I WONDER when the Pope went to Assisi with leaders of the great faiths, if he noticed on many of the houses in Assisi the words Pax et bonum. St Francis made these words his own. They mean peace and all good things.
Francis loved to greet people with similar words. "The Lord give you His peace". St Francis was the troubadour of joy, peace and all good things. Other watch-words associated with Francis are the crib, the cross, and the eucharist.
Francis could never get over the tremendous fact that the great Creator had become a tender babe, that he showed his love on the Cross and that the Eucharist is the abiding memorial of his death and resurrection. What did St Francis look like? He was small, thin, with a long face, straight, dark hair, and a low forehead with straight eyebrows. He had warm dark eyes, a well shaped nose, and thin lips, white even teeth and a short dark, pointed beard. Rather a plain little man it would seem. He was not the sort of man you would look at twice.
Francis of Assisi was not a learned man. He could not argue and preach scholarly sermons. Then, why follow him? One of his first followers asked him "Why do people follow you"? "You are not fair to look upon. You are not of noble birth".
Personally, I think it was because in Francis we see something of what we ourselves would like to be. He was so gentle and kind, so strong and courteous, happy and loving, so wise and understanding, so forgiving. When a man is like Christ we cannot help loving him.
And we would all like to be more like Christ. We learn from Francis Christ's message of love, love of God, love of man, love of all creatures, not least brother sun, sister moon, and mother earth.
Right down to our own day men and women have been inspired by St Francis. Some men come to our novitiate Friars Minor at Chilworth, where our lives are founded on brotherly love, minority, and union with God. Novices spend 12 months at Chilworth after which they make vows of poverty, Chastity nad obedience. From Chilworth our newly professed, friars join our Capuchin and Conventual brothers at Canterbury and form part of a religious family drawn from other congregations.
Friars minor spread the Good News abroad and at home. We serve in parishes, social work, we live like and with the poor because we are poor, we nurse, teach, counsel, we serve prisoners and ex-prisoners, we give retreats and missions. In all that we do we try to follow Christ after the manner of Francis and Clare.