Oct. 4th was the feast day of another one of my favorite saints—the joyful beggar of Assisi, Italy, il Poverello—St. Francis of Assisi. Often portrayed as some kind of barefoot hippy, birdbath statute, St. Francis is so much more than that.
He was the son of a rich merchant and a worldly man who, having heard the voice of Jesus calling him, gave everything away to serve him. Francis divested himself of all his possessions right to the clothes on his back and put on sackcloth with a rope for a belt. For the love of God who became poor for the love of us:
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Dying to himself in order to live more fully, Francis was totally free to receive the fullness of the love of God to the point of overflowing it on to others. This was the purpose of behind his poverty, “lady Poverty” as he would say.
St. Francis of Assisi must have seemed like a madman…he went around the medieval town of Assisi knocking on doors exclaiming that “love is not loved!”. Like Therese he was on fire with the love of God. So much so that they call him the seraphic father. Seraphic, from the Seraphim, those angels of the highest choir—the angels so close to the Consuming Fire that is God, they are literally on fire with his burning love!
He was very simple, humble like a child. In fact he was so humble that it is said of him—the place that satan (a fallen seraph) lost by his pride was given to St. Francis because of his humility.
“Though he was rich beyond all other things, in this world He, (Christ) together with the most blessed Virgin, His mother, willed to choose poverty.”
St. Francis was greatly devoted to the mysteries of the life of Christ, especially the Incarnation—God took human nature from Our Lady and became a poor little baby, the Crucifixion—the poverty of this same Most high, all powerful good Lord nailed to a Cross! and the Eucharist—Jesus gives Himself to us under the form of a humble piece of bread. Accordingly, St. Francis began the tradition of the nativity crib scene and the stations of the Cross in addition to making the Eucharist and Our Lady more loved!
Others began to join him in order to be poor like the poor Christ. A daughter of a nobleman named Claire was the first woman follower who helped found the Poor Claire nuns (formerly called the Poor Ladies). The Franciscan Orders today are collectively the largest religious order in the Roman Catholic Church.
To such an extent did Francis desire to be like Christ that three years before his death on October 3, 1226, he received the sacred stigmata – the five wounds of Jesus!
Praise ye and bless my Lord, and give thanks unto Him and serve Him with great humility!