Dear sister today we celebrate feast of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi . As a Franciscan we Shall pause for a moment and examine the virtues that motivated and energized his life. The testimony of history tells us that in the course of his life St. Francis of Assisi exemplified in an outstanding way all of the virtues that Jesus Christ taught and lived by. This is surely one of the basic reasons for St. Francis’ appeal to so many people of faith.
We can begin by saying that he was a simple man. He pursued simplicity. This does not mean that he was of limited intelligence, or that he pursued simplicity for simplicity sake, rather, it means that he was successful at eliminating everything from his life that did not enhance his understanding and love of Jesus. In other words, he kept to what was essential in life: “God, the state of our soul, judgment and eternal life.” He realized that “to be simple is to see things with the eyes of God. St. Francis pursued simplicity because he innately knew that God Himself is simple” (from a sermon by Fr. Ronald Knox, 1936).
Other characteristics of Francis’ life are the virtues of faith and love. St. Francis understood that by praying for faith, by acting faithfully and lovingly, his spiritual muscles would be stressed, making him grow stronger in faith and love of God. He knew that God’s grace would assist him in this spiritual exercise if he committed himself to it. Thus we see his extraordinary reaction to his father’s demand for repayment for the fabrics he took, and sold, to benefit the poor. How did he react when accused? He publicly disrobed; a humble nude standing majestically in the town square.
St. Francis, and his fellow friars that would live in their daily lives the virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Poverty, Whether it takes the external form of renunciation or not, this is essentially detachment from outward things, not inward as in case of simplicity. Very often St. Francis is misappropriated as some kind of patron saint for liturgical iconcolasm and minimalism , all in the name of 'poverty.' Putting aside the fact that there's a significant difference between "poverty in spirit" and literal, material poverty, the fact is that St. Francis was certainly one who adopted more than just poverty in spirit; he also opted for real material poverty.
Likewise for charity and obedience : whoever loves more than anything in the world, and who, acting upon this love, loves his neighbor as himself - for love of one's neighbor is the criterion of one's love for God. Whoever has charity also has obedience, that is to say, submission to the interest of others or more precisely, submission to the Divine Will in one's neighbor. During the years of his early conversion, during the years he was pursuing knighthood, Francis Bernardone was confronted with the call of the Lord: “Whom is it better to serve, the servant or the master?” Francis quickly realized “The master, of course”. So he was challenged with: “Then why are you serving the servant?” This understanding had a life-long impact on Francis’ spiritual life – and hopefully on ours today. Obedience is not just a virtue for children, and not just for those who profess religious vows. Obedience needs to be recognized as a virtue to be practiced by everyone of us.
And now follows an observation which is of the greatest important for the understanding of this doctrine of virtues: "There is no man on earth," St. Francis goes on " Who can posses one of the virtues without having first died to himself. whoever possess one of the virtues without offending the others, possesses them all; and whoever does violence to one of them alone, possesses none, and does violence to them all".
Interest in further impulses? Have a look at our archive.