The photo above is from the King James version of the Bible I was using prior to my conversion. Protestants have many flavors of the Bible. Most of my pastors taught from this one. My point with this is regarding “red letter” editions. In red letter editions, the four gospels use red type for words attributed to Jesus. My becoming a Franciscan is intertwined with my conversion to the Catholic faith. [you will want to be sure you have read my post “Why I Am A Catholic”] After my first trip to Italy, I became aware there was more to my Christian history than was contained in my Bible and the parts I knew of the Reformation. I had bought a book called “The Gospel According to Jesus” by John MacArthur. I wanted to focus solely on the “red letters” if you will. What did Jesus say? This is the time when the WWJD (What would Jesus do?) bracelets were in the height of popularity. I had a spiritual void that I didn’t know how to fill. I grew up around a fair amount of church turmoil. My church was the result of a split congregation. At one point my family had “picked up our toys” and went elsewhere for awhile. Sadly, my parents are still often “between” churches.
It was in the midst of this inner spiritual turmoil that I met the friend who pointed me to the Catholic Mass. I dug into apologetics. My friend had suggested Scott Hahn’s “Rome Sweet Home.” I’m sure I’ll blog more about that in other posts. I did not take my conversion lightly. I approached another friend about going to Mass with her. By chance, or divine fate, I found myself in a parish administered by OFM Conventual Franciscan friars. I was oriented into the faith through my interactions with these friars and the wonderful RCIA team. After I was received into the church at Easter 1999, I began looking for the next thing. My family had always said I would be a preachers wife or a nun. I’m still single so my family got nervous when I became Catholic. Mom cried on the phone at one point in fear I was headed to the nearest cloister. No. But, I decided to learn more about this St. Francis of Assisi.
Soon after Easter, I read two books (1) The Lessons of St. Francis by John Michael Talbot, and (2) St. Francis of Assisi – A Biography by Omer Engelbert. I have to say, this is the point where my eyes were opened fully to my Christian history gap. I’m not even sure I knew he was the bird bath and the bird feeder. I knew nothing of the church fathers. I had been limited to names such as Luther and Calvin. When you think the Reformation is early 1500’s, I was missing some details after the book of Acts, a few letters and a supernatural Revelation. The thing that astounded me about Francis was his adherence to the “red letters.” Francis would’ve been all over a red letter edition of the holy scriptures. The other thing that astounded me about Francis is that I see him as the opposite of Martin Luther. Francis had his “road to Damascus” experience where “a voice” sent him back to Assisi. In the church of San Damiano, praying before the crucifix, Christ spoke to him, “Francis, go repair My house, which is falling in ruins.” For a short while, Francis piled and stacked literal stones of church buildings that were in disrepair. Realizing that repairing the Church was to be a spiritual endevour, Francis began to preach penitence.
The exciting truth I found here was this: Francis worked within the church. He remained faithful to the Pope and the Catholic Church. Not only that, I’d never read of anyone who so closely tried to live exactly as the red letters dictated. His union with Christ was so complete he received the wounds of the crucifixion on his own body. I was 100% sure of my decision on Easter Sunday 1999. After reading the life of St. Francis, I was 200% sure of the path I was following. His first Rule was litterly an assembly of “red letter” verses from the Gospels. I began google searching for Franciscan vocations. In the life of Francis, I found my model for continuing conversion. It’s easy for people to shirk off that no one could possibly live like Jesus did and as he commanded. But, there are models of the faith who lived after Jesus and did their very best.
The red letters are also why I’m Catholic. I was a good Baptist, reading my red letters.
And lastly for your musical entertainment. One of my favorite DC Talk songs, The Red Letters. My favorite DC Talk CD is “Supernatural”. I attended that concert tour. I saw this song performed live just as you will see in the video. The video is in English with, I think, Spanish subtitles. Watch this video. Listen to the words. Imagine Francis. It delights me.