ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI
May the Lord give you peace!
St. Francis was a mystic and a man of deep faith. He saw God’s presence in everything and everyone around him. When he encountered nature or animals he encountered God He saw all through the eyes of faith. St. Francis did not worship “God” in the tree, the stone, or the water. Rather, he saw God’s infinite love expressed in and through all creatures: the beauty of a forest, the simplicity of a solitary leaf, the wondrous complexity of a human hand; all of them shouted to St. Francis “God is here!”
For St. Francis, the world about him drew him to God and was a display of divine love. St. Francis cultivated a spiritual and deeply personal relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. This relationship was so profound, that for the last three years of his life, he bore the marks of the crucified Jesus, known as the stigmata, in his own body. He was in fact the first person in Christian history to have received this extraordinary gift.
Thus, when he related to his fellow human beings, it was through the eyes and heart of Jesus. When he embraced a leper on the road near Assisi, it was not a repugnant leper whom he kissed but the very person of Jesus, incarnate in the leper. For St. Francis, Jesus was present in every human person, and particularly in the poor and outcasts.
Understanding just how deeply inter-connected all beings were under God as Creator and through Jesus, St. Francis called his community the Friars Minor or “Lesser Brothers”; thus, they were to be “related” or connected to one another as “brothers” of the same family and they were to be humble and unpretentious. No single Friar was to be “better” than another, no matter what roles they fulfilled. “I did not come to be served but to serve,” says the Lord. This is at the root of peace: the example of Jesus Christ who laid down his life so that all could be reconciled.
This peace is born out of the recognition of the bonds that unite, rather than divide. One of his close companions wrote about St. Francis: “In al his preaching, before he opened the Word of God to those gathered about, he prayed first for peace for them. Many embraced that Peace and became seekers after eternal salvation.”