Lenten Lessons: The Joyful Poverty of St. Francis of Assisi

The thing I felt it necessary to pull forth from Francis's story, though, was his joy and passion for life. In the accounts we have, his poverty was not something dour and sour. If anything, perhaps he was liberated by it. Thoreau wrote about how the farmer ends up owned by his farm rather than the other way round. How many of us in recent years have looked at mortgages or car payments, worried where the money would come from, and wondered if these possessions were worth the trouble they caused us?

In a world, like ours, defined by status and possessions, Francis said that what mattered was trying to live like Jesus. Like Jesus, Francis traveled, he preached, he made peace, he celebrated life, he gave thanks to God, and when the time came to die, he did so without even clothes of his own.

And in the process, he showed the world—and generations to come—what a passionate and faithful Christian life might be focused on instead of wealth and power.

Imitation of Christ
Many of our evangelical brothers and sisters a few years back sported a WWJD bracelet, so called because it reminds people to continually ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?"

Since we actually have a scriptural record of Jesus' life, for me the important question—although I don't now and never did wear bracelets—has always been WDJD: What did Jesus do? Be reading the gospels, by watching how Jesus responds to temptation and difficulty, by seeing what he sets as his priorities in life and learning from his actions, we, like Francis, can imitate Christ.

We probably won't embrace a leper. We probably won't develop stigmata—the crucifixion wounds of Christ—as Francis is said to have done near the end of his life.

But we can ask ourselves continually, are my values Jesus values? Am I choosing things that Jesus chose? Am I doing the things that Jesus did?

Francis renounced money, lust, and social acclaim—and he found something even better.

He found Jesus.

I hope this Lenten break to explore some of the formative spiritualities of Christian life have been of interest and will be of use. Next week we return to a theological exploration of our lives together, but I'd like to close this week with a heart-felt prayer drawn from the Franciscan prayer often attributed to Francis himself. May we pray it, and mean it:

Make me an instrument of your peace, Lord.
Make me an instrument of your peace.