As a Protestant man who married a Catholic woman, I have been exposed to many different traditions and parts of church history that I would have never experienced in Protestantism. When I was in college (a Christian one), we did talk briefly about some of the significant saints in church history. There was one significant saint who stood out to me and I would like to point out why he is still relevant to the ENTIRE Church long after his death.
Saint Francis of Assisi was sold out for Jesus. He literally gave all that we had and then some to advance the Kingdom. He established different monastic orders and emphasized the need to practice solitude and continued throughout the day. At one point, St. Francis ripped off all of his clothing and emphasized his wholehearted devotion to Christ. (Note: I am not suggesting we rip off our clothes to show dedication; however, clothing is all that St. Francis possessed during the time.)
The Church needs more devoted followers like St. Francis of Assisi. We might not physically give everything away but our hearts need to be open to giving our hearts away. Some believers take this literally and they drain themselves to physical exhaustion “in service.” God wants us to have balance and boundaries in our lives, and this comes from the foundation of prayer.
Francis knew that prayer was vital to the life of those professing Jesus as their Lord. He believed that the day must be surrounded with prayer while engaging in daily activities. The quote below says much about how we can “preach” to others:
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”—-St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis understood a concept that we often ignore within the realm of Christendom. He encouraged others to preach the Gospel and when necessary, use words. First and foremost, we must acknowledge what the Gospel is……GOOD NEWS! You will not find much good news on the television or on social media; however, the Good News that Jesus offers us is in the form of salvation, new beginnings, renewed purpose, and everlasting hope.
Another portion of the St. Francis quote is “at all times.” We must extend hope to others–even when we do not feel like doing much of anything. Have you ever walked into church and your mind was elsewhere? Your To-Do List at home keeps growing longer and you don’t have “time for this.” Sometimes faith is pushing forward even when you don’t feel like it. Faith is not always a feeling. Acting out in faith is a choice.
The same can be said about getting involved in others’ lives. It is messy and it is difficult to intervene in the lives of others. Compassion is when we reach out to someone; however, the reaching out is usually short term and surface-level. Compassion is giving a hot coffee to a homeless man or giving a friend a hug who had a horrible day at work. Empathy cuts much deeper to our heart and faith and it transfers to the people whom we extend ourselves to. Empathy is being present for someone when they lost their job or spouse. Empathy is hearing others’ stories and journeying with them on their way to healing.
Our faith must lead to action. Our faith must lead to guiding others to a faith journey with God. The Gospel is at the heart of all that the Church stands for. Let us go to others and live out the Good News.
Copyright 2016 Jason Weirich