Saint Francis at the Holy Family Sanctuary, Zakopane, Poland, MMB
What does it mean – being a follower of St Francis today?
Francis of Assisi, born in 1182 – died in 1226 – and people are today still following him. But what does that mean? Being a follower of Francis?
Francis always, always points us away from himself and towards Christ. We could say then that to be a follower of St Francis is to be first and foremost a follower of Christ after the example of Francis.
What does that mean? What was the example of Francis? A few examples might help.
Francis was a man who fell hopelessly and totally in love with God, with Christ. This did not happen overnight. He had many struggles on the way as all of us will have who seek to love Christ totally. It all came to a head in 1224, two years before he died, when he received the Sacred Stigmata on Mount Alverna. The sign of Francis’ love for Christ and the seal of Christ’s love for Francis. Another sign then of a being a follower of Francis is a constant falling in love with Christ.
Francis had a tremendous love for nature, for creation. He saw creation, creatures, all creatures, all created things as coming from the same source – the Fatherhood of God. Therefore all things were his brothers and sisters. Because of this all creation, all his brothers and sisters were to be treated with the greatest respect and dignity. To Franciscans today what does that say to them with regard to the refugees, the hate crimes, the spoiling of our earth?
What other characteristics of Francis do we find that followers of Francis would wish to emulate? The list is never ending and I am sure you can add to it but who can forget his love for the Infant Child.
Francis could never get over the fact that God became a human being just like us. That he was born just like any other person as a tiny baby with human needs. To bring that fact home to the men and women of his day he had the first crib built in Greccio. Through this he teaches us the humility of God. If God shows such humility how, he asks us, can we dare to show any pride when all that we have and are come from God.