Why I LOVE St. Francis
St. Francis of Assis
St. Francis of Assisi - A Patron Saint of Animals
Why I LOVE St. Francis of Assisi:
Of all the saintly religious figures in world history, St. Francis of Assisi just might be the greatest all time. I want to share five stories about him to illustrate his extraordinary spirituality. I’m neither a Catholic nor a Protestant, but I love St. Francis. Here are five episodes that explain why.
Episode #1: St. Francis is a humble man.
One day a friar asked, “So, Francis, what do you think of yourself?”
Francis: “I’m the worst of the sinners.”
The friar: “Oh, c’mon. You can’t be the worst sinner. There are lots of bad people out there.”
Francis: “I don’t know about others. All I know is that I have been given so much by God, but I have not fully taken advantage of divine blessings. The gap between what I should be and what I actually am is huge. That’s why I think I’m the worst of the sinners. Other people might not have been blessed like I am.”
The friar: “Oh, I see.”
Episode #2: St. Francis is a courageous man. St. Francis was not afraid to talk to a wolf that terrorized a little village in Italy. The wolf killed five people in a short span of time. St. Francis was asked to do something about this wolf. He went into the wood and spoke to the wolf.
St. Francis: “Brother Wolf. I understand that you need to eat just like any other creatures. But, please do not attack folks in the village. Let’s make a deal. Folks will bring food for you from now on. Then, you won’t need to eat humans. “
Wolf: “………. “ (Wolf never again attacked humans in the village thereafter.)
Episode #3: St. Francis is an extraordinarily likable man. During the Crusade, St. Francis went to the Holy Land to speak to the Sultan of Egypt.
St. Francis: “Your Highness, the Christian Holy Land is in your kingdom. If you let the Christians have the access to the Holy Land, the war between your people and the Christians can come to an end.”
Sultan: “Jerusalem is the third holiest city for us, Muslims. We won’t let Christians take over our holy land.”
St. Francis: “Your Highness, the issue can be resolved easily. What if you become a Christian yourself? The truth of the gospel is universal. Your subjects, too, will benefit from hearing the Good News of our Lord, Jesus.” (At that moment, Francis was willing to accept his martyrdom. )
Sultan: “No, I will not convert to your faith. But, I respect you. You’re a holy man. I want you to take back items from my land.” (Francis brought back some gifts to his home in Italy. In spite of Francis' attempt to convert Sultan, Francis still left a very favorable impression on Sultan.)
Episode #4: St. Francis is a compassionate man.
Compassion means to suffer together. Francis went out of his way to support the most detested group of people of his day, lepers. He even went to live with lepers. He was willing to suffer together with the outcasts in the community. He let his actions speak louder than his words in order to show what Jesus meant by love. He was completely committed to imitating Christ.
Episode #5: St. Francis is a holy man.
The one stark characteristic of the Franciscan order is the utter rejection of money. Francis urged his friars to commit to the life of poverty. Private possessions were limited to a bare bone minimum. Francis and brothers worked not for money but for their meals and shelter. Desire for luxury and vanity was cleansed for the Franciscan community, as a result. Living in poverty meant that the Franciscan order of his day had a built-in safeguard against the sin of pride and vanity. Francis’ refusal to touch money is legendary.
When we think of Medieval Christianity, we often think of such learned scholars as Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. Their theology is characterized by being logical, rational, and methodical. It was a product of a medieval university system.
Against this Medieval Christianity, Francis was unique. First of all, Francis of Assisi was no scholar. He lacked formal university training. He wasn’t even an ordained priest. But, he had become the best known and best loved saint of all time. It is because he taught us that knowledge alone was insufficient. Experience was what mattered most. His love for all creatures inspired Christians and non Christians alike. It is fitting that he is the patron saint of animals. His gentleness, humility, and compassion are still being appreciated in the 21st century.
Let me say one more time: I LOVE Saint Francis even though I’m not a Christian. I know I am not alone in saying this.
(Historical information cited in this article came mainly from The Teaching Company’s lecture series on “Francis of Assisi” taught by William R. Cook and Roland B. Herzman in 2000. One other useful source is: “Francis: Brother of the Universe.” New York: Marvel Comics Groups, 1980.