ST. FRANCIS – The Humblest Man in Christendom

by Peachy Maramba

When one thinks of HUMILITY (the state or quality of being humble – lowly, modest, unpretentious) one invariably thinks of our dear St. Francis of Assisi. This is because he is considered by many, if not the whole world, to be the humblest man in Christendom.

But this is not because like Jesus he was born in a humble stable. This just happened in 1182 when Donna Pica, the wife of a rich cloth merchant Peter Bernardone was about to give birth. A stranger came and said, “If you wish everything to be fine, ask Peter’s wife to go to the stable at once.” When this strange command was carried out the baby boy was born.

While the boy had black brilliant eyes full of mildness and modesty he grew to be a young man who was vain, exhibitionist, rather snobbish and a fastidious dresser. He was certainly far from being humble maybe due to his indulgent parents who never denied him anything.

Yet it was from this proud pretentious boy that God chose to teach the world about the meaning of true humility through a “steady process of giving up to God, little by little, every joy he found.”

It all began when Francis found God in an ancient chapel south of Assisi, Italy virtually in ruins dedicated to San Damiano. When the crucified Christ on a Byzantine wooden crucifix hanging down from the ceiling said to him, “Francis, you see that my house is falling down. Go and repair it for me.” Francis then and there became a totally poor and humble workman.

This happened because his father was upset with him for stealing his richest cloth in the shop and selling it in order to get funds for his repair job. Francis realized then that the only way he could fulfill his promise was to beg from his rich friends. This generous, high spirited and fashionable man became the butt of all jokes. Many laughed but many gave and many began to listen to him.

Francis became one with God in the only way he knew how: by humbly following in the footsteps of Jesus and humbly saying yes to everything the Lord asked of him.

Ever the leader Francis convinced his friends to join him in a renewed religion and he did it with the strength of his humility, a humility that derived from his love and imitation of Christ.

Since for Francis poverty and sister humility were the only way to witness to the love of Christ he called his Order the Humbler Brethren or Friars Minor which he founded in 1209. He desired that his brothers should really be below their fellows and seek only the last and lowly places. It was dedicated to absolute poverty, humility and the love of all created things. Seeing himself before God as the least of men he never aspired to be a priest – only a deacon.

While his order started out as a humble missionary order it grew and radiated through the Christian world and touched men and women of every generation up to this day and age.

On October 4 the Church prays, “O God, You enabled St. Francis to imitate Christ by his poverty and humility.”

The opening prayer of the mass states that God helped St. Francis to reflect the image of Christ through a life of poverty and humility.

St. Francis in his letter to the faithful said, “We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God’s sake.”

St. Francis said while dying: “My work is finished. May Christ teach you to carry out yours.”

As published in the March 19 issue of the Parish Bulletin.