Lesson Thirty-seven—Radical Penance
Lesson: Francis’s holiness was so great that many saw him as another Christ, in that Christ truly lived in him and through him. He was wholly given over to the will of God. This was noticeable in his daily interactions with others, in his preaching, the miracles that abounded, and in many other aspects of his life. For example, he and his first companions numbered twelve, just like the Twelve Apostles. He bore the marks of the stigmata in his body in resemblance to our Lord. And during at least one Lent, he fasted in a deserted place for forty days, as did our Lord.
It is recorded that one year, on the night of Ash Wednesday, Francis asked one of his friends to take him to a deserted island on the Lake of Perugia by boat. He took with him only two small loaves of bread. The island, being deserted, provided no shelter or other provisions. There was, however, a small area of trees and thorns that provided a place for Francis to keep his Lent in continuous prayer and fasting.
Upon arriving on the island, Francis asked his friend to tell no one of his Lenten fast and asked that he leave him there until Holy Thursday. The friend did as Francis requested, and upon returning to the island on Holy Thursday, he found Francis waiting. The friend later recalled that Francis departed the island not with the two small loaves of bread, but with one and a half. Thus, Francis survived those days by eating only a half loaf of bread. He was said to have eaten that half loaf to conquer any pride that might have arisen from eating nothing at all. He decided that since our Lord ate nothing for forty days, he, being a sinner, should not dare to fully imitate his Lord. Therefore, by eating a half loaf of bread, he proved to himself that he was not worthy of the full fast that Jesus kept.
In time, as people came to know of Francis’s Lenten retreat of fasting and prayer on that island, they began to flock to it out of devotion to him. Some built homes, and eventually a hut for Friars Minor was built so that they could live like Francis who lived like Christ. Many miracles have been said to take place in the lives of those who went to that island out of love and devotion to God and Francis.
Reflection: Fasting is difficult for most people. Saint Francis, however, discovered great value in fasting, so much so that he embraced it to a very radical degree. Since the extreme fast that he was said to have kept during Lent on the Island of Perugia was unquestionably miraculously accomplished, it is a rare soul whom God calls to such a fast. Nonetheless, we should learn from the radical witness Saint Francis gave during that Lent.
Do you fast? Is there a particular day each week when you try to abstain from certain foods, or do you try to eat far less than normal on other days? If not, then you might want to consider doing so. Fasting is spoken of clearly in the Scriptures, and numerous saints, in addition to Saint Francis, testify to its value.
When fasting and abstaining from certain foods is done in a prayerful and sacrificial way, it has great potential to magnify one’s life of prayer and accomplish a very deep union with God. Fasting is a way of overcoming our disordered appetites and fleshly desires. By depriving yourself in this way, your will is freer to cling to the will of God. Unhealthy attachments are more easily overcome, and much freedom is found.
Reflect, today, upon the spiritual discipline of fasting and abstinence. If you find yourself rationalizing away the wisdom of this practice, ask yourself why you would do so. The most important question to ask yourself is whether or not you want to grow closer to God. If you do, know that this spiritual practice is of great value. In fact, many saints point to it as an essential spiritual discipline that we should regularly practice. Ponder your practice of this form of self-denial and strive to work through any difficulties you have in embracing it. Follow the example of Saint Francis, and your soul will receive much grace.
Saint Francis, your love for God was so great that you miraculously kept a forty-day fast, eating only a half loaf of bread. I pray that your radical witness will inspire me to imitate your love for fasting each week. Please pray that I will know how and when God wants me to fast and abstain so that I will begin to share in the spiritual freedom that you so fully experienced. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Lesson Thirty-eight—Apparition of Saints Peter and Paul
Lesson: Toward the beginning of his life as a Friar Minor, Francis chose to imitate Christ by sending his followers out to preach two by two. Francis chose as his companion Brother Masseo, and they set off on a journey to France. Since the call to radical poverty was so new to them all, God confirmed their calling during that journey through miraculous signs.
Being quite hungry on the journey, Francis and Masseo arrived in a town and went their separate ways to beg for food. They then met on the edge of town to sit down and eat what they had been given. Though it was a very deserted place, they stumbled upon a nice stone that they could use for a table and discovered a spring of water from which they could drink. When Francis saw that Brother Masseo was able to beg for more than he, Francis rejoiced at the great “treasures” they had received. Brother Masseo was confused since they had only a few scraps to eat without an actual table or utensils. But Francis explained that since they received the food, the stone, and the water in their complete poverty as a gift of the great King’s providence, then what they had were great treasures.
Later, to confirm these treasures were from God and to confirm that this form of radical poverty was God’s will for them, God offered them two miraculous signs. First, while praying in a nearby church, Francis became so inflamed with the love of God that he called to Brother Masseo. Upon Brother Masseo’s coming to him, Francis breathed on him. His breath, by the power of the Holy Spirit, lifted Masseo off the ground and projected him several feet. Masseo later recalled that at that moment he was given such sweet consolation from God that it was like nothing he had ever experienced before. This heavenly consolation inspired them to journey to Rome to beg Saints Peter and Paul to pray for them that they would live holy poverty even more fully.
In Rome, after fervently praying in the Church of Saint Peter for the gift of poverty, Francis had a vision of Saints Peter and Paul who spoke to him and confirmed to him that God granted him and his companions the gift of poverty. In the vision, the saints said that Christ Himself sent them to tell Francis that this most precious gift of poverty, which accompanied Christ and the Apostles while on Earth, was now given to Francis and his followers. After the vision, Francis and Brother Masseo were so filled with joy about this revelation that rather than continue to France, they returned to the Valley of Spoleto to share the good news with the other brothers.
Reflection: Though supernatural visions and miraculous signs are not necessary for our salvation, God nonetheless used them in the life of Saint Francis to confirm His holy will, especially regarding his unique and radical call to live in complete poverty. God first spoke to Saint Francis’s heart and inspired him to love the gift of poverty. Then, God confirmed this interior calling by miraculous signs.
What is it that God has spoken to you, in the depths of your heart? In which ways is God calling you to embrace a life of holiness? Though your vocation might differ from that of Saint Francis, God does speak to you, calling you to holiness. And the more you are able to hear Him speak, the more radical will be the calling you receive.
At first, when we respond to God’s voice and choose to follow His will, our holy obedience might be confirmed within us by spiritual consolations that help assure us that we are on the right track. The more fully we respond to God’s call, the more clarity we will need to confirm that we are doing God’s will. Though few people will receive visions of the saints confirming their vocation, know that if this is necessary for you, God will provide it. But minus these supernatural signs from Heaven, be assured that if you commit yourself to obedience to the will of God, God will help you grow in certainty that you are fulfilling His will.
Reflect, today, upon anything that you have sensed God saying to you during your prayer in the past. Have you joyfully obeyed and fully embraced that which He has asked of you? If so, has God given you some form of further confirmation in your spirit that you have done what He has asked? If not, then start at the beginning and seek out His will. When you hear God speak within the depths of your heart, listen to Him, and obey Him with all your might.
Saint Francis, you were deeply given over to the will of God in your life. The calling you received to absolute poverty defied earthly wisdom. But as you heard God speak to you, you consented. As a result, God confirmed your vocation in miraculous ways. Please pray that I will also hear God speak to me so that I will have the courage and conviction to respond to Him, no matter what He asks of me. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Lesson Thirty-nine—An Apparition of Christ Himself
Lesson: In addition to having an apparition of Saints Peter and Paul, Francis and even his companions received apparitions of Christ Himself, the Blessed Virgin Mary, other saints, and angels.
On one occasion, Francis was gathered with some of his brothers, and he ordered three of them to speak individually and freely about God, without any prepared text, as the Holy Spirit inspired them. The first one spoke beautifully and eloquently about the deepest mysteries of God. Francis then silenced him and asked the second and then the third to do the same. Each one of the brothers, out of obedience to Francis and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, spoke of the deep and holy mysteries of the Almighty. When they were finished, suddenly Jesus Himself appeared to them all in the form of a Child. He blessed them and then disappeared. When this happened, all four of them were sent into a mystical rapture for some time. When they came out of it, they marveled at the divine wisdom that came out of their mouths at the command of holy obedience from Francis and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
On another occasion, there was a young boy who joined the friars. They were staying in a small hut without any separate cells. When evening came, Francis lay on the ground and went to sleep with the intention of rising in the night to go up a nearby hill to pray. The young friar wanted to follow Francis when he prayed so he tied his cord to Francis’s cord and went to sleep next to him so he would awaken when Francis rose for prayer. When Francis awoke, he saw the cords tied together and unfastened them before going out to pray. When the young friar later awoke and discovered Francis was gone, he got up and went searching for him up the hill. When the young friar came near, he saw from a distance that Francis was praying, bathed in light, and was conversing with Christ Jesus Himself, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist, Saint John the Evangelist, and a whole host of angels. The boy fainted. When Francis finished praying, he found the young friar and carried him home. When he awoke, he instructed the boy not to say anything about the vision during Francis’s lifetime. The young friar kept this promise, but he was so affected that he became quite holy and devout, living a glorious life as a Friar Minor.
Reflection: The saints are real. Our Lord and His Blessed Mother are real and are constantly speaking to us, calling us closer to unity with them. For these reasons, it should not surprise us that someone as close to God as Saint Francis would regularly converse with our Lord, his mother, and the saints and angels as clearly as we are able to converse with one another. Too often, we see God as One Who is only transcendent and far away in Heaven. But He is also very imminent, desiring to be close and intimate with us. The same is true of all the saints and angels.
Though an exterior vision of Jesus, our Blessed Mother, the saints, and angels should never be sought out, an interior communication with all of them is essential. We must know them as our most intimate of friends.
How do you see God and the host of angels and saints in Heaven? Do they seem distant to you? Or do they seem very close? If distant, know that God wants that remedied. If close, then rejoice in their closeness, and speak to them as you would your closest friends.
Though Francis was gifted with visions, an interior awareness of God and His angels and saints is more the norm. Seek this out. Seek them out. Pray to your guardian angel. Do so throughout the day. Keep our Lord and His mother ever on your mind. Know that their spiritual closeness to you is by far the most important gift you could receive. Francis received these literal and external visions in part for his own holiness. But he also received them to teach each of us about the closeness of God and the hosts of Heaven, so that we will learn to regularly converse with them in our daily lives.
Saint Francis, you were a true friend of Christ and a true son of the Mother of God. Your companions, the saints, and angels were always with you, praying for you, inspiring you, and communicating the will of God to you. Please pray that I may also enjoy this closeness and intimacy with our Lord and all His saints and angels. May I hear them in my heart and see them by the gift of faith so that I will walk always with them through life. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Lesson Forty—The Wolf of Gubbio
Lesson: In the town of Gubbio, there was said to be a very fierce wolf who lived on the outskirts of town and wreaked havoc on the inhabitants of the town. The wolf was so fierce that it regularly devoured the citizens’ livestock and even killed some of the people themselves. This caused great fear among the people of that town, so much so that they feared even to travel outside the city.
Francis, who was living in the town at that time, had compassion on the people and decided to confront the wolf so as to convert him and put an end to his violence. Leaving the city with many of its citizens looking on from a distance, Francis came upon the wolf running toward him with an open mouth. As soon as Francis saw the wolf, he made the sign of the Cross over him and gently commanded him to do no harm to him or to anyone else but to come to him so he could speak with him. As soon as Francis did this, the wolf closed his mouth, stopped running toward him and, instead, came to Francis as if a gentle lamb, sitting down at Francis’s feet.
Francis then explained the charges against the wolf and detailed the havoc that he had caused in the city. To that, that wolf bowed his head, indicating acknowledgment of the harm he had caused. Francis then went on to promise the wolf that if the wolf were to stop eating the livestock and attacking the citizens, they would provide for the wolf’s hunger for the rest of his life. When Francis asked the wolf if he would agree to this, he nodded his head, indicating he agreed. The wolf even placed his paw in Francis’s hand to confirm the promise.
After this, Saint Francis asked the wolf to follow him into the city. The citizens were amazed to see the wolf calmly following Francis. When Francis and the wolf reached the center of the city, Francis used it as an opportunity to preach. He said that the people feared the wolf physically, but that they should have a greater fear of the eternal death that comes from sin. Thus, Saint Francis first called the people to conversion. He then explained the promise he made to the wolf and asked the people to promise to feed the wolf. To this they agreed and did so for the next two years until the wolf’s natural death. The wolf regularly roamed throughout the city, being well cared for by the people. Not even the dogs would bark at him. Every time the people saw the wolf, they were inspired and recalled the witness Francis gave by the power of God.
Reflection: Though some might question the authenticity of this story, its truthfulness shouldn’t surprise us or lead us to doubt. Saint Francis was so close to God that miracles like this became a normal part of his life. Though these miracles were extraordinary, meaning they do not always happen even when one is truly holy, God chose to offer these extraordinary signs through Saint Francis so that we could learn their lessons.
We should take many lessons from this story. Among them is that God is in control of all things and will take care of all things if we trust Him completely. The wolf, prior to his “conversion,” should be seen as any form of evil that afflicts us. It could be external, such as others who harm us in some way. It could be internal, such as our passions and desires being out of control. Therefore, one central lesson we should take from this story is that God can tame any “beast” and subdue any “evil” that causes us difficulty.
Once God acts in this way in our lives, setting us free from some evil, the next lesson we can take from this story is that our freedom and protection must become an ongoing testimony to the power of God. The wolf, roaming peacefully for two years after encountering Saint Francis, was an ongoing sign to the people of God’s power and providence. So also, if God sets you free in some way, that ongoing freedom must become an ongoing sign to you and others of the power of God.
Reflect, today, upon this story. Read it as a parable spoken to you by God to reveal spiritual truths. As you ponder this powerful story, think about your own life and try to identify what the wolf represents to you. Is there something that wreaks havoc in your life? As you identify what that might be, pray to Saint Francis and ask his intercession so that God will come and tame that beast and free you from fear. From there, as God works, never forget the good God has done for you.
Saint Francis, God used you in a powerful way in the town of Gubbio. Through your mediation, God brought peace and freedom to the people of that town. More importantly, God showed them that He could also act within their souls, setting them free from all that afflicts them spiritually. Please pray that I may also discover freedom from the evils in my life. As I am set free by the power of God, I pray that I will always rejoice and be eternally grateful. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Lesson Forty-one—Healing of Leprosy, Body and Soul
Lesson: The miracles of Francis were numerous. In fact, they were so numerous that they became an ordinary part of his life, just as they were an ordinary part of the ministry of Jesus Himself. And just as Jesus’ miracles healed not only the body but also the soul, the same was the case with Francis’s miracles.
Recall that one of the first acts of love Francis performed after his conversion was to care for the lepers near Assisi. During his life as a Friar Minor, he continued this mission and always saw his care for lepers as a way of loving Christ Himself.
There was a hospital for lepers whom the friars regularly cared for. Among the lepers was one who was so impatient and intolerable that he chastised and rebuked whoever tried to care for him. He even went so far as to regularly blaspheme Christ and His mother in the presence of all. For that reason, many thought he was possessed by the devil. The brothers were so offended by the leper’s blasphemies against Christ and His Mother that they went to Francis and told him that they no longer could endure listening to him.
Francis then went to speak to the leper himself. When he met the man and offered him his peace, the leper blasphemed God for his illness and sufferings, stating he could never be at peace because of what God had done to him. After praying for a while in private, Francis returned and offered to care for the leper himself. The leper agreed and asked Francis to wash his wretched and putrid body. Francis agreed and began to wash the stinky, sore-covered leper with warm water mixed with herbs. Everywhere Francis washed, the leprosy was cured. As the man watched, seeing his leprosy being washed away inch-by-inch, he began to weep. As he did, not only was his body cleaned, but his soul was healed as well. He began to profess how guilty he was of sin and how cruel he had been to those caring for him, acknowledging he deserved hell. After fifteen days of tears and sorrow for his sins, he went to Confession and received a full spiritual cleansing.
Some weeks later, after the leper was restored fully to God’s grace and mercy, he came down with another illness that led to his death. When the man died, he appeared to Francis, who was in another city. Francis asked who he was, and the holy soul told Francis that he was the leper who was healed in body and soul. With great joy, the man thanked Francis and told him that he was now going to Heaven to share in God’s glory for eternity. He also offered praise of Francis and prophesied that through Francis and his friars, many souls just like him throughout the world would be saved from the fires of hell.
Reflection: Miracles fascinate many people, but there is no value in a miracle unless it also changes hearts. As the Scriptures reveal, Jesus Himself did not usually perform many miracles when there was a lack of faith. Instead, He did so primarily when He knew that the miracle would inspire and deepen faith.
Saint Francis was so close to God that God used him for many miracles. But like Christ’s, Saint Francis’s miracles were also closely tied to faith. They resulted from deep faith and helped people’s faith in God grow.
In our lives, we must know that faith is of infinitely greater value than miracles. Though every interior transformation of our soul by grace is truly miraculous, physical miracles that defy the laws of nature are good but are not essential to our transformation in Christ.
What is more impressive to you? The spiritual transformation of your soul? Or being able to witness some physical miracle? If God were to give you a physical miracle, know that it would be for the single purpose of drawing you closer to Him. Therefore, the primary focus of our relationship with God must be the transformation of our souls, not physical miracles. If God does grant those physical miracles, may He be praised! If not, may He be praised just as much.
Reflect, today, upon that which you desire the most. As you do, carefully ponder the infinite value of the transformation of your soul by grace. Seek an increase in faith, hope, and charity. If other miraculous actions take place in your life, rejoice and allow them to increase your faith. If they don’t, strive to rejoice just as much, knowing that your union with God must be your central goal in life.
Saint Francis, God used you in powerful ways to change many lives. He chose to perform many miracles through you when He knew those miracles would change hearts. Please pray that I may be transformed by Christ and have as my central goal to grow in holiness. May I always rejoice and give praise to God for everything He chooses to do to me. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Lesson Forty-two—The Conversion of Three Murderous Robbers
Lesson: A young and holy friar named Brother Angelo was the guardian of a hermitage called Monte Casale. One day, three murderous robbers knocked at the door of the hermitage and asked for food. Brother Angelo, knowing who these men were, harshly rebuked them, telling them they had no right to ask for the food for which the friars had begged because of the evil they had done. The three men left, feeling humiliated by this rejection.
Shortly afterward, Francis arrived at the hermitage and Brother Angelo told him what had happened. At that, Francis rebuked Brother Angelo, telling him that he should have shown mercy and compassion to these three murderous robbers for the good of their souls. Francis then gave Brother Angelo a loaf of bread and some wine that he had just received from begging and ordered Brother Angelo to diligently search for those three men, to beg for their forgiveness, to give them the bread and wine, and to tell them that if they would abandon their lives of thievery and murder—turning to God in faith and prayer—that Francis himself would promise to take care of them, feeding them continually. Brother Angelo did so and, as he did, Francis entered into prayer, begging God to convert their hearts.
The men were so touched by the humble apology of Brother Angelo and the promise of Francis, that they went to Francis and told him that they would repent and follow his example. Francis preached to them and received them into the order, and they entered into a life of penance for all that they had done. Two of the men died shortly afterwards but one of them lived for fifteen years, spending his days in continual prayer and penance. At the end of his life, he had a powerful vision by which many divine truths were revealed to him about his life and the penance he had done. In that vision, he was told by Francis himself—who had died some years before—that the man would die in eight days and that Francis would come for him. Sure enough, after seven days of serious illness, the man died and Francis came for him with a multitude of saints and angels, welcoming him into the glories of Heaven.
Reflection: Are there people in your life who you believe to be unworthy of your love and mercy? Hopefully not. The extent to which we withhold the mercy of God from others is the extent to which God will withhold His mercy from us. However, if we can increase our mercy and forgiveness to others, including those who seem unworthy of that love, then we can be assured that God will grant us the same depth of mercy.
Saint Francis rebuked Brother Angelo for his lack of mercy. The good news is that Brother Angelo quickly accepted that rebuke and changed his ways. As a result, three sinners were converted and now share in the glories of Heaven.
Oftentimes we do not understand the power of our acts of mercy and forgiveness to the hard of heart. Though it may be difficult to love those who seem incapable of receiving our love, we must do it. In fact, the more difficult it is to love another, the deeper our manifestation of love will be. God wants us to love everyone, never judging whether they are worthy in our eyes.
Reflect, today, upon anyone in your life who is difficult to love. If someone or even several people come to mind, know that loving them is your surest way to Heaven. Additionally, loving them will not only increase your union with God, it will also become a continuous gift of God’s mercy, given to them through you, and might even become the source of the salvation of their souls.
Saint Francis, you loved every person with a burning love. You never took offense at another and never held their sins against them. Please pray that I may imitate this depth of mercy. May I truly forgive everyone who has wronged me and seek to love them with all my heart. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Lesson Forty-three—Saint Anthony of Padua
Lesson: Among the early friars, Francis was not the only one to become a canonized saint. Brother Anthony of Padua joined the Augustinian Fathers at the age of fifteen. His name was Fernando Martins de Bulhões, and he came from a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal. He was ordained as an Augustinian at the age of nineteen and then moved to a monastery in Coimbra, Italy.
While in Coimbra, some Franciscan friars moved into a small hut outside of the town. Fr. Fernando was very impressed by their simplicity, their life of prayer, and their evangelical spirit. One day he watched as five of the friars’ bodies were brought into town after being martyred for the faith in Morocco while trying to convert the Muslims. This so impressed Fr. Fernando that he sought permission to become a Friar Minor. This permission was granted, and he joined the friars in 1220, taking the name “Brother Anthony” after the name of the hermitage in which he was received into the order.
Brother Anthony quickly became known as a holy preacher of the Word of God. This was especially confirmed by two miraculous events. On one occasion, Brother Anthony was invited to preach for the pope and cardinals. As he preached, all who gathered were amazed at the wisdom that came forth from his mouth. But that’s not all that amazed them. It also happened that the gift of tongues was given to Brother Anthony during that sermon, just as it had been given to the apostles at Pentecost. Everyone present heard Anthony preaching in their own native language. The pope himself marveled at this preaching and at witnessing the gift of tongues.
On another occasion, when Anthony was preaching to a group of heretics in the town of Rimini for many days, the heretics argued with him and ultimately refused to listen and convert. They remained obstinate and hard of heart. The next day, Anthony was inspired to go to the river in that town and to preach to the fish. As soon as he started to preach, numerous fish came to him and poked their heads out of the water, giving him their full attention. He commanded the fish to give praise to their Creator and spoke to them about the many good things God had done for them. The fish responded as they could to give praise to God.
As Anthony preached, the people of the town, including the heretics, became aware of this sermon. They ran to the river in amazement, and even the heretics were stung to the heart for their stubbornness. They threw themselves at Anthony’s feet in humble repentance. Anthony then dismissed the fish and turned his sermon to them. He remained there for many days and many souls converted to the true faith.
Reflection: When a person is consumed with the love of God, God is able to use them in ways that are beyond imagination. Saint Anthony was inspired by the life of Saint Francis and his companions and, as a result, became a powerful instrument of God.
The miracle of preaching to the fish took place primarily because Saint Anthony deeply loved those “heretics” who were hard of heart. He gave himself wholeheartedly to their service. When they rejected his holy preaching, he didn’t give up. God inspired him to change these hardened hearts by a truly miraculous sign.
Too often in life, after trying to love those who appear unlovable, we give up in frustration. If Saint Anthony would have given up on this town, the people would have never converted. The same is true with us. If there are people we encounter who remain obstinate and refuse to submit to Christ, we might be their only hope. Our perseverance, determination, and willingness to do whatever it takes might be exactly what God needs to reach them. And if God does change the most obstinate and hard of heart through us, those converts might also become powerful instruments of God’s mercy to others.
Reflect, today, upon anyone whom you might have written off as hopeless. Is there anyone that you have chosen to condemn and judge? If so, learn from the witness of Saint Anthony, who learned from the witness of Saint Francis and his friars. Imitate them and recommit yourself to God so that God can use you to reach others in the most radical ways He wants.
Saint Anthony, you were inspired to give your life to Christ on account of the witness of Saint Francis and his friars. You then went forth to preach and teach and never gave up on the hard of heart. Please pray that I will persevere in my love and will always respond to God’s grace, offering myself to be used by Him in any way He chooses. Saint Anthony and Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Lesson Forty-four—God’s Creatures and Creation Obey the Saint
Lesson: God and God alone is the Master of His Creation. He keeps all things in being, orders the times and seasons of nature, brings forth the fruit of the earth, and orders every living creature at His command.
Francis, being a friend of God to the greatest degree, was given many singular privileges to share in God’s power over Creation. This was done to evoke wonder and awe among the people in order to bring them to repentance and faith in God.
At one time, a physician was called to examine Francis’s failing eyesight. The cure that the doctor ordered was that a hot iron should be placed on Francis’s temple to burn his flesh so that the excess water in his eyes would be removed. Francis consented, blessed the fiery iron, referring to it as “Brother Fire,” and his flesh was burned. However, by God’s grace, Francis felt no pain from Brother Fire and all were amazed.
During another serious illness, Francis felt a need to take some wine to regain his strength. When he was told there was no wine, he asked for some water. After bringing a glass of water, Francis blessed it, and it was changed into the finest of wine for him to drink.
There were many other miracles throughout Francis’s life that proved that God, the Creator of all, gave Francis authority over Creation. He brought forth water from a rock. He protected crops from hailstorms. He gathered birds to listen to his sermons. He multiplied food when there was not enough to eat. He even lit a dark path in the middle of the night during a journey. In all of this, Francis commanded Creation with the Voice of God Himself, showing that the Creator of All lived in him and worked through him.
Reflection: These and many other stories about the life of Saint Francis reveal his closeness to God the Creator. In his closeness to God, Saint Francis was given a unique share in God’s power over all He created. Though this charism was uniquely given to Saint Francis, there is much we can learn from it.
As we grow in holiness, we should not expect to be able to change water into wine, multiply food, or have authority over fire. But we should know that our union with God is a union with Him Who has almighty power over everything. This is good to understand because it will help us grow in trust of Him Who can do all things necessary.
Among the many other lessons we can learn from these stories of Saint Francis’s life is that of providence. When we love God with all our heart, He Who is All-Powerful will take care of all our needs. He cares more for us and our daily needs than we do ourselves. God is trustworthy and His providence is always perfect.
Reflect, today, upon any ways that you struggle with your trust in God. Do you find yourself thinking that you must take care of everything in life by yourself? Though we must act responsibly, we must also see God as the primary source of providence in all things. Ponder your trust in God and your reliance upon Him to care for you always. Where you see it lacking, surrender to Him and work to deepen that trust.
Saint Francis, your love for God was so complete that you came to rely upon Him in every circumstance of life. As you did, God gave you a share of His almighty power and did incredible things in your life. Please pray that I may imitate your reliance upon the providence of God and may more fully open myself to be an instrument of God’s providential care. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.