Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.The Peace Prayer of St. Francis
Leaving Everything to Follow Jesus
In the Gospels, Jesus calls us to leave everything behind and follow him. During his earthly ministry, he called his disciples to leave behind their old life to find new life in him. They left their families, their jobs, their possessions, and everything they knew for Jesus.
He still calls us in this radical way to follow him, and a Saint who heeded that call beautifully was St. Francis of Assisi.
Embracing the Leper
St. Francis was born into a wealthy family in Assisi, Italy. His father was a successful cloth merchant, and Francis was supposed to follow in his footsteps, but he also desired to be a soldier. He wasn’t interested in faith until he encountered a leper one day. Moved with love for him, Francis got off of his horse to embrace and kiss the leper. At that moment, Francis became more compassionate toward all of God’s creatures.
Rebuilding the Church
He began praying in the delipidated Portiuncula chapel before the San Damiano cross. One day, he heard Jesus tell him, Rebuild my Church. For you see, it is in ruins. Assuming that Jesus meant the church that he was praying in, St. Francis sold the material and clothes from his father’s business to renovate the Portiuncula chapel. Of course, his father was furious and demanded that he repay him. In the town square, Francis stripped off his clothes, denied his father, and vowed that God was his only father.
Now that Francis had next to nothing, he dedicated his life to God. He lived in simplicity and obedience, depending on his Heavenly Father for everything. Eventually, men from all walks of life witnessed his faith and desired to follow God like him. Francis created a community of brothers who lived simply and cared for God’s creation. After a wealthy young woman named Clare heard St. Francis preach, she was inspired to follow him and adopt his lifestyle. With Francis’s spiritual guidance, Clare formed a community of sisters who lived simple lives of prayer and poverty. These communities later became religious orders of brothers and sisters and identified themselves as Franciscans.
What I love the most about St. Francis was his devotion to the Incarnation. He thought it was so beautiful that God became man and dwelt with us. This inspired him to make the first Nativity Scene, which is now a tradition in homes and churches. Because of his devotion to God incarnate, he was blessed with the Stigmata, the wounds of Christ, a few years before his death in 1226.
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As I live and work with Franciscan Mission Service, I feel myself becoming more Franciscan-hearted each day. I’ve been participating in simple living, which looks like decluttering what distracts me from focusing on God so that he can truly be the focal point of my life. I’m learning to empty myself of earthly things so that I can be filled with God’s love. I find myself becoming more intentional about caring for God’s creation, like the animals and plants around me, and my brothers and sisters in Christ. St. Francis teaches me that God entrusts us with the earth and everything in it, so we’re responsible for taking care of it as good stewards. Reflecting on St. Francis’s life, it’s clear that he viewed everything as a gift from God, and he lived every moment of his life with gratitude. When he dedicated himself to God, he lost his wealth and possessions, but gained the Lord and eternal life. We can look to him when we’re overwhelmed with material things and worldly anxieties. St. Francis reminds us that we have everything we need when we have Jesus Christ.
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