The patron saint of Italy, Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit, and without a sense of self-importance. From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, “Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down.”
He must have suspected a deeper meaning to “build up my house.” He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father. Francis had no intention of founding a religious order, but once it began, he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. On his deathbed, Francis said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, “Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death.”
Reflection: Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He recognized creation as another manifestation of the beauty of God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the gospel life, summed up in the charity of Jesus perfectly expressed in the Eucharist.