brother, he was constantly arguing that he did not want to write a rule for his Order; rather, he wanted each of his brothers to read the Gospel and discern how to apply that to their own lives, wherever they were. (Of course, when Francis did finally write the rule, the broad terms he used led to an almost immediate fracturing of the Order into many facets, as we see today.) As Merton points out (and this is interesting to meditate on), St. Francis never became a priest. He never celebrated the Mass; he attended His Lord in the Eucharist as part of the congregation.
St. Francis, Apostle of the Mixed Life, pray for us as we go about our daily activities.
(I will try to post the actual text from Merton later…he says it all so much more eloquently than I ever could.)