His name was Saint Francis of Assisi, and he used to praise God the Artist in every one of God’s works. Whatever joy he found in things made, he referred to their maker. He rejoiced in all the works of God’s hands. Everything cried out to him, “He who made us is infinitely good!” He called animals “brother” or “sister,” and he exhorted them to praise God. He would go through the streets and byways, inviting everyone to sing with him. And one time when he came upon an almond tree, he said, “Brother Almond, speak to me of God.” And the almond tree blossomed.
That is what Saint Francis of Assisi did, and that is what he does for us once we are caught up in his life and teachings. He makes us blossom, wherever and whoever we are. We blossom because we see in Francis what could happen to us if we were to embrace the overflowing goodness of God revealed in everything that exists, and let that embrace change us.
What have you to be proud of? If you were so clever and learned that you knew everything and could speak every language, so that the things of heaven were an open book to you, still you could not boast of that. Any of the devils knew more about the things of heaven, and knows more about the things of earth, than any human being, even one who might have received from God a special revelation of the highest wisdom. If you were the most handsome and the richest man in the world, and could work wonders and drive out devils, all that would be something extrinsic to you; it would not belong to you and you could not boast of it. But there is one thing of which we can all boast; we can boast of our humiliations (2 Corinthians 12:15) and in taking up daily the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Admonition V)
Francis knew that knowledge can be appropriated, that it can be used as a weapon against other people. In the end, the only thing we truly own are our sins. Jesus invites us to surrender them to God’s mercy.
The cross of Jesus Christ did not scare Francis because he knew that God’s help was never lacking. What is most important in my life is not in someone else’s hands; it’s in mine and God’s. If my grasp weakens, God’s will not.
He embraced the Mother of our Lord Jesus with indescribable love because, as he said, it was she who made the Lord of majesty our brother, and through her we found mercy. After Christ, he put all his trust in her and took her as his patroness for himself and his friars. In her honor he fasted every year from the feast of Saints Peter and Paul until the Assumption. He had an unshakeable love for the Angels who burn with a marvellous fire, so that they are taken out of themselves to God and long to inflame the souls of the elect. Each year he fasted and prayed in their honor for forty days from the feast of the Assumption. In his ardent zeal for the salvation of souls he was particularly devoted to Saint Michael the Archangel because it is his task to bring souls before God. (Bonaventure, Major Life of St. Francis, IX, 3)
Francis observed a type of Lent between the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul ( June 29) and the feast of Mary’s Assumption (August 15). These were times of extra prayer and fasting, not used as leverage for obtaining something from God but practiced as a sign of gratitude. Francis easily linked Mary to angels as special signs of God’s love; he had a special devotion to Saint Michael the Archangel, as well.
Our love can feel exhausted or spent at times, but God’s love and mercy never run out. That should offer us a huge measure of peace.
Kissing your feet with all the love I am capable of, I beg you to show the greatest possible reverence and honor for the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things, whether on the earth or in the heavens, have been brought to peace and reconciled with Almighty God (Colossians 1:20).
And I implore all my friars who are priests now or who will be priests in the future, all those who want to be priests of the Most High, to be free from all earthly affection when they say Mass, and offer single-mindedly and with reverence the true sacrifice of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, with a holy and pure intention, not for any earthly gain or through human respect or love for any human being, not serving to the eye as pleasers of men (Ephesians 6:6). With the help of God’s grace, their whole intention should be fixed on him, with a will to please the most high Lord alone, because it is he alone who accomplishes this marvel in his own way. (Letter to a General Chapter)
Did All these thoughts about the Eucharist, coming from a single letter, indicate how central this sacrament was to the life and ministry of Francis?
Pray for everyone whom God is feeding at the next Mass in which you participate.