|Our Lady of Solitude Chapel’s encaustic tile of St. Francis’ encounter with Our Lord: “Go and Rebuild My Church”
One of the many things I admire in our holy father Francis is his ability to be himself. He could be who he was: simple and humble and perhaps even be looked upon as being outlandish, especially at the beginning of the founding of the Friars Minor! And yet, that did not matter because he truly was in love with Jesus. He saw and met the Lord in his neighbors, in nature, in the words he preached, but most importantly in the Eucharistic Presence.
He realized his life in Christ was the end. And our holy father Francis did not preach just by words but by his life. He made his life to be the imitatio Christi, the re-presenting of Christ, the re-living of Christ in the most literal sense. Just as he had been the model of action earlier in his life, our holy father Francis became the perfect example of contemplation on Mount Alverna when he received the stigmata. In the words of St. Bonaventure: “Francis tasted the hidden manna, and with Christ rested in the tomb, dead, as it were, to the outside world.”
It seems impossible to achieve the heights of holiness that St. Francis achieved, and yet he did so through his littleness and humility and the grace of God. Just ask St. Therese of Lisieux! She and the Poor Man of Assisi will tell you it is a relief for we weak and sinful children of God to discover that we are loved unconditionally by Jesus, just the way we are. Dr. Conrad Baars says that Jesus always adjusts His perfect love to our imperfect state. Let’s keep it simple: if we have grateful and enthusiastic hearts, we can turn away from ourselves and turn toward the One who is our Way, our Truth and our Life. And St. Francis will be there with us, encouraging and praying for us along the way…