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Loving Thy Neighbor With St. Francis of Assisi

Loving Thy Neighbor With St. Francis of Assisi

Today we celebrate the feast of a very important saint, one who inspires us in our mission of CARITAS: St. Francis of Assisi. We have a special fondness for this great saint, because of his ties to many individuals throughout our program. Some of our ministry service providers are Franciscan religious, and our founder, Chris Hoar, was two years ago received into the Third Order Franciscans. In addition, our Marketing Director AJ Lezcano spent some time as a Capuchin Franciscan Brother before joining CARITAS. The “poor little man of Assisi” provides a beautiful example to us in our mission to spread God’s love, since he himself was motivated by Divine Love in all that he did.

St. Francis receiving the Stigmata

Francis’ marvelous conversion quickly produced an effect of renunciation of material possessions. He took very seriously the Gospel command to “sell all that you have and give to the poor”, and instead rely solely upon God’s Providential care. He knew that if he placed all his needs before his Heavenly Father, they would be provided for. It was this radical acceptance of the Gospel message that inspired him in the founding of his order: by fully living out the Good News in their own lives, these humble brothers could deeply and effectively share it (evangelize) with others.

St. Francis in prayer

He felt intensely the love that Christ has for him and for all mankind, so he was tireless in carrying this love to his brothers and sisters. He always practiced what he preached, even if it meant overcoming his own hang ups and fears. One famous story relates that when Francis came across a leper, he not only gave him all the money he had, but he swallowed his fear and embraced the man! He understood that to “love thy neighbor” requires us to acknowledge each person’s dignity and worth in God’s eyes, that each of us is immeasurably loved by the Lord and for that reason we owe each other love and respect.

St. Francis receiving the Stigmata

This is the fundamental mission of CARITAS: to acknowledge that each of our brothers and sisters is deserving of our love, and that we are bound by a Divine obligation to show them love. Francis showed uninhibited charity towards our fellow man, and by following his example we hope to lead every person we meet closer to Christ. Showing love opens the door to spreading the Gospel message.

Any cursory reading of Francis’ life makes it abundantly clear that he truly lived out the command to “Love God above all things, and love thy neighbor as thyself.” He loved his Lord with all his being, and he was impelled by this love to share it with others. He allowed his own wants and needs to be put aside before those of the people he met, and he acknowledged their dignity and value as children of God. On his feast day, let us ask St. Francis of Assisi to help us share God’s love with every person we encounter, and to advance the mission of CARITAS throughout the whole world.

St. Francis in prayer

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen