St. Francis of Assisi

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi! Hooray!
This holy man is quite possibly one of the most popular saints ever. Usually, when we think of him, we might imagine him surrounded by animals or talking to the birds. This is because St. Francis had a great love for God's creation and is a beautiful and fitting way to think of him.
However, St. Francis was more than just a man who loved nature. He was devoted, first and foremost, to God, and it is out of this love that all his other loves sprang.
Including his love for Lady Poverty.

Who was Lady Poverty? Lady Poverty was St. Francis' way of seeing the virtue of detachment from worldly goods - dependence on God, and not on earthly riches. When he was a young man and still rather attached to the things of earth, like riches and parties and raucous young friends, he had a vision of this beautiful lady and fell desperately in love with her. As a result of this vision, he gave up everything he owned and followed Christ without reserve for the rest of his life.
Dante describes this very well in his Divine Comedy:
And unto her he pledged his wedded faith
In spiritual court and
coram patre too,
And loved her more each day that he drew breath
(Sayers, Paradiso, Canto XI, lines 61-63).
St. Francis was not the first lover of Lady Poverty, however. Christ Himself loved her long before anyone else could see any beauty in her. Dante says of Poverty's love for Christ,
Naught it availed that she so constant was,
And so courageous, that when Mary stayed
Below, she leapt with Christ upon the cross
(Sayers, Paradiso, Canto XI, lines 70-72).
Christ had a great love for Poverty - he stayed close to her all through his life, having no place to lay his head at night. (See Matthew 8:20.) At the beginning of His life, He was laid in a manger full of straw for a bed; at the end of His life, He was stretched out on a rough wooden cross, as poor as the day He came into the world. St. Francis followed Christ's radical example by giving up absolutely everything.
What about us? Are we willing to give up all we have for God? We might not be called to walk the earth clad in naught but a pair of sandals and a rough brown robe, but would we be willing to if God asked it of us? Are we willing to share the things we have with those in need? More importantly, are we willing to share our love with those in need? They might not look like the lepers St. Francis helped - chances are they'll show up as a familiar face, maybe a pesky little brother or an annoying next-door neighbor. Are we channels of Christ's love and peace to them, as St. Francis would have been?
How much do we love Lady Poverty?
Dear St. Francis, pray for us to be like you!


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