… THE RIPPLE OF THEIR INFLUENCE DOES NOT FADE AWAY…
Some people make such an impact on history that the ripple of their influence does not fade away, but rather grows ever larger and more important as time goes by – Saint Francis of Assisi was one of these extraordinary people.
Born into the merchant class, in the small town of Assisi Italy in 1182, when the entire world seemed to be at war, Saint Francis became in every sense an icon of peace. Christendom and the Moslem world had been fighting for 500 years and would continue to fight for centuries to come. King Richard I, the Lionheart, died when Francis was 17 years old and ironically one of the most powerful conquerors in history Genghis Khan would die only one year after Saint Francis died in 1226.
During his life time Saint Francis founded a religious family in the Catholic Church based on the idea that Jesus showed us the way to be brothers and sisters to each other – fraternity.
Saint Francis wrote in his very first Rule of Life that he wanted to “follow the teachings and the footprints of Our Lord Jesus Christ” and writing again just before his death he told his followers: “No one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel”.
Despite the many miracles and visions in his life, in the end Saint Francis focused on telling us: “When I was in sin, it seemed bitter to me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I had mercy upon them. And when I left them that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body;” What he had discovered was that the most wretched and suffering of people were still human after all; they were his brothers and sisters and what they needed most was to be loved.
His intense love for Jesus found expression in this practical love of others, especially the sick and suffering. What shone out for all to see was the joyful and friendly way he accepted each person in his life. It was this that quickly inspired many people to want to follow him in a way of life that he called “perfect joy”.
Attracted by his way of life and his preaching, many men, seeking to follow him joined his Friars Minor or Lesser Brothers and many women, like Saint Clare entered the convent to live the life of the Poor Ladies as they were then called, but later they were called the Poor Clares. However, an even greater number of people joined the third Order that Saint Francis founded for those who did not want to enter religious life. These Saint Francis called the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, today they are known as the Secular Franciscans.