On the 4 October the Church gives thanks for and remembers Francis of Assisi. In the book “Exciting Holiness”, used in the Church of England to celebrate the work and witness of the Saints, we read this about him
“Francis was born in Assisi in central Italy either in 1181 or the following year. He was baptised Giovanni but given the name Francesco by his father, a cloth merchant who traded in France and had married a French wife. There was an expectation that he would eventually take over his father's business but Francis had a rebellious youth and a difficult relationship with his father. After suffering the ignominy of imprisonment following capture whilst at war with the local city of Perugia, he returned a changed man. He took to caring for disused churches and for the poor, particularly those suffering from leprosy. Whilst praying in the semi-derelict church of St Damian, he distinctly heard the words: "Go and repair my church, which you see is falling down." Others joined him and he prepared a simple, gospel-based Rule for them all to live by. As the Order grew, it witnessed to Christ through preaching the gospel of repentance, emphasising the poverty of Christ as an example for his followers. Two years before his death, his life being so closely linked with that of his crucified Saviour, he received the Stigmata, the marks of the wounds of Christ, on his body. At his death, on the evening of 3 October 1226, his Order had spread throughout western Christendom.”
I humbly suggest that there are at least three lessons or truths we can draw for our own lives, from his life and witness:
1. True joy comes not from earthly status or success, but from following Christ as completely as possible.
2. As St. Francis realised, poverty or a simple lifestyle, can be a great blessing, for it allows us to “store up treasures in Heaven”. (Matthew 6:20).
3. God is indeed pleased when we look after and appreciate all the elements of God’s creation. So in thanksgiving for the life and ministry of St. Francis we pray
O God, you ever delight to reveal yourself to the child-like and lowly of heart: grant that, following the example of the blessed Francis, we may count the wisdom of this world as foolishness and know only Jesus Christ and him crucified, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.