“Let us begin to do good, for as yet we have done little.”
—St. Francis of Assisi
Francis spoke these words at a time when most people already considered him a saint. In his mind, there was no plateau in life where he could feel he had “made it” and could coast into heaven from then on.
He did not compare his love with that of other men but with that of Christ; hence, he always saw an infinite expanse into which he could still go, becoming more and more like his Lord. God has already blessed you with his life and given you the gift of faith and faithfulness. Each time we begin anew, we enter a new phase of life intent on enriching our relationship with God. You are not entering upon something different from the Christian life or something better than the life of other Christians.
You are looking, like Francis and with Francis, into that vast expanse of Christ’s love, and you desire to share it more deeply. The only thing different about your new life is that your Christian life will now be given a particular coloring and direction by Francis and the traditions that have grown from his life and words. You’re beginning again, and you will continue to begin again for the rest of your life.
We often think that God’s call comes to us when we have achieved a level of spiritual perfection, when we are worthy of so great a calling. But the reality for most of us is that we get hints and suggestions of a new direction for our lives at the most unexpected (and occasionally inopportune) times. It was this way for Jesus’ first apostles. And it was this way for St. Francis of Assisi and many of the saints.
In your spiritual life, you must be satisfied to progress gradually. Usually you will not notice your growth. Sometimes it may even seem you are growing backward as you discover your weaknesses and failings. But trust in God. Allow God to lead you through your spiritual companions, through the reflections of this book, through your own study and prayer. Week by week, you will turn your attention from one aspect of the spiritual life to another.
It’s like painting a picture: a touch here, a dab there, and gradually the masterpiece emerges. When you finish this year of reflection, study, and prayer, you will be just beginning a deeper and more fruitful life with God. No deep understanding of Jesus, Francis, and Clare can be reached without God’s direction through prayer.
Make each action part of your prayer life. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead you not just to mental knowledge but to a deep spiritual understanding that will result in your conversion. Conversion is the ongoing process of learning to live the gospel way of life given to us by Jesus and revealed to us by Francis and Clare.
Lord, you promise to make all things new.
That includes me.
As I begin this journey
to discover St. Francis’s way to you,
I ask you to begin to renew
my faith, my hope, and my love.