St. Francis of Assisi… ‘Embracing Poverty’
St. Francis (whose 'feast day was October 4th) is known to many as a great lover of animals and God’s created order. It was Francis who first set up a nativity scene, using local animals to help tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Francis was also the founder of the Franciscan order.
One time, before he set aside his privileged life, his companions asked if Francis would ever be married. "Yes", he replied, "I am about to take a wife of surpassing fairness." The marriage he spoke of was to poverty as a way of life. Through his acceptance of ‘Lady Poverty’, he found his relationship with God.
A contemporary writer, Murray Bodo, reflects on this Franciscan sense of ‘embracing poverty’.
“LADY POVERTY IN THE EYES OF JUNIPER, FRIEND OF FRANCIS, FOOL OF GOD”
“If I am truly poor, then I am dependent on others for everything, and I feel useless and worthless, and I realize deep within that everything is a gift from the Father. Then in this attitude of complete dependence, I become useful again, for then I am empty of selfishness and I am free to be God's instrument instead of my own. In poverty I begin to value everything rightly again. I see how little really matters, and I see that only that which glorifies God is of value.
“I have wept bitter tears because I was poor and had to beg from others, and I felt like a burden to people and to God ... And I have grown weary of Christ's words not to worry about tomorrow. But in His grace I have surrendered to God's sovereignty and providence, and it has made me free ...
“Lady Poverty, you take all the sting from being poor. In your embrace I am rich indeed, for I have someone to love…. You have stolen my heart and made me happy, and your love makes up for all the pain that loving you involves ... and we know it is all worthwhile because when we look into your eyes, we see Christ Himself.”
Few of us are called or would choose to embrace poverty in this way. However, Francis reminds us of the opposite danger, of embracing possessions in such a way that our thankfulness for other personal talents and abilities are not respected, and relationships with others, with God’s world, and with God become secondary.
Perhaps it is a holy balance we need….
to accept life as it happens,
not to long for want is not
but to cultivate richly our relationships and our personal journeys through this life