And behold, he [a companion of Saint Francis] went into ecstasy and saw among the many thrones in heaven one that was more honorable than the rest, ornamented with precious stones, and radiant with all glory.
He wondered within himself at this noble throne and considered silently whose it might be. And while he was considering these things, he heard a voice saying to him: “This throne belonged to one of the fallen angels, but now it is reserved for the humble Francis.”
At length, coming back to himself, the brother saw the blessed Saint Francis coming from his prayers, and quickly prostrating himself at Francis’ feet in the form of a cross, he said to him, not as to one living in this world, but as to one already reigning in heaven:
“Pray for me to the Son of God, Father, that he will not impute to me my sins.” The man of God stretched forth his hand [Matthew 14:31] and raised him up [Acts 3:7], realizing that something had been shown to him in his prayers. (Celano, Second Life of St. Francis, 123)
In the vision of the follower of Saint Francis, we see the pride of Lucifer, a fallen angel, answered by the humility of Francis.
Acknowledge one of your personal gifts and one of your blind spots.
Humility is the guardian and the ornament of all virtues. If the spiritual building does not rest upon it, it will fall to ruin, though it seems to be growing. This virtue filled Saint Francis in a more copious abundance, so that nothing should be wanting to a man adorned with so many gifts.
In his own opinion, he was nothing but a sinner, despite the fact that he was the ornament and splendor of all sanctity. He tried to build himself up upon this virtue, so that he would lay the foundation he had learned from Christ [Matthew 11:29].
Forgetting the things he had gained, he set before his eyes only his failings in the conviction that he lacked more than he had gained. There was no covetousness in him except the desire to become better, and not content with what he had, he sought to add new virtues. (Celano, Second Life of St. Francis, 140)
Shakespeare once wrote, “The more fair and crystal is the sky, the uglier seem the clouds that in it fly” (Richard II).
The closer Francis came to God, the more aware he was of his sins, and the more he sought to turn away from them. There was nothing fake about his humility.
The more truthfully we live with everyone, the more natural humility will become. It takes a great deal of energy to maintain a false image. Use your energy wisely today.
Adapted from Peace and Good: Through the Year with Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media), by Pat McCloskey, OFM.