Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi at Mississippi Abbey

St. Francis of Assisi was a seeker of Perfect Joy and Lady Poverty.  About joy he taught his disciples that, “It’s not fitting, when in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.”  Joining his love of Perfect Joy with his love of animals he once said, “A cat purring on your lap is more healing than any drug in the world, for the vibrations you are feeling [from the cat] are pure love and contentment.”  But it was his love of Lady Poverty that dominated his teaching and example. Here’s a story about poverty that I think St. Francis would have enjoyed. 

There was a boy, whose family was very wealthy. One day his father took him into the countryside to show his son the way peasants live. They visited the farm of a very poor family.  Returning home, he asked his son what he thought about their poverty.  His son replied, “Well, we have only one dog, and they have four. In our garden there is a pool, while they have a flowing river nearby.  We have expensive lamps and lanterns, but they have stars above their heads at night. We have a patio and a small piece of land, while they look out on endless fields. We buy food, but they grow it. We have high fence for protection of our property, but they don’t need one, for their friends protect them.” Then he said, “Thank you, father, for helping me understand how poor we are.”  

St. Francis was more dramatic when replying to his father. He said, “The clothes I wear are yours, I give them back to you” then he stripped himself naked in front of everyone, like Jesus dying naked on the Cross before the whole world.  Lady Poverty is really demanding.   I wonder if it’s okay for me to aim for Perfect Joy instead.