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Friar’s E-Spirations: St. Francis and the Leper

St. Francis had a fear and abhorrence of lepers. One day, however, he met a man afflicted with leprosy while riding his horse near Assisi. Though the sight of the leper filled him with horror and disgust, Francis got off his horse and kissed the leper. Then the leper put out his hand, hoping to receive something. Out of compassion, Francis gave money to the leper.

But when Francis mounted his horse again and looked all around, he could not see the leper anywhere. It dawned on him that it was Jesus whom he had just kissed.

What St. Francis Learned

In his Testament, Francis wrote, “When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them. When I became acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became the source of spiritual and physical consolation for me.”

Francis Did More Than Meet the Leper

Francis’ embrace of the leper was not an isolated instance. No, his ministry to lepers would only expand. Francis would go down to the colony of lepers two miles below Assisi, outside the city walls. Francis and other friars continued to minister to the lepers, feeding them, while also caring for and kissing their wounds. This became an ongoing ministry for Francis and the friars.

Reaching Out to Others

There are many ways today that we can assist those whom society rejects—those with mental illness or those who just don’t fit in because of lifestyle, orientation, or religion. In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, we can kiss and wash their wounds. We can offer them comfort or compassion. Or we can add to this list people who are seriously ill at home or in a hospital.

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Dear Friar Jim: Your E-spiration “Who Is the God We Believe In?” was wonderful and something that I needed to hear. Thank you for sharing. Kerry

A:Thanks, Kerry. What’s wonderful about the Gospel is that it is true. And it is important to understand that because so many people have been taught they are not worthy, good, or deserving. Now, that is a false and harmful teaching and is not true. Friar Jim

Dear Friar Jim: Thank you for your article on who God really is. We need to hear over and over that God is love. You have made it clear that God cannot not love us since He is love. In our broken world, it is hard to imagine just how much God loves us. Thank you! Marion

A:Yes, Marion, God’s nature is love. And in fact he loves those who hate and reject him. What that means is that even those who reject God cannot escape him and his love. In hell, which is complete self-separation from God, God keeps loving them and, as someone said, “That’s part of the ‘hell of it’” for them. Friar Jim

Dear Friar Jim: Who among us hasn’t wondered who God is? Where God is? What God is? Sometimes I feel like I spend more time questioning than believing. Thanks to your thoughtful words, I have been steered in the right direction. God is present. God is compassion. God is love. Benjamin

A:Benjamin, the good God gave us Jesus in the flesh to show us—in his own human nature—just who God is. “Who sees me, sees the Father,” Jesus said. That’s why we don’t have to guess or wonder who God is or what God is like. Friar Jim