Day One: The Incarnation
St. Francis saw this dynamic manifested in the birth of Jesus—being born in a poor and humble stable. In order to show others the humility of God, he dramatized the Nativity with what became our tradition of Christmas crèches, but he wanted us to notice the simplicity. Francis saw the humility of God in the Eucharist, and was awed that Jesus was willing to “hide” under the form of bread. He saw it clearly in the cross, where Jesus gave his life for us. Click here to read more.
Day Two: Evangelization
St. Francis could no more deny or escape sharing that good news than he could breathing in order to stay alive. Once he had accepted the Gospel as his way of life—and Jesus as his model—everything changed. What had been bitter became sweet. And, as we know, there was absolutely no keeping that a secret! Click here to read more.
Day Three: The Gospels
We would be missing something if we were only given a sheet of music to experience Johann Sebastian Bach’s music or an unpainted or darkened Caravaggio canvas. Music is experienced through sound and vibration, while art is enjoyed through sight and the interplay of light, darkness, and touch. In a similar way, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was much more than mere words inked on parchment for St. Francis of Assisi. It was a way of life. Click here to read more.
Day Four: Creation
The Jesuit priest poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has a beautiful line in one of his poems. “The world,” he wrote, “is charged with the grandeur of God.” Though St. Francis lived long before Hopkins, I think he would agree. Francis sensed the beauty and presence of God in the created world. It was like another “Bible” that he read and encountered the Almighty. His biographer, St. Bonaventure, put it this way: ”In beauty, he saw Beauty itself.” Click here to read more.
Day Five: Poverty
For St. Francis, poverty wasn’t a state or condition that afflicts some unfortunate people. For him, poverty was a choice—not something that anyone or anything imposed upon him. He had renounced the life of wealth and privilege that he was born into, but that was just the beginning. When we say that Francis chose poverty, in the very same breath we ought to say he did so out of his love for God and the poverty the Lord chose to embrace when becoming one of us. Click here to read more.
Day Six: Peace
As a young man, Francis aspired to knightly glory, to participate in great battles. He did fight against the neighboring city of Perugia. We don’t know for sure, but he may have killed some of the enemy. Assisi lost the battle, and Francis spent about a year as a prisoner of war. When he came home, sick and perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, he knew there had to be something better. Click here to read more.
Day Seven: Love
Francis’ desire to experience God within himself also propelled him to lead a life modeled after the source of love: Jesus. It was a life of poverty, preaching, and penance lived in a spirit of humility. In his desire to so imitate Jesus, Francis freely shared what he already knew and pointed all to do the same. Click here to read more.
Day Eight: Joy
If you Google the words saint, Francis, and joy, you’ll get 52,100,000 hits! It’s hard to think about the life of Francis without smiling. When I do so, I picture him playing the fiddlesticks, preaching to the birds, writing poetry, singing and dancing God’s praises, and smacking his lips every time he mentioned Jesus’ name. Click here to read more.
Day Nine: Death
For a hopeful Francis, laying on the ground naked, praising and embracing Sister Death, this was a man at the culmination of years of trials, prayer, and a life spent longing to be intimately united with Jesus. In Francis’ final gift of poverty, he returned his mortal body to dust what was dust and to God what was God’s. Click here to read more.