Saint Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226)

for October 4

Fame. Comfort. Power. Like Jesus in the desert, Saint Francis faced down these temptations to find his purpose in life. He was the son of a wealthy 12th-century Italian merchant, and early in his life was devoted to partying and his enjoying his social status. Then his life changed. He became seriously ill after experiencing life as a soldier, and he began to rethink his values. Encountering a begging leper, he embraced the man, gave him money, and began to spend more time with the poor and outcasts. His father was furious for what he saw as a waste of time, and dragged him before the local bishop to set Francis straight. Instead, Francis stripped off his fine clothes, gave them to his father, and renounced all worldly wealth and possessions. At first Francis's former party-mates looked at his new way of life and scoffed. However, there was something remarkably appealing about the way that Francis loved the poor and the sick, prayed, preached the Good News, and went about rebuilding the Church one stone at a time. Francis is known for his prayer life, particularly the way that his prayers reflect the joy and awe of God that he experienced in nature. Wild animals were known to flock to him and even obey him! The joy and freedom with which Francis lived as a follower of Christ soon attracted so many followers that he had to establish an order and write a rule for them. Today people are fond of summarizing the rule with these words: "Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words." Saint Francis's feast day is October 4. (Taken from "The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth.")

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Saint Francis's adage about the necessity of preaching not through words but through actions is possibly most fully exemplified in his own life. Reading the story of Saint Francis's spiritual journey is, in and of itself, transformative. Saint Francis's journey begins with an attitude familiar to us all. He initially chose a life of fun and partying. He sought wealth and fame and importance. He then realized that these things are of little true value. This is a lesson that God wants us all to learn. Instead, Saint Francis discovered that a life utterly devoted to God through serving the poor was much more valuable. From Saint Francis, we can learn to truly assess the quality of the things to which we choose to devote our time. Are they truly helpful and good? How could we spend our time in ways that more readily foster our relationship with God and allow us to show that love to others?


Dear God, please give me the courage, faith, and love of Saint Francis. Help me to approach life with his wisdom.