HO-HO-KUS, N.J. — Kevin Cronin, OFM, has launched his celebration of the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Order by speaking about the beloved saint’s devotion to God on both coasts of the United States.
In February, he spoke at a Catechetical Conference in Los Angeles. His workshop, called the “Challenge of St. Francis 1209-2009,” drew more than 800 participants from the 22,000 who attended the massive conference. His 75-minute workshop was among 120 others offered there. He also gave another workshop, “Conversations with Jesus from the Gospel.”
In April, he spoke about “The Challenge of St. Francis 1209-2009” at the Annual Spirituality Convocation offered at the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, N.J., sponsored by its office of spirituality development.
Exploring the Deeper Side of Francis
Kevin, a member of the Province’s Ministry of the Word team, often is called upon as a presenter on St. Francis. He said his goal is to continue raising public awareness of the saint. “I want to get Francis out of the bird bath and explore the deeper side of who he was.”
Most lay people, he said, only have a child-like appreciation of St. Francis. “They know that he was a good guy, but they don’t always realize the depth of his spirit.”
Kevin believes that Francis’ dynamism is illustrated by his devotion to the Christian life. “He was such a real Christian,” he said, “and fell in love with Jesus. This showed forth in everything he did. That’s why he has drawn so many followers over the ages. He is one of the most human of saints, and very down to earth.”
St. Francis, he said, is mostly known for his love of animals, but his love belongs to all of creation. “St. Francis loved God and saw everything in creation as a gift from his beloved God. God was his father, and Jesus, his brother, and everything else was in relationship.”
Kevin added that most people are familiar with the peace prayer of St. Francis, but do not realize that it wasn’t written by St. Francis, but about him. At his workshops, Kevin gives examples of prayers and other words and writings of St. Francis.
Following the Voice of God
“For Francis, it was, ‘my God and my all,’ the motto of the Order. He was so caught up in the mystery of it all. He didn’t start out to found a religious order; he simply followed the voice of God.”
Kevin, who enjoys speaking and teaching, is the author of two books, Kenosis: Self-Emptying and the Path of Christian Service, and A Friar’s Joy: Magic Moments from Real Life, both published by Continuum. He also has produced DVDs and CDs, and has given retreats. His Advent and Lenten retreats, given for the Diocese of Rockeville Centre on Long Island, N.Y., were broadcast on the diocese’s TV channel Telecare, (Cablevision, Channel 29).
He said he is using these speaking engagements as a kickoff of the 800th anniversary of the Order. “I wish more friars would tell people about St. Francis and the Franciscan movement. More people would like to know more about him.”
Kevin also believes that St. Francis will continue as a model for the Christian life, as more Americans continue to struggle with the place of God in their lives. St. Francis’ love of God, he said, seems to be a healthy antidote for the growing atheism in this country.
—Wendy Healy, a freelance writer, is an occasional contributor to HNP Today.