These past few months, have been extremely Franciscan for me, by the help of Grace I am more drawn to the life of Saint Francis, who he is and what he did. With the help of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio taking on the name of Pope Francis after Saint Francis, I have became attracted more to who Saint Francis is and Pope Francis by the authority given to him by God, invites us to do the same. In the life of Saint Francis, he leaves us with a message of love and compassion. He leaves us with a message to follow Christ with immediate obedience and I think this is what makes the life of Francis so attractive. A few weeks ago, I picked up a book over Saint Francis and found myself so drawn to his life, pretty soon I found myself halfway through the book. There are a couple things that I think are the most profound and necessary in following Christ, especially through the Saint Francis lens.
1.) Saint Francis at a young age was thrown in prison because he left the army he had only been apart of for a day. He was left in the dark, the silence and the cold for over a year. The interesting thing is that Saint Francis in essence, was formed and molded by the silence, much like the Apostle Paul. It was said that it was in the silence where Francis found God and so when he was released from prison he was so wrapped up in the silence and the insight he got because of it! So much that he would even seek the silence and look for caves in the nearby mountains. The very thing that he was afraid of before he was now seeking out. Saint Francis new the impact the silence had on him, he wanted to hear the voice of Christ, he desired him and he wanted to now more about him, so he placed himself in the silence and the very darkness he was afraid of.
2.) Saint Francis before his conversion wanted desperatly to become a noble knight and fight for the king of the land. He knew it would give honor to his family, especially his wealthy father. One night in a dream, God spoke to him asking, “Francis, who is it better to serve, The Lord or a man?”, without question, Francis said “The Lord” Francis then left his original desire to become a noble Knight to listen and harken to the voice that he had heard. While seeking out this voice in the caves, and in the silence, Francis came upon small run down church and began praying before the altar, with his hands outstretched. Suddenly a voice came from the cross of the altar that said,
“Francis, rebuild my Church, because as you can see, it is in ruins.” It is described that God spoke directly into the heart of Francis and immediately, Francis ran home, sold everything he owned to follow Christ.
3.) The last is one that I find to be very appealing even in my own life. Saint Francis was a care giver and he cared for everyone even those who were not cared for. The lesser, the sick, the imprisoned, the naked and the leper. One day St Francis was off to the Courtyard of the king on his father’s horse. He recognized a leper on the side of the road. In those days, a Leper would yell, “unclean! unclean!” as they are ringing a bell so that passer-byers would stay clear of them. Well this particular day, Francis got down from his high horse, which is symbolic of losing his pride and honorary status. As he got down, he gave him what little money he had left before he could walk away, Francis was became prompted by the spirit to hug this poor leper. So he did the unthinkable and gave him a hug, with no words exchanged, he got back on his horse, left and as he turned to wave goodbye, he noticed that there was never was anybody there. At that moment, Saint Francis knew that he did not just embrace a leper, but he was embracing Christ and professing not only a love for the leper, but a love for God.
I think the joy is that we are reminded to live a Franciscan lifestyle, one that involves the silence and it involves a little immeditate obedience, maybe even some embracing. Embracing those who are lesser than we are and those who don’t have anybody. Francis in his life, wanted to serve God the King of Kings, he wanted to know God in a perfect way. How he did it is was through serving those people in need, and listening in the silence where he was placed. We are called to live in silence, not in noise, with the help of silence God becomes present to us and I think Saint Francis realized this and so he wanted more of it.