Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a saint who is very close to my heart. On this day last year, I wrote about St. Francis’ role in my life both during the time I was a Buddhist and during the period when I was struggling with my return to Catholicism. (That post is here.)
I’ve visited some of the central places in Francis’ life. I’ve stood in the chapel that sits on the spot where he received the stigmata. I’ve knelt by the big wooden cross under the overhanging rock at La Verna, where Francis prayed during his winter retreats. I’ve touched the places in Eremi, outside of Assisi, where he slept. I’ve walked around his tomb in the lower level of the Basilica in Assisi (the same spot where my daughter’s high school choir sang a beautiful Ave Maria during a spring break trip to Italy this past year, which you can listen to here).
In each of those places I’ve felt a sense of awe and a sense of closeness to this saint who, over the years, has provided me with so much support and so much love.
We sometimes have the misconception that those we have come to call “saints” were models of holiness from their earliest days. Francis illustrates the error of such a view. According to one of his biographers, Francis “wasted his time miserably, encouraging wickedness until he was nearly twenty-four years old.” Another biographer, writing of hie early years, called him a spendthrift, all of whose money went on “eating and carousing with his friends.”
Francis’ enlistment in a civil war, which resulted in his imprisonment for a year, began a process of change in young Francis. Ultimately, he found himself heeding God’s call to “rebuild my church, which as you can see has fallen into ruins.”
There are many things I admire about Francis, but I think what I most admire is his absolute confidence that the Lord would provide for him. He committed himself to a life of absolute poverty, eating only what people gave him, having no money and now idea how he would provide for himself from one day to the next. Yet, for Francis, this was not a source of anxiety and concern. He trusted in God and God was enough for him.
On this day, let us pray for Francis’ absolute trust and confidence in God.