Friday, October 04, 2013

St. Francis of Assisi

I have had so many great ideas for blog posts lately.

And you're wondering:  So where are all these fantastic posts?  Still ideas!  :o)


Today is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.  Whether you are Catholic or not, most people have heard of him.  Especially now that our newest pope took his name, more has been made known about this amazing man of God.

Having said that, though, Francis lived in a time and place where written history wasn't commonplace.  Much of what we "know" about him is actually legend.  (Like the, "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words" quote.)  Much is attributed to him which he probably didn't actually say or do.  However, it is very possible the actions or words were due to his influence on someone else, and so he was given credit.

He was born in 1182, in a time when villages and districts in Italy had many battles for rule.  It was also a time of definite class distinctions, though the weight of power had shifted from land-owning families to the merchant classes by the time he was an adult.  Still, there were many rivalries between ruling families.  Francis was one of those involved in the warring.  He was also a party boy.  He was wealthy and spoiled, and used his wealth to have a good time.

He was captured in a battle between the city of Assisi and neighboring Perugia.  He was a prisoner of war for a year.  During that time, he became very ill and began considering life in light of eternity.  Though his conversion was not immediate, this did begin the process of God drawing Francis to Himself.  He eventually left the military, left his family wealth, and turned to God in a radical way.

Grant me the treasure of sublime poverty: permit the distinctive sign of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of your name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging.


Grant me the treasure of divine poverty:  permit the distinctive of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of Your name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging.

His devotion to the literal meaning of "sell all you have, take up your cross, and follow Me" was so foreign to the political and religious leaders of his time.  To them, following Christ was meant to be lucrative, and give one a great position.  Francis did not fall into that trap.  Instead, he embraced the life of poverty completely.  Those who joined him would be asked to do the same:  live without everything, trusting God to supply all that was needed.  If He did not supply it, then Francis felt he did not need it!

There are many amazing stories told of his relationship with animals (speaking to wolves, birds coming to him, etc.).  Again, most of these accounts are likely legend.  He did have a great love for all creation and creatures though, realizing that all things created by God reflect their Creator in some way.  In this, we can see his childlike wonder at God's many means of revealing Himself to mankind.

And though, as I said, the majority of the quotes credited to him are more than likely not things he actually said, the words do mirror his life.  They summarize the way he lived.  His life was one of showing Christ to others by living out the message of the Gospels.  So, in this way, he relied less on his words than on his life.

This seems to be the message Pope Francis is trying to convey to our world in 2013.  Though his words have been skewed many times by media outlets, the truth is this:  he is trying to help us all return to lives of simplicity and lives of service to all.  In a world where "causes" are all the rage, we need to learn to live for only one cause:  showing Christ's love to all we meet.  We cannot do that when we are storming off on every popular tangent.  While it is true that we should support ideologies that reflect biblical principles, it is all the more undeniable that our lives should embody Christ's message of loving the least.  Railing at people is not the way to show His sacrificial love.

As Catholics, we do not view the saints as perfect humans who were only slightly less holy than Jesus.  We know they had faults, and sometimes did some things that were not actually Christlike.  They were human, in every sense of the word.  We do hold them up as examples of what it means to strive toward holiness and allow our lives to exemplify the Gospel.

May we take on the challenge of allowing Christ to form Himself in us, and mold us into the saints He has called us to be.

*For more detailed information on the life of St. Francis, this is a great resource.

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.
Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.
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