“My dear and beloved Brother, the treasure
of blessed poverty is so very precious and
divine that we are not worthy to possess it in
our vile bodies. For poverty is that heavenly
virtue by which all earthy and transitory
things are trodden under foot, and by which
every obstacle is removed from the soul so
that it may freely enter into union with the
eternal Lord God. It is also the virtue which
makes the soul, while still here on earth,
converse with the angels in Heaven. It is she
who accompanied Christ on the Cross, was
buried with Christ in the Tomb, and with
Christ was raised and ascended into Heaven,
for even in this life she gives to souls who
love her the ability to fly to Heaven, and she
alone guards the armor of true humility and
charity.” (St. Francis of Assisi)
Early in his conversion, St. Francis of Assisi fell in love with “Lady Poverty”. It was to this virtue that Francis desired to give himself over. To embrace poverty in all of its depths was one of his highest goals. For poverty was the key, as Francis shared, to true humility and charity.
Francis would know about that. He would have known because he had been on both ends of the spectrum.
Francis, at one point in his life, was wealthy. He was the son of a wealthy merchant. His father wanted nothing more than to have Francis take over the business when he became of age. That appeared to be Francis’ goal as well. However, a brief stint in the army during a war would change all of that.
Francis was captured and held in prison in Perugia. It was in a dank cell that Francis’ conversion began to take place. He saw that his life was not going on a path that would do him any good. He began to realize that there was something more important than the power and prestige of a soldier or the power and prestige of a wealthy merchant.
He began to see that power and prestige were not important at all.
What was important was God.
When Francis began his conversion, he sought God in a rather clumsy manner. He took things quite literally because there was no depth to his spirituality yet. But, as Francis matured in the faith, God molded him into a great spiritual “warrior”.
In order to get there, though, Francis needed to throw off the cares and concerns of the world. He embraced Lady Poverty. He embraced his fears and revulsions (in acts such as hugging a leper) and became a true servant to those in need.
We celebrate the feast of St. Francis today and we pray that we might be as humble, as simple, and as open to God’s graces as he was so long ago.
FAITH ACTION: In your prayer today, reflect upon Francis’ most famous words:
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.