There's the cute statue in the garden, the lover of animals, the gentle steward of nature. Then there's the reformed party boy, the slow and reluctant convert, the man who embodied the heart of Christ through his love of the poor. Word on Fire contributor Father Damian Ference takes a look at the real St. Francis of Assisi and shares his thoughts.
I am a diocesan priest, but I like to tell people that I am part-Capuchin. That’s because in addition to the diocesan priests that staff our college seminary, we also have three Capuchin friars on formation faculty – it’s been that way since I was a seminarian. Those friars played an important role in my priestly formation, inside and outside of the classroom.
When I was heading off to do graduate work at Catholic University, my bishop told me that I could live on campus, in a rectory, or with a religious community. (Wisely, he told me that I was not permitted to live alone in an apartment.) So I asked the Capuchin friars if they would have me, and soon I had my own room at Cap College in Washington, DC. For two years I celebrated Mass, prayed the office, took meals, washed dishes, watched football, and shared my life with about thirty men who were devoted to the witness of St. Francis of Assisi.
After the Virgin Mother, St. Francis is arguably the most popular saint in the Christian tradition. Everybody loves St. Franics of Assisi, even some atheists. After all, who wouldn’t love a guy who has a nice beard, wears sandals and a simple brown habit, loves creation, and is often depicted with a cute bird on his shoulder or even in his hand?
To be honest, most of the Capuchins I lived with in DC loved animals too. Their little slice of land in the North East corner of the District was a sanctuary for birds, squirrels, deer and even a red fox. And if you were lucky, inside the friary walls you might see (or at least hear) a mouse or two late at night. All creatures of our God and King...
Evangelical poverty. St. Francis of Assisi embodied this way of being "poor" in order to radically live out the Gospel. Father Steve Grunow explains what it means on this, St. Francis' Feast Day.
St. Francis of Assisi was born in the year 1182 and his early life was spent in an atmosphere of privilege and wealth. Francis was the son of a well-to-do family of merchants.
Yet a life of material comfort did not satisfy Francis, and through his acceptance of an extraordinary offer of grace he set about a mission of personal transformation that he believed would lead to the reform and renewal of the Church. The means by which this transformation would happen would be a commitment to a radical witness of evangelical poverty.
Francis would eschew material resources and make himself a poor man. However, the poverty he would embrace would not be the crushing burden of poverty that is imposed by human callousness and social inequities. Francis accepted as his way of life evangelical poverty....