By Fr John Cooper OFM Cap.
It is a mistake to think that St. Francis utterly rejected his own family in front of the Bishop of Assisi. It is better to understand that he put things in their proper Christian perspective. It is truer to say, that when he proclaimed God as his Father, he took that fiercely treasured element of Italian culture - the family, and through a deep spiritual insight, he universalised it.
He recognised the truth that in Christ we are all part of a universal fraternity. In the enthusiasm of his love he went even further, and recognised that everything is part of the family loved by the Creator. It was from this insight that he began, with great sincerity, to call everyone and everything "Brother and Sister". This was no mere affectation, but an insight into the reality of all life. As a consequence he began to care for the poorest of the poor; the outcast lepers, with a filial tenderness that went right to the core of the human condition.
Also with ever increasing joy, he found in all creatures the spiritual trademark of God’s love. Thus St. Francis became an extraordinary example for us to follow and understand. For in him we find a real challenge to all of us who dream of a civilisation of universal respect and compassion.
In fact, it is because of his unflinching vision of universal love, that reaches down into the depths of human misery and up to the highest regions of our hopes and dreams, that St Francis continues to touch a resounding chord in the heart of people today. In this vision St Francis speaks powerfully to us because he is so transparent. Christ crucified is the focus of his attention and the Holy Spirit is the transforming principal of his personality.
In a very real way, because he had the freedom to respond to the Christianising process of the Holy Spirit working in his life, St Francis became a new expression; a new revelation of Christ’s universal love. Perhaps in the end that is the truth about every saint. We rejoice in them because they reveal more clearly the truth about God and his plan for us.
The transforming process of the Gospel in our lives, through hearing it, reading it, studying it, meditating on it, sharing our insights with others, calls for a total integration of our personality. By entering into this process we will come to know the Truth about ourselves, which will set us free and make us instruments of his peace and channels of his grace to others. Because of this, the bond of fraternity will be strengthened and the global family enriched and more secure.