The True Celebrity: St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

A few years ago when my youngest niece was only 5, she walked in the living room and said, “Mother, I am so mad at you, you have done nothing to make me famous.”

In our world today so many young people seem to long for the attention and status that celebrity offers.  Someyoung  models, singers and actors seem to be willing to go to increasingly scandalous and bizarre lengths to attract attention.

Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus

Sinead O’Connor, the once controversial Irish Singer, recently wrote an open letter to Miley Cyrus on the occasion of the release of Cyrus’s new album.  O’ Connor’s letter was frank and motherly warning Miley to be an artist and not to get co-opted by her own desire for fame or other’s desire to profit from her notoriety.   She writes:

“You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever… Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty… which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognize those who do not.”

The letter was especially touching because of O’Connor’s admission of her own mistakes and challenges.

October 4 is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most famous and recognizable figures of all of history.  Though universally admired now, he was a source of much debate in his day.  His message was challenging to so many groups, in large part because there was little disparity between what he preached and what he lived.  What he preached was a message of love, of wonder, of truth and of faithfulness to God in Jesus Christ.  He lived with a sense of awe amid God’s creation, of compassion for the poor, of peace among people.   He did not need a publicist to become known, becoming famous was not his goal.   True fame, spiritual celebrity,  is never a goal but an outcome of living an exemplary life that points towards something greater.

To my my dear niece and all children like her who desire instant celebrity status, let it be the fame of the sort that Francis and not that of the tabloid star.