“The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.” (Art. 4, SFO Rule)
A story in The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi has Brother Masseo asking St. Francis, “Say, why it is that all the world comes after you, and everybody desires to see you, and to hear you, and to obey you?” Almost 800 years later, the question still has relevance. Why is it that the world is still attracted to the figure of St. Francis? For many, they attracted to the image of St. Francis, the man who was connected to nature, to whom animals and birds came to readily. For others, it is the image of Francis, the servant of the poor, the forgotten. And there are those who see in Francis, a perfect person of prayer and contemplation.
Why are we attracted to this little poor man of Assisi? For me, Francis shows me how an ordinary person can live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by being a person of prayer, by giving up those things that distract me from loving God, and emptying myself in the service of others. Francis provides the inspiration for me, and for many others, to find the path that Jesus wishes each of us to take to the Kingdom.
We can all still learn from Francis what it means to live the Gospel life. It means that we need to learn more about him, read and reflect on his words. Each of us should try to read the early biographies of his life, written by authors who were still close to him or to those who knew him. Feel the excitement and the power of his presence that those early biographers felt, and open our hearts and our minds to feel it also. Then we will come to know the answer to Brother Masseo’s question, “Why after you?”