Today is the feast of St Francis of Assisi and the saint has me thinking of a man of Peace who has captured the attention of billions of people attracting admirers among atheists and believers of other faiths. There certainly does not exist any other saint that is as popular as he is, both among Catholics as well as Protestants and even among non-Christians. He was such a giant in Christian goodness, a great figure in the church renowned especially for connecting with fellow Christians and many people outside the Christian family; a powerful social and religious reformer. Doesn’t he sound just right for our times?
Perhaps as one of the best known saints of the world, his example is very much as a man of action. He gave away all his worldly possessions and lived a life of radical penance, manifesting itself in a deep spirit of poverty, simplicity and humility. His life of penance was evangelical in its fervour and purpose, namely, to lead people to God in Christ. For Francis, a life of penance was a way of life, involving a radical self-emptying and self-surrender; open to constant change under the daily guidance of the Divine. It was also a life of service to the poor, the disabled, and the marginalized in society. Francis believed that deeds expressed our Faith more than creeds. He said, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching." He exhorted his brothers: "Preach the Gospel at all times and use words when necessary." Dare we look around and see where we should be walking so that it becomes our preaching of this same Good News using words only when necessary but showing acts of love constantly?
Now, for the first time, we have a Pope who has chosen the name 'Francis' and he seems to have caught the message of his namesake in following Christ. Let’s pray for the Pope and the Church which once again is “falling into ruins” and for which the Pope must care and in that task we must share.
St Francis, pray for us!