The Church in Saint Francis’ day suffered from TWO MAIN ailments.
First ailment: lack of faith
People had stopped receiving the Eucharist, chapels were left abandoned, the faithful felt excluded or unworthy to receive our Lord’s Body and Blood. In the midst of that atmosphere, Francis raced back to the Eucharist. He burned with desire to receive Our Lord’s Body and Blood even DAILY.
Second ailment: lack of love
Francis lived at a time when the Church had bought into society’s view of a strict class division: the nobles were better than the merchant class, the merchants were better than the poor. The poor and sick were literally thrown outside city walls. People with leprosy were treated like animals. At a time when everyone wanted to be rich, even much of the clergy had little to do with poor.
Francis chose the opposite of what the world was choosing. He sought out the poor. He writes: “The Lord led me among them, and I learned compassion and it changed me. From then on all that was bitter became sweet, all that was sweet [like being in a superior class] became bitter for me.”
We can always live Christ’s message, even when times are toughest, even (and especially) when no one around us is living it.
A small candlelight shines even more brightly when it’s darkest.
Francis’ program of reform was simple: He sought out the Lord and he sought out the poor and he loved both the way both should be love. And in so doing, he helped the Lord change hearts, change the Church, and change the world. Happy Feast of St. Francis!