Sign of Contradiction

Reflection Aid

Sign of Contradiction is rich in content and to watch it once is to try to drink from a fire hydrant.  Hopefully these reflections and questions will assist you in getting the most out of the film.  

I hope this guide provides direction for you as you seek to be conformed to Jesus.

God bless,

Fr. Dave

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Reflection Guide

General Discussion Questions to be used after watching the entire film for the first time:

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  • What did you learn about St. Francis that you did not know before?

  • In one sentence, what message do you take away from watching Sign of Contradiction?

  • How might you and St. Francis be similar?

OPENING - WHO IS FRANCIS? 

We often have misconceptions of our saints; we make them what we want them to be. Frequently, we make them out to be very different than ourselves, but in many ways, they are very much like us. At times we also make God in our image; who we think God is or who we want him to be. As we grow in faith, our understanding and experience of God also changes. When I was younger I had an image of a God who loved me more if I always behaved and was perfect. That’s not the case; God’s love for me is not dependent on my being perfect. I can’t earn God’s love.  My image of God changed.

  • Misconceptions of Jesus and the Saints

    • How has your image of St. Francis changed? (Or possibly the saint of your choice.) 

    • Has your image of God ever changed?

    • How might you and St. Francis be similar?

PATHS 

We are all on a path going somewhere. Francis began a journey that he hoped would bring him fame, recognition, power, and wealth. He believed that these things would satisfy the longings of his heart.  Ultimately the path that Francis was on was leading him to . . . Francis, to himself. Slowly, after time and various encounters with God, he began to see the path that God was inviting him to follow. 

  • As humans we are limited. We can’t control everything, we don’t see the whole picture that is life, and we can’t do everything. Being limited is not a bad thing, rather it helps shape our identity.  Francis wrestled with his limits, but these limits helped shape his identity.

    • How do you deal with limitations?  Is it ok to be weak? 

  • Francis’ defeat in battle caused him to reevaluate his life and the direction of his life. 

    • What has happened in your life that caused you to reevaluate who you are, what you value, and what path you are on? 

  • Francis wrestled with this most fundamental question: who is it better to serve?

    • Who is it better to serve: the servant or the Master? Who are you tempted to serve other than the Master?

    • How might you and St. Francis be similar?

CONFRONTATION 

Francis’ life begins to change when, by the grace of God, he confronts his authentic self. In this he encounters God and this leads to encountering God in many other ways. The Holy Spirit heals his blindness and Francis begins to see God’s presence all around him.

  • Francis sees his selfishness, how he served himself and pushed God to the side. And yet, he came to understand that God loved him in the midst of his mess. He does not have to be something or someone else; he does not have to play a role for the Lord to love him.

    • What do you see in your life that you long to change? What bothers you? God loves you in the midst of that. He can give you the grace to be changed.

    • “Who we are before God is who we are.” What does that mean to you?

  • Francis confronts the leper who represented everything Francis despised. They had no power or influence; they could do nothing for Francis. And yet, Francis embraced the leper and encountered Jesus and what was bitter became sweet. The situation of the leper did not change, but Francis changed.

    • Who is the leper in your life?

    • Who or what is bitter in your life? Imagine what it might feel like if this bitterness was no longer there. Surrender it to the Lord and allow the Lord to make it sweet. 

  • Francis is confronted by God and hears Jesus speak to him from the San Damiano Cross. Francis has found the root to joy which is beyond all comprehension. He is beginning to understand that God has a plan for his life.

    • Jesus is the source of all goodness, peace, and joy. How have you experienced this?

    • What is God’s will for your life? It’s ok if you don’t know exactly, but start by picking up one brick.

    • How might you and St. Francis be similar?

ENOUGH 

The process of conversion for Francis was one of being emptied and letting go, rather than acquiring. Our lives are full of so many things that cause us hurt, anxiety and trouble, such as anger, the past, regret, and a desire for power and control. Francis came to understand that peace was only possible if all that was not of God was rooted out of his heart.

  • Francis’ troubled relationship with his Father and subsequent trial before the Bishop was certainly a source of difficulty for him. But it was also a turning point for Francis in his letting go of the things of the world and clinging to his heavenly Father. 

    • St. Bonaventure, the seventh Minster General of the Franciscans, quotes Francis: “All of my treasure and all of my hope is in my heavenly father.” Where is your treasure, your hope?  

    • What fills your heart, your mind? What takes up space in your life that God may desire to fill instead? 

  • Francis was led by the Holy Spirit. At times he may not have been able to see how God was leading him, but over time this became clearer. God’s Spirit desires to enter and transform any heart that is open.

    • How do you open your heart to be filled and transformed by the Holy Spirit?

  • Francis discovered that to live is to die; to be the first is to be the last. While we are not called to live a life exactly like Francis, these truths should be a part of our path to God.

    • Who holds the reins of your life? Are you able to surrender them to God? 

    • How might you and St. Francis be similar?

PENANCE 

Francis was invited to live penance and he preached penance.  I believe this is key to what Francis might be saying to us today. Will we consider living penance?  This means:

  • Love of God - We understand that God loves us and we in turn are to love him with all our heart, mind and soul and give him control of our life. 

  • Love of neighbor – Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbor, and often, our neighbor is also the leper. It could be a family member, a coworker, someone in the parish, or one of “those” people. Jesus commands us to love them and when we do, we find God.

  • Hatred of sin - Sin is in direct conflict with trying to live a holy, joyful, and peaceful life. We must do all we can to recognize our sin and let God help root it out.

  • Participation in the Sacraments - When we go to the sacraments, we encounter Jesus.  Eucharist every Sunday, monthly confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament all help empty our heart so that God may fill it.

  • Living penance produces worthy fruits of penance - Some fruits of penance are charity, peace, joy, and patience.  Prayer is also central to living a penitential life.  Finally, fasting is a fruit of penance that help empty us to encounter Christ.  

    • Reflect on how your life might look different if you chose to live a life of penance. What might need to change in your life to live penance? 

  • Francis experienced a Church that was facing tremendous difficulties. The priests were not being faithful and the laity were cold towards the things of God. He started to rebuild the Church one brick at a time by living a life of holiness and virtue.

    • God has called each of us to be a saint and to help rebuild the Church. What can you do to respond to God to first be holy and help repair the Church?  

  • Francis reflects on the humility of God, (God takes flesh in Jesus as a baby; this baby is eventually crucified and now comes to us in the Eucharist.)  

    • What does it mean to you that God is humble, that he became small? If God is humble, what might he ask of you?  

    • How might you and St. Francis be similar?

CONFORMITIES

St. Francis experienced the depths of God’s love in the cross. St. Therese of Lisieux stated that God shows his love by allowing us a taste of His cross.  So often we are deceived to believe that the cross is some type of sign that God is distant or not present. Francis discovered exactly the opposite; God is present in our suffering. Francis also experienced rejection from his own brothers but was still able to proclaim the goodness and love of God.  Even if brothers abandoned him, he was not alone.

    • What does it mean to you that you are not alone in your suffering? God is with you. How have you experienced this?

  • Francis longed for silence, and was constantly retreating from the busyness of the world in order to be still, to spend time with and seek God.  

    • God calls each of us to a lifelong process of being conformed to Jesus. Time alone with God is a central component to our conversion. How do you experience God drawing you into relationship with him through silence and prayer?

  • Francis states that he had done what was his to do, and now invites us to do what is ours. God has a path, a will for each of us that will lead us to holiness and ultimately to reign with God for ever.  

    • What does God have for you to do? What will you do in order to come to understand His will for you more perfectly?

    • How are you and St. Francis similar?

    • After prayer and reflection, what are you taking away from Sign of Contradiction?