By Tom Dompkowski
We all hopefully know the prayer of St. Francis, but do we really know the man whose name is attached to this beautiful hymn? Countless books have been written about him. Religious orders and churches bear his name. Our pope even has his name! But why am I, a freshman from New York, drawn to him? With his feast day of October 4th still fresh in my heart and mind, I would like to reflect on how St. Francis inspires me and how he can inspire all of us today.
St. Francis loved God. He had an intimate relationship with God, so much so that he was the first person to receive the wounds of Christ, the stigmata, upon his body in 1224. Because of this closeness with God, he came to exhibit great charity to all people and all of God’s natural creation. This charity has compelled countless men and women to leave everything and follow Christ. St. Francis listened when Christ laid out the greatest commandment, and acted on his deep love for his Father. We are invited to follow in his footsteps.
St. Francis loved the poor. He expressed his unfathomable love of God by his unmatched charity to the destitute, the downtrodden, the forgotten, the outcast, the suffering, the wounded, and the unloved. He took to heart the call of Christ to care for the least brothers and sisters of the human family. As Christ made Himself a slave in becoming human, though he was God, St. Francis sought to imitate Christ in lowering himself to be a servant of the lowliest. Francis teaches us to see Christ in every person, especially when it is difficult.
St. Francis loved the Good News. Francis not only told people about Christ through his words, but he did it also through his lifestyle, which was one of radical holiness and devotion to poverty and self-sacrifice. He renounced all his wealth and took up begging, wearing nothing but a brown coarse robe and living on the streets. He even risked torture and martyrdom to preach the Gospel to Sultan Malek during the Fifth Crusade. He fasted constantly, prayed unceasingly, and even gave up his own health and time for the betterment of those he served. We are called to do likewise.
All these aspects of St. Francis are what inspire me, they are what inspire Catholics throughout the world, and they are what can inspire all of us today. His self-giving love where there was hatred, his uplifting hope where there was despair, and his enlightening faith where there was doubt are how each of us can be another Christ to the world, just as St. Francis was.
St. Francis was an instrument of peace played by the hand of the greatest maestro, God. We are also asked to be instruments. This simple beggar from the small town of Assisi in Italy changed the world. We are called to do the same.