Pope Benedict says the conversion story of St. Francis, the “playboy,” is key

Pope Benedict says the conversion story of St. Francis, the “playboy,” is key

.- The Holy Father met this morning with priests from the Diocese of Albano, a diocese on the outskirts of Rome, speaking to them of the importance St. Francis’s conversion can play in the lives of young people.  Pope Benedict also encouraged them to do a better job of explaining the Church’s understanding of the covenant of marriage to those who have divorced, APCom reports.

The Pope met with the priests in the Swiss Hall of his summer residence at Castelgandolfo.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, the Holy Father told the men that they should use the conversion story of St. Francis of Assisi as an example for young people in their diocese.  

The Pope stressed that the young Saint’s conversion is his real significance for the Catholic Church.

Francis (1181-1226) was the son of a well-to-do merchant in the town of Assisi. Historians say that as a young man he lived a carefree and irresponsible life focused on pursuing the ideals of his day.

Young Francis was drawn by the “glamour” of the military life, but underwent a dramatic conversion during a year he spent as a prisoner of war in Perugia.  Upon his return to Assisi he witnessed the terrible conditions in which beggars and lepers in his own city lived and renounced his former life.

Francis left his wealthy home to live as a hermit and devoted himself to looking after the sick and rebuilding decaying churches around Assisi. In 1209 he decided to live in total poverty and to spend his time preaching.

"First he was sort of playboy but then he felt that this was no longer sufficient," Benedict continued, according to ANSA.

Pope Benedict said the story was one which could "animate the young" and inspire them embrace the Church.

He also lamented that St. Francis name is sometimes "exploited" by being associated with political ideologies, apart from his Catholic message.

The Pontiff was apparently referring to a tendency by environmentalists and pacifists to evoke the medieval saint, who founded the Franciscan order of friars, as a champion of their causes. Francis, the Pontiff reportedly said, "was above all a convert."

The Pope also told the priests to remember the importance of the Sacrament of Matrimony in the Church and to do a better job preaching this significance, according to the APCom story.

In addition to being a great sign of love for the world, the Pope said, weddings, “are also an occasion to encounter people who don’t always come to Sunday Mass.”

This provides an opportunity to reach out, but it is also “a great responsibility” for pastoral evangelization.  The Pope noted that there are often many divorced Catholics who come to weddings, “who wish to go to communion and don’t know why its not possible.”

“Probably,” Benedict continued, “they didn’t understand, at the moment of their ‘I do,’ that this ‘I do’ is a Covenant with the Lord, in the midst of the Sacrament and the Church.”

"They need to understand this fidelity and, as such, to understand the problem of divorced people remarrying,” the Pope concluded.

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