In Francis’s life, it was the crucified Savior who spoke to him from the cross of San Damiano and whom he saw in lepers. And it was the crucified Savior he first fell in love with. The suffering Jesus moved him to tears, and in pity and compassion he wanted to join Jesus in his suffering to show how much he loved him. And so he did “foolish” things at times to show his love, to keep focused and faithful to the Christ who revealed himself to a shopkeeper’s son who longed to be a knight and ended up choosing instead to be a happy beggar who sang songs of love and lived and preached the Gospel of the love of God who was made real for him in the words and life of God’s Son. The human condition being what it is, love in the end involves a choice to love the Love that created and redeemed us, even in the face of affliction, abandonment, and death. “And that, Brother Leo, is perfect joy, a love purified by the love of God.” That is the secret and perfect teaching of St. Francis of Assisi.
— from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis
by Murray Bodo, OFM