6. Francis Submitted to the Pope – Francis went to Rome to ask Pope Innocent III for permission to found his order. Pope Innocent was a man of power and not inclined to give way to this crazy beggar. But Francis persisted. He did not go off to do his own thing, but remained a loyal son of the church and a servant to the successor of Peter. In the Christian life we need someone to obey. We need to submit to the master and the guide. By living our lives in conformity to the teaching of the church and the authority of the pope we make our most speedy way to heaven. Think about it. Jesus gave Peter and the apostles his authority on earth. Why would we think that we could make much spiritual progress without following their teachings?
7. Francis Re-Built the Church – The Church is always in need of renewal and reform. It does no good to head out and start our own church, our own parish or our own apostolate without the church and separate from the church. Our efforts to serve God should alway focus in the church and seek to build up the church as the people of God. Marching off in a huff because things don’t go our way or because a church leader has not lived up to our expectations or another church member has failed us….that is the way of immaturity and deception. Our own path of true conversion and holiness will always be found as we seek to re-build the church. As we re-build the church we re-build our own lives in Christ.
8. Francis Went to the Mountains to Pray A nobleman offered a remote mountain sanctuary as a place for Francis to pray. It became a favorite retreat for him. If we are to be converted we must make time for prayer. Not just reciting trite little prayers as a life ritual, but deep, abiding, heart wrenching, soul searching, God seeking, all giving and all forgiving prayer. Prayer will change us from within and without a time and a place set apart for God in prayer our lives will never be truly converted.
9. Francis Was Purified by Fire – Through his sufferings and especially the stigmata Francis experienced great pain and loss. Like every saint he took up the cross of Christ. In our own lives, holiness cannot be attained and true conversion cannot take place without taking up the cross. In one way or another, sooner or later, we will be granted a share in the sufferings of the Lord. If we are baptized into his cross, then his words, “If any man must be my disciple he must take up his cross and follow me” will be part of the deal. This is not an alternative or an option. It is the only way. If we wish to reign with him we must take up our cross. When it comes to us we must accept it and realize that the way of darkness and pain is the way into the tomb and the way therefore of resurrection.
10. Francis Was Consumed By Love – The Fire of Love burned in Francis’ heart. He love nature. He loved his brothers and sisters. He loved the lepers. He loved the Sun, Moon and Stars. He loved God, loved Christ, loved the saints, loved the Blessed Mother, loved the Eucharist, loved the Scriptures, loved his enemies, loved the Sultan, loved all things. The sign of true conversion is that the heart is burning with the Divine Mercy…with the Divine Love. If we would be truly converted, then like Francis, we must open ourselves unreservedly and with vulnerability to the Divine Love. There is the transforming power for which we long. St Therese said this transformation is like the black, cold iron put into the fire of the forge: eventually the fire enters into the iron and the iron glows red hot having become infused by the fire.