St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day

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By Tasha Friedman

How far are you willing to go for the Truth? How much are you ready to let go of along the way?

Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most widely beloved Catholic saints and an inspiration for countless spiritual seekers even outside of Christianity.

On this day, we can contemplate the message of his life and teachings. While he was an active leader of what would become a major monastic order, his own life is perhaps his most important teaching, showing by example how to walk in the footsteps of Christ.

Francis Bernadone spent his early life as a pleasure-loving young nobleman, more interested in parties, women, and the glamor of knighthood than matters of the soul. But a harsh encounter with the realities of war — including a year spent in captivity and a life-threatening fever — turned him away from the empty pursuits of his youth. A burning love for God awoke in him, fueling a mission to exemplify Christ’s message for a society where the Church had long since fallen into opulence and corruption.

Eventually, he left Assisi and all the comforts he had known to embark on a life of absolute poverty and simplicity. Gathering like-minded souls around him, he wandered from place to place, sharing the pure love of Christ with all who were open to it, but especially with beggars, outcasts, lepers, and other downtrodden people.

Francis’ sincerity and purity of heart were mistaken by some at the time for naivety, but his sweet, gentle demeanor did not preclude a tremendous inner strength, canniness, and discernment.

The one who is simple, empty of all concepts, is the one who can see things as they are.

Surrounding ourselves with an elaborate web of viewpoints, agendas, and desires, we see only reflections and reflections of reflections. We might follow the chain ad infinitum only to end up back where we started with nothing to show for all our efforts.

And then, if the grace is there, we might find that this empty-handedness is actually all we need.

To possess nothing, as in the holy poverty of Christ, so beloved by Francis and his original followers — not even the shirt on your back or the roof over your head. To save nothing, prepare for nothing, not even food for the next day.

To be so poor in spirit that nothing remains for you to hold onto — not even a name. No rules or absolute guidelines, no bond of society or family, no freedom from social or familial bonds. No special state or experience. No concept of God.

St. Francis’ movement began as only the intimate spiritual life of one man who took it upon himself to live according to the teachings of the Gospels. He never intended to found a religious order and even distanced himself from it later in life, as the newly fledged Franciscan Order rapidly degenerated into just another institution.

His greatest teaching was to show that it is possible to live in imitation of Christ, even in a world that says it cannot be done. It is possible to live in humility and simplicity, in harmony with other people and all beings, in complete surrender to the guiding impulse of the Heart.

Tasha is a Hridaya Yoga teacher and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all of her posts here.

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