If you’ve only heard of one saint, chances are it is Saint Francis of Assisi. His international popularity hasn’t waned in 800 years. In fact, if Francis were a man born ahead of his time, in many ways his time is now.
For many years, American Catholics who wanted to follow in the footsteps of a saint had to travel to Europe. In Assisi, they could step where Saint Francis did. In Ireland, they might walk the byways of Saint Patrick.
Our lives are so easily fragmented between responsibilities to friends, family, employers, neighbors, and the larger human family that we may think we don’t have the time or energy for prayer. That was the experience of Saint Francis of Assisi up until his mid-twenties. Then he discovered that prayer was more real than many of the things he had been considering more important.
When the prisoners of Auschwitz’s Block 14 heard there was an escape, their faces went white. First those in the escapee’s block were required to stand at attention in the parade grounds until the escapee was found.
Pope John Paul II canonized Conventual Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe in Rome on October 10, 1982. Millions of Catholics around the world and people of other faiths are aware of this saint’s sacrifice. In late July 1941, at the Auschwitz concentration camp, Maximilian, in a great act of love, offered his life for the life of a Polish Jew, Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek, who was married, with a family. He died on August 14. It wouldn’t be the first time Maximilian showed bravery and love in the face of danger.
Snow shovelers, flight attendants, phlebotomists, kindergarten aides, car mechanics, postal workers, gardeners, cooks, farmers, computer technicians, produce managers, librarians, garbage collectors: They make a lovely litany for the Feast of All Saints!
The spirituality of Saint Francis is not so much about the heroic deed as it is about the heroic love with which even the smallest deed is done. That is very clear from the quintessential story of Perfect Joy.
As Francis of Assisi looked out of his cave and down to Assisi from the heights of Mount Subasio, it was as if the whole of creation were spread out beneath his cave, and God’s goodness rushed in upon him. He could only think of that pure Goodness and how God shares his life with us. Everything good and beautiful comes from God.
The call to holiness guided Mother Teresa throughout her life. She said, “Every day I pray, please let my people grow in holiness. I need holy people to offer to God, I don’t need numbers. That urgency for holiness was what she taught me, by example, by words, by silence. It is not possible for those of us who claim to be her spiritual children to ignore the heroic promise she made to God: “I will give saints to Mother Church.” — Fr. Angelo Scolozzi, M.T.