Summary: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Saint Francis was a man of God and a man of peace. His life is a wonderful example for us all.
“Lord, use me as an instrument of your peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow your love; Where there is injury pardon; Where there is doubt keep strong my faith; When in my life I face despair O Lord, my faith but comes from hope, in sadness there is joy found in You”
This beautiful poem is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis was born at the end of the twelfth century and lived in the little village of Assisi. If you visit Italy, you can spend a full day in this beautiful place, nestled on the hillside overlooking the Umbria Valley. Saint Francis’ family was both worldly and wealthy and he was a product of this environment, but upon conversion his life changed dramatically. He heard God’s call to “rebuild” the church, in particular a little church at Santa Damiano. Obeying God’s call, he devoted the rest of his life imitating Christ by living a life of poverty and obedience. When people came in contact with Saint Francis, they experienced and saw Christ mirrored in him. Each day of his life, nothing was too important to set aside for someone who was in need. He understood the God’s message and he lived his life as a true example of peace, love, hope and joy. He found joy in the simplest things in life. We should too.
We can all learn from his example. Too often we ignore the needs of people around us, or even miss obvious opportunities before us to help because of our busy lives and schedules which are too full. Saint Francis spent his entire adult lifetime seeking to help those in need always gently guiding them to a relationship with Christ, which is most important of all. One of my favorite quotes by Saint Francis is; “We must spread the Gospel everywhere we go, but only occasionally use words.” In the book “Devotional Classics” edited by Richard Foster, he writes; “Two things immediately strike me about the life of St. Francis; his merry abandonment and his instant obedience. He traveled the villages and towns of his day, joyfully announcing the presence of the Kingdom of God and wonderfully demonstrating its life and power. He also obeyed without hesitation any word he believed to be the command of Jesus Christ. The two are connected of course. Only as we let go of all other loyalties and securities are we free to live obedient lives. Merry abandonment, instant obedience; excellent virtues for us to strive for in our world of a thousand competing loyalties.”
There is a wonderful story about the life of Saint Francis and how He was so connected with God and with God’s creatures.
“One day while walking with his companions, he looked up and saw near the road some trees on which there was such a countless throng of different birds as he had never seen before in that area. And also a very great crowd of birds was in a field near those trees. While he gazed and marveled at the multitude of birds, the Spirit of God came over him and he said to his companions; ‘Wait for me here on the road. I am going to preach to our sisters, the birds.’
And he went into the field toward the birds that were on the ground. And as soon as he began to preach God’s Word, all the birds that were on the trees came down toward him. And all of them stayed motionless with the others in the field, even though he went among them, touching many of them with his hands. But not a single one of them made the slightest move, and later they did not leave until he had given them his blessing. Now at these words of Saint Francis, all those birds began to open their beaks, stretch out their necks, spread their wings, and reverently bow their heads, showing by their movements and their songs that the words of Saint Francis gave them great pleasure. And when he noticed this, he likewise rejoiced greatly in spirit with them, and he marveled at the multitude of all the different varieties of beautiful birds, their attention and affection. And therefore he devoutly praised God for them and gently urged them to praise their Creator as well.
Finally, when he had finished preaching to the, Saint Francis made the Sign of the Cross over all those birds and gave them permission to leave. Then all the birds rose up into the air simultaneously, and in the air they sang a wonderful song. And when they had finished singing, they separated in an orderly way and formed four groups. And each group rose high into the air and flew off in a different direction: one toward the east, another toward the west, the third toward the south, and the fourth toward the north. And each group sang marvelously as they flew away toward the four quarters of the world, making a Sign of the Cross in the air thus signifying that the Cross was to be carried throughout the world.