The feast of St. Francis is coming up this Saturday, celebrating his birth into eternal life during the night of October 3, 1226. Today I've begun to reflect on Francis and his influence on me, having been jump-started by this post from Jeff.
I've spent almost half of my time in this life trying to put myself under Francis's influence. Oddly enough, I first met Francis not in church, but in a history class. This was before I was even a Catholic Christian, and my initial attraction to Francis was almost entirely secular.
It was the time of the first war in the Persian Gulf, and I was in my first year of college. To me--at the time--the violence had less to do with liberation and more to do with an economic system that had ceased to serve humanity and begun serving itself. Whatever it was, this "system" as my friends and I called it in our adolescent way, I wanted out of it. I looked at my own life of privileged leisure, in which I was free to study philosophy for a couple of hours each day and then spend the rest of my time drinking, going to punk shows, and chasing girls with my friends. A kind of crisis of personal responsibility as a "human being in the world" was brewing in me, but I didn't yet recognize it as a spiritual problem.
During this time I took a history course that covered thirteenth-century Europe. And there was Francis of Assisi, and right away I saw someone I could relate to. Born into a world of violence, he gave up his dream of knighthood after being imprisoned when the Assisiani lost the battle of Collestrada in 1202. Born into an economic system that began to divide people from each other, Francis opted out of it, and decided to be poor on purpose. I too was looking for a way to opt out of the "system" and--praised be Jesus Christ--I had found my model.