The Franciscan way of life is shaped and influenced in a special way by the person of Francis. In looking at Francis’ life, we find insights and lessons for our own lives. In his Testament Francis wrote, ‘The Most High Himself made it clear to me that I must live the life of the Gospel’. ‘Living the life of the Gospel’ for Francis meant following Christ as closely as possible.
Francis was filled with wonder and delight that God should have spoken to the world in human language and should have shared human life in the person of Jesus.
Learning from Francis we recognize our dependence on God’s power and compassion.
The goodness of God overwhelmed Francis. He saw all good as coming from God and his response was praise and gratitude.
Franciscans are always aware of God’s goodness and ready to delight in it.
Francis loved beauty. He chose beautiful places to pray in, he loved music, he saw all created things as his brothers and sisters who spoke to him of God. He did not wish to control, dominate, possess or damage the world around him.
Francis is a source of encouragement in our efforts to understand ecology and care for our world.
Francis’ respect for the life and dignity of each person led him to communicate with outcasts of society as easily as he talked with bishops, nobles and the citizens of Assisi. A significant moment in Francis’ conversion came when he understood that even lepers were to be respected and not shunned.
Perhaps there is a person, or a category of persons, whom we do not wish to acknowledge or relate with in any way.
Francis was a Man of Peace. When the Bishop and the Mayor of Assisi were at odds, Francis brought them together, had his brothers sing ‘The Canticle of Brother Sun’ (with a special verse added!) and persuaded them to forgive one another.
Francis saw forgiveness and reconciliation as the way to bring about peace.
We know that Francis carried his desire for peace and reconciliation even to the extent of making the long journey to Egypt to visit the Sultan and invite him to accept Jesus as Saviour. We may find ourselves in a situation where peacemaking is needed.
Responding to such a situation, as Francis would, is a great gift the Franciscan movement can make to the Church and to the world.
Francis’ response to God’s call was simple, single-hearted and enthusiastic. In spite of the severity of his penitential life, and the ill-health and pain he endured, Francis was the most joyful of saints.
This joy will be ours, too, as we respond in a single-hearted, generous way to God’s call experienced in our own lives.