Where there is Love and Wisdom, there is neither Fear nor Ignorance. Where there is Patience and Humility, there is neither Anger nor Annoyance. Where there is Poverty and Joy, there is neither Cupidity nor Avarice. Where there is Peace and Contemplation, there is neither Care nor Restlessness. Where there is Fear of God to guard the dwelling, there no enemy can enter. Where there is Mercy and Prudence, there is neither Excess nor Harshness. (Admonition XXVII)
Francis was one of most free people who has ever lived—internally free, that is. His conversion had its dramatic moments (for example, embracing a leper along the road), but it was an ongoing, progressive opening himself to God’s grace and to the life changes which that grace always sets in motion.
Because we are constantly tempted to think that God will ask too much from us, we wonder: “Will the first pair of virtues in each line above lead us to what concludes each line? Will love and wisdom truly keep us from fear and ignorance?”
Thomas of Celano, the first biographer of Francis, wrote that the Poor Man of Assisi seemed to his contemporaries like “a man from another world.” He increasingly based his life on God’s sense of “normal”—and that meant progressively deeper conversion to God’s ways.
God’s grace needs room to work in a person’s life. Conversion creates that room in us by reassessing what is truly important and what is not. The beggar whom Francis could easily have dismissed became an instrument of God’s grace.
Good and gracious God, you have created us in your image and likeness. We are constantly tempted to try to improve on your work by finding some shortcut, some way that will save us time and energy. Help us to remember, as Saint Francis of Assisi knew very well, that conversion to your ways is indeed the quickest and only reliable way to you.