OCTOBER, 4


ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

 

 "Francis, a man of God, left his home and gave away his wealth
to become poor and in need But the Lord cared for him."
(Entrance Antiphon).

 

These words are from the Entrance Antiphon of today's
Liturgy.

 

Francis (1181~ 1226) was born in Assisi to wealthy parents,
and spent his youth in a carefree life. He went to war, and was
taken prisoner in 1202. After his release he became ill, and
shortly thereafter he had a vision of Christ that radically changed
his life. He devoted himself to poverty and care of the sick,
resolving "to reflect the image of Christ through a life of poverty
and humility." (Opening Prayer).

 

He angered his father who disinhearited him, and was
considered to be a madman by family and friends. He was

<:» subjected to ridicule as he went about begging on behalf of the
poor. Attracted by Francis's genuine concern for the needy,
disciples followed after him, some of them influential people,
and this led to the founding of the Franciscans in 1209.

 

Two years before he died Francis received the stigmata on
the feast' of the Finding of the True Cross, Sept 14, 1224, while
at prayer. This was the climax of extraordinary spiritual events
experienced throughout his life. He died on October 3, 1226,
and was canonized two years later.

 

The life and ideal of St Francis have been romanticized, but
Francis himself was always a realist He experienced poverty and
knew injustice. He personally suffered illness and pain, rejection
and ridicule. Through it all he was an example of genuine joy and
humility. He was outstanding in his apostolic zeal and love,

<, especially to the poor and the sick. He was untiring in his efforts
~ on their behalf and left that as a legacy for us.

 

Francis would say to us today what he wrote in a letter to his
followers:

 

 

"Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have
charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse

our souls from the stains of sin. .. We must not be wise
according to the flesh Rather we must be simple, humble
and pure. We should never desire to be over others.
Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to
every human being for God's sake. The Spirit of the Lord

will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the

end ... (2nd Reading, Liturgy of the Hours).

 

We live in a depersonalized era. The attraction of and to St
Francis of Assisi is his personal warmth and sensitivity to people
as individuals. Francis did not deal with people from afar; he
wanted to touch them, not out of sentimentality, but out of
genuine love.

 

In a sermon by Cardinal John Wright there is the following

passage:

 

"Saint Francis did not love humanity as the modem
sentimentalists pretend Humanity is an abstraction. St
Francis loved that which most humanitarians and philan-
thropists have no time for. He loved the individual person:
the next person he met, the person next to him - he
didn't care who it was - the next person to move into the
neighborhood, whatever color he might be, whatever
might be his background

 

"He didn't love humanity. How do you love humanity?
You can't shake hands with humanity, you can't take
humanity's picture, you can't send humanity a birthday
card, you can't ask humanity how is its headache, you can't
do anything at all for humanity. St Francis never got
trapped in this jargon about humanity. He only knew the
person, and as many persons as there were and wherever
they were, these he loved." (Op. cit. pp. 118,119).

 

Let us walk in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi and imitate
his joyful love and zeal Let us share our gifts with each person we
meet, in a spirit of simplicity and humility and do it with the
sensitivity of St Francis of Assisi.