Saint Francis of Assisi by Ann Walker
When I stop to look at pictures of Saints (especially Saints from long ago), I ponder what is really occurring in the picture. I look at the Saint’s outfit and wonder what the colors stand for. I look at the background and wonder what led up to the scene that is being displayed. When I know something about the Saint, I sometimes “fill in the dots” and come up with my own story of what might have been happening. It makes me want to research the Saint even more to get a complete story.
When I saw this particular picture, it filled me with happiness, awe, and peace. I am an animal person, and I enjoyed seeing Saint Francis of Assisi petting the dog (or maybe even a wolf, since there is a story about Saint Francis taming the Wolf of Gubbio). Having grown up in a family that was able to welcome animals into our home, I know that animals can give unconditional love. It is comforting to have a loving pet by your side—like what I’ve imagined is pictured here. The next thing I see in this picture is the scenic background. What an awesome view! I look for royalty-free pictures to use in my writing, and this one caught my eye. The location is listed as Liguria, Italy. It seems like the perfect setting for a statue of Saint Francis who loved nature. It looks very peaceful.
I wonder what Saint Francis would have seen if he looked out into the world from the vantage point of Liguria, Italy. I believe he saw much beauty in God’s creation. Born into a family with considerable money (his father owned a business and seemed to do quite well), I imagine it wasn’t hard for Saint Francis to afford a nice vacation in this beautiful region. When delving into his story, one learns that Saint Francis gave up his worldly possessions and followed God. He chose to live a life of poverty--a simple life and one in tune with nature. At one point, he wrote the Canticle of the Creatures (also known as the Canticle of the Sun) to share his vision of respect for all that God created (the sun, the moon, the stars, and all His creatures) and to give praise to God for all that He has done for us.
When we act with love and respect—even for the minutest of God’s creation—it builds our character and gives us the determination to show love, even towards those to whom we may not want to extend a loving gesture. An unexpected encounter with a leper deeply inspired Saint Francis. He could see the face of Jesus in the leper and was moved to embrace him. It was through visions that Saint Francis was guided to rebuild the Church—to rebuild the people’s faith.
Upon having a great discussion with a very knowledgeable colleague, I realized I want to learn so much more about Saint Francis. I desire to spend more time reading about his life, and I know just the place to find what I need--Gospa Missions Amazing Grace Bookstore! The conversation got me thinking, though--Why did I always picture Saint Francis with birds, deer, and other animals instead of seeing him with the stigmata or being surrounded by his followers? Well, that’s because of what I’ve seen over the years--statues and pictures of Saint Francis amongst the animals. How did Saint Francis have such a presence of tranquility that God’s creatures naturally came up to him? He was able to relate to animals because he knew they were an important part of God’s creation. However, it was the love that Saint Francis showed to the people that made an even bigger difference. The people witnessed pure love amongst the ways that Saint Francis lived. He offered his suffering to God. Through the suffering that Saint Francis endured, he was able to relate to the pain that others suffered. It made him compassionate. Saint Francis preached the words of peace, simple living, conversion, and repentance.
Saint Francis’ work of continuing to rebuild the Church is still happening today, especially through a Franciscan movement (Order of Secular Franciscans) where lay people aim to follow Christ in the way that Saint Francis did. Saint Francis gave us many good examples to follow. I imagine he is still looking out over the world—with dog/wolf by his side—and whispering to us calming words of peace and contentment that we can propagate to others. As the Prayer of Saint Francis goes, let us sing, “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.”
- By Ann Walker