Walking Around with a Chirp on the Shoulder


With the feast of St. Francis of Assisi right around the corner now, I found myself thinking back to the fall when my son was four.  Halloween that year fell on a Sunday and College Church– wishing to avoid a deluge of frightening costumes that might thrill some little ones and terrify others—suggested that the children come dressed up as saints.  Micah (whose middle name is Francisco) consented to put aside his Pokemon Squirtle costume for the morning to come as St. Francis of Assisi.  We took one of my husband’s brown tee shirts, tied it with a rope around the middle and … ta-da: St. Francis.  But not wanting to tonsure him at such a tender age, we needed to add something further to the costume to hint at who he was trying to represent.  We found one of those small fake decorative birds that might go on a door wreath or make a fine Christmas ornament, and we pinned it to his shoulder.   As we walked into the church a parishioner stopped and looked down at Micah and said, “Well, I’ve met a lot of people before with a chip on their shoulder, but I’ve never met anyone with a chirp on their shoulder.”

The comment makes me laugh whenever it comes to mind, but it also has made me think:  Which kind of person am I?  I realize that I go through season in life—some when life feels very heavy and my shoulders not up to the task; others when I could sing a song of gratitude starting before dawn.  A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to preach on the four beatitudes from Luke that are paired up with four—what shall we call them?—woes?  What struck me looking at this passage this time round was that it was saying there are times when we’ll be up and times when we’ll be down.  These aren’t necessarily different groups of people Jesus is talking about but possibly all of us at different times.  Our lives are not static.  Don’t get attached to any season of life.  In the spirit of St. Francis, learn to be grateful for them all.  I didn’t end up preaching on that theme exactly, but it was definitely in the back of my mind when I wrote this reflection!

Wishing you a blessed feast day!  May you bring peace and joy wherever you walk this coming week.

P.S.  This week I'll be with the Felician Sisters at the Felican Leadership Summit in Chicago.  We'll be talking about the encyclical Fratelli Tutti which begins with another wonderful story of St. Francis meeting the sultan Malik al-Kamil.  If you don't know about this story, it is a beautiful one on the power of dialogue.  Check it out here.