St. Francis of Assisi came as a light of hope to a world in darkness. It was a world where kings and nobles were at constant warfare with each other, often sweeping up innocent peasants into the fires of wars. It was a world where the Church was afflicted by scandal, where clerics were more interested in declaring complex doctrines then preaching to the needs of their flock. It was a world where lay people suffered from a spiritual hunger, longing to hear the Good News proclaimed and to see it lived.
Into this world came Francis, the little poor man of Assisi, walking on bare feet, with a song on his lips, a caring look in his eyes and a holy fire in his heart. He had encountered the living Christ through prayer, word and sacrament. Responding to that encounter, Francis strove to change his life, to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Where there was greed and desire for power, he lived a life of evangelical poverty, simplicity and humility. Where there was strife and division, Francis was a peacemaker. Where there were poor and abandoned people, he brought love and acceptance. Where there was loss of faith, Francis inspired people to believe again in the love, power and glory of God.
In a modern world that in some ways is no different from the world of Francis’s time, we are all called to be lights of Christ. In small ways and great, inspired by Francis, each one of us is to bring love, joy and peace to a world that is in strife, wallowing in hate and burdened with fear. Each of us is part of the legacy of the Poverello.