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On 4th of October the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Franciscans and friends of St. Francis around the world celebrated the passing away of a poor little man from life to eternal life. 

Francis the son of a prosperous merchant was born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy. As a young man he took active part in the city’s commercial, political and social life. During the war between Assisi and the nearby city of Perugia, he was captured and he had spent almost 2 years in enemy prison. The suffering he saw during the war made him think deeply about the meaning and purpose of his life.  

 

1205, he saw a vision of Jesus Christ and seeing this vision changed himself entirely and began to look upon God as his heavenly father. He rejected his inheritance and devoted his life solely for serving the poor.

What impresses modern humanity most, when faced with the figure of St. Francis of Assisi is, his gentleness with all beings, and his capacity for compassion with poor and even with death itself.

He wanted to unite great and small. To treat the wise and simple with brotherly affection. He treated everyone with utmost courtesy.

   Three aspects of his life:
1.    St. Francis a model of gentleness and care for poor.  
2.    His love for Nature.  
3.    Poverty as his ideal.  

 

 

St. Francis a model of gentleness and care for poor.

Thomas of Caleno, the first biographer of St. Francis speaks again and again about the theme of gentleness and affability in Francis’s relationship. He says he was enchanting in fraternal charity in affection, very wise when he gave council, always faithful to his obligations. He would listen to very person as if he was listening to a big crowd.  

 He was especially gentle with poor and the poorest of the poor, the lepers. The biographers are unanimous in stating that Francis’s first convention was to the poor and crucified in his fathers store for the poor. He could not stand anyone to be poorer than him and he gave away all his clothes leaving himself naked. The biographer explains the meaning of his gesture. He suffered to meet someone poorer than he not because of vainglory but because of a feeling of true compassion.  

 

 

 He was affectionate and gentle with lepers. Nothing seemed to him more abominable than the misery of the lepers and he began to live with the lepers caring for them, healing their wounds, and feeding them denying so to serve them even to the point of kissing them. His gentleness and care for poor was so great that he never even permitted himself to think ill of them. After years of living with the poor and lepers he heard the voice of Christ in San Damiano. The voice said, “Francis, go to rebuild my church which you can see, is falling into ruin”. Francis was challenged to rebuild not only the church, but also every relationship of his life.  

Francis’s love for Nature

First biographer, Thomas of Caleno testifies Francis’s love for Nature. According to Francis if all are children of God, all are brothers and sisters and enemies do not exist. So he called all creatures’ brothers and sisters. He showed genuine concern and deep love for all creations of God. In the presence of many flowers, he preached to them inviting them to praise the lord. He provided bees with honey and wine in winter, so that they would not perish from hunger and cold. He gathered worms in the road, so that the travelers would not step them on. Francis thanked God for permitting him to bring salvation – at least for a while to a worm one of whom Jesus compared himself. He understood the interrelationship and mutual dependence of all living beings and the perfect harmony and balance in nature.

          Francis’s drastic approach to minor situations alert in the way life’s greater values is revealed in small ways. In striving to be poor, he discarded all possessions. In grasping for peace in a warrior world he refused to harm even a worm. If we respect a worm, can we choose to harm or hate   a human?

 

     

Adopting absolute poverty as his ideal

          He started preaching the gospel and healing the sick. According to Francis, the real poor and the poor Christ are the criteria of true poverty. Francis never speaks abstractly about poverty. He called it lady poverty. He lived in poverty as an evangelical way of being of total availability and poverty as an expression of love for poor against poverty.

          1209, he founded the Franciscan order, which is now spread all over the world. In 1224, while Francis was praying on Mount Alvermia, the five wounds resembling those suffered by Jesus, the stigmata appeared on his body. Two years later in 1226, Francis died and he was canonized in 1228. He became an incomparable saint as the great historian Lortz called him, “The first after the only son Jesus Christ”

Today when we speak on St. Francis of Assisi, let us examine ourselves the ways and means to grow spiritually like him. Let us take few hints from his life itself for this purpose.

1.      St. Francis had desire to follow and serve Jesus his Lord.  
(Do we have the desire to follow and serve Jesus.)?

2.      With his convention, St. Francis discarded fortune, fame and power. But ultimately wound up with all three in great measures.  
(Can you discard fortune, fame and power you strive for the sake of Jesus?)

3.      Poverty was his chosen way and focused on God and he was committed to God. He found the face on the crucifix was the face of the suffering world.  
(Are you committed to God? Do you feel the face on the crucifix is the face of the suffering world?)

He always used to say, “My God and My All

Dear Friends, if we choose to make God “Our God and our All”, we may find that when we read the daily newspapers or watch the evening news, the spirit moving within us may breathe “My God and My All” we have no hope but God. But no greater hope is possible than God.  

Let us join our hands and pray with him.
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace."