Though my Catholic background is well behind in my rear view mirror, I have kept a soft spot in my heart for St. Francis. Maybe it's the name; he is after all, my patron saint. Maybe it is his background; I, too, was raised by a clothing merchant. Maybe it's the animals; I've always been an animal lover. No, I never stripped down and walked out on my dad naked to prove a point. And as far as I know, I've never had stigmata (you'd think that's something I would notice). I haven't been imprisoned for my faith, nor have I made a thousand-mile pilgrimage by foot in order to try and convert someone.
So there are some differences between that saint and this sinner. But his life is one I want to imitate. As "missional" and "radical" are themes that have stirred my heart, I need to look no further than the life of Francis to see someone who was willing to eschew his social status in order to walk among the poor. He gave up everything to serve his Christ, whom he loved dearly. He literally lived out Paul's instruction to "offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." (Romans 12:1)
The prayer attributed to him (though no earlier record exists before 1912) is one I still recite today. It is a simple reminder of what it means to be Christ-like - a reminder of where my heart needs to be today.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me show love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
and where there is sadness, joy.
Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.