It’s no secret that I grew up Roman Catholic and that many of the ways I relate to and worship God trace back to my upbringing. Someone I’ve admire almost my whole life is Francis of Assisi. The cross in my profile picture was his favorite from San Damiano. Well today is his feast day so I decided to give him props as millions across the globe honor him.
He grew up in wealth, being the son of a wealthy merchant. He spent time on the battlefield as a soldier and had a vision that changed his life. After a pilgrimage to Rome among the poorest of the poor, he decided to take a vow of poverty. He made it his life mission to minister both to the physical and emotional needs of people as well as communicate the Scriptures in a way that everyday and even uneducated people could understand. His guiding theme was the Regula Primitiva: “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps.”
Throughout his ministry, he courageously lived out his faith, even in very dangerous conditions. One of my favorite stories is an account of how we traveled behind the Saracen battle line to share the Gospel with them. Francis was brought before al-Kamil, Sultan and Saladin’s own nephew, and began to share Christ with him. The Sultan was so impressed with Francis’ character that he allowed him to preach to all the soldiers in his camp.
The aspects of his life that so impress me are…
Simplicity – I so appreciate his desire to be free from monetary gain and material greed. He could have easily succumbed to the lifestyle of his family but decided to give it up and be undistracted in doing God’s work. “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”
Preached Repentance – In an era where the sacred Scriptures may not have been communicated correctly or filtered through human selfishness, He was uncompromising in his message to turn away from sin and return to Christ. Not popular then and not popular today. “Nor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified Him and crucify Him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.”
Compassion – He was so grateful for the mercy of God on his life that he had no choice but to extend the same in an extreme way to the underserved of his day. Matthew 25 talks about those who touched his heart: the sick, naked, hungry, alone, imprisoned, forgotten, overlooked, ignored, hurting, and those rejected by society. He crossed class lines and cultural mores to obey his divine calling from God. “We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”
Action – He was unfettered by public opinion, fame, and fortune. He was a man of action wanting God to be glorified and people’s needs to met. He didn’t just talk or hurl lofty Scriptures at people. His life demonstrated the very words of Christ. “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury,pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.