St. Francis of Assisi has been my patron saint for as long as I can remember. I have always had a devotion to him, the simple, humble aristocrat-turned beggar of Assisi. His radical ways of living have always touched deeply at my heart, as they have at so many others across the ages. Francis, was ordained as a Deacon. Never a priest. And he LIVED his Diaconate in every sense of the work Diakonos…service. Francis lived a life of radical hospitality. He welcomed all, stranger, muslim, Christian, woman, child, etc as Christ. Ever since his encounter with the poor beggar man, wherein Francis gave him his cloak, Francis lived a life for others. He lived his life as an alter Christus (another Christ).
Francis had a great love for the Church, he had a great love for the people of God, a great love for the Liturgy in all its splendor, and he had a great love for beauty. Francis lived the radical hospitality, which the Gospel demands with such fervor that he saw God’s presence in the beauty of each part of Creation. Whether it be Sister Moon, Brother Wolf, Sister Breeze, Brother Leo, Sister Clare, or even Sister Death…from whom no mortal can escape. Francis saw the presence of God, the incarnation of Christ in every living being. He lived the mystery of the Incarnation, because he honored Christ’s presence, wherever and whenever he found it.
Francis was joyful. There’s no doubting that. Read any commentary you ever could on him, watch Bishop Robert Barron’s The Pivotal Players episode on him (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING SO) and you will see a man, faced with trials, with sin, with struggles, yet as he walked he sang. As he received he gave. As he lived, so he loved.
Francis abandoned the pleasures of the flesh, the pleasures of the world, because he had seen that only Christ, could provide what he needed. He had fallen deeply and madly in love with the Bridegroom of the Church, and sought to offer his own life with Christ to the glory of God the Father. Francis embraced his trials. He received the Stigmata. He founded religious communities. He created the first “living” Nativity Scene. He rebuilt physical church buildings. He prayed often. He went away to quiet places for retreats. He stirred up the ardor of faith in men of no faith. He loved without being loved in return. Why? Because he embraced the Radical Hospitality of the Gospel. He embraced a life of joy. He embraced Christ, present in all of humanity and creation, with all of its boils, warts, pimples, scars, etc. because he saw the beauty of the Creator within.
St. Francis of Assisi, lived a life of radical surrender to the workings of the Spirit. He lived a life of radical hospitality and love. He lived a life of joy as he embraced the cross.
May we have the strength and courage to do the same.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for me and for us, that we might be made worthy to share the light of Christ in Heaven with you. Amen.