St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi (1182- October 4, 1226) born into a wealthy middle class family of Assisi, died a poor little one outside the walls of the city. Francis grew upliving an extravagant life. He aspired to being a knight, fighting in the Crusades.
Taken prisoner during a war with the neighboring town of Perugia, Francis became disillusioned with his life and his material and superficial desires.
In the silence of his heart Francis heard the words “Francis, go rebuild my house.” This call from God gave him a purpose in life to which he responded immediately. Francis knew in his heart that he was to give God his all.
And he came to know the generous love of God’s response. With the simple greeting, “May the Lord give you peace,” Francis called others to realize God’s love in their own lives.
Francis embraced poverty because he wanted nothing to interfere with his relationship with God. Because of his experiences in war, Francis knew that possessing and amassing more property often led to conflict. Francis realized that if he had no possessions he would have nothing to defend. As a poor man he would be free to live simply as an instrument of God’s compassion.
Francis was very mindful of the injustices in the society of his day. He made a conscious choice to leave be-hind his family’s wealth and be with the poor. From his meditations on the Gospels, Francis came to recognize how Jesus reached out to the poor and sick.
Francis spent time serving the lepers, understanding that the most precious gift he had to offer was the presence of God he carried within himself.
Cherishing that same gift in all of creation, Francis showed those he met how to do the same.
Francis’ life also provides us with insights into the ecumenical spirit. In an effort to bring about a peaceful resolution to the war over the Holy Land, Francis travelled to meet with Al Kamil, the leader of the Saracens.
The Pope and the leaders of the Crusades did not accept his suggestions for peace, yet Francis and Al Kamil found a way to have mutually respectful dialogue.
There was no active seeking of conversion, rather a coming together and sharing of ideas. Francis was a-ware that active listening can lead to life changing experiences.