All In with Saint Francis

By Guest Blogger Theresa Linden

You only get one life. Live it to the fullest. Follow your calling. Give it your all.

I am a Third Order Franciscan, often called a “Secular” Franciscan because we still live in the world. Some Secular Franciscans are married. Many work regular jobs, but we all seek to pattern our lives after Jesus in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis of Assisi has been my inspiration for giving myself completely to whatever I do.

Do you know the story of St. Francis of Assisi? Regardless of your faith, his life is very inspiring. He gave it all to God, holding nothing back. But even before his calling, he went “all in” no matter what he did.

How does one ever become like the saints or like a hero?

St. Francis once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you will be doing the impossible.”

Saint FrancisSt. Francis grew up the son of a wealthy cloth merchant. He lived a life of ease and fun. Even before his conversion, he tried to live life to the fullest. He was charming, vain, witty, and the life of the party. He learned archery, wrestling, and horsemanship. His father wanted him to help run the family textile business. But Francis had dreams of his own. He wanted to be a knight. When war broke out in 1202, Francis eagerly joined the cavalry.

He threw himself into this venture by getting expensive armor and setting lofty goals. Unfortunately, he was soon captured by enemy soldiers and spent a year in prison. His time in prison changed him. Amidst the filth and gloom, God spoke to him, and he came out a new man.

He saw life differently, his own and the lives of others. He saw the reflection of God everywhere, in every bird and flower, in the sun and the moon, in every aspect of life and even in death. All of creation lifted his heart to the Creator.

All this time, he’d been living life to the fullest, but he hadn’t been listening to God. He hadn’t realized his calling.

This is how changed Francis had become: One day, he came across a leper. The sight and smell repulsed him. In the past, he would’ve run from the man. But now, he embraced and kissed him. He saw the humanity of the leper, and Francis was filled with joy. He had found freedom. And freedom casts out all fear. No longer wanting a life of ease and fun, he began caring for lepers, praying, and searching for answers to life’s questions.

You only get one life. Live it to the fullest. Follow your calling. Give it your all.

St. Francis felt the love of God, the call of God, and he answered with his whole heart, mind, and soul, holding nothing back. He heard the voice of God calling him to rebuild His Church. Taking this call literally, he devoted himself to the task, spending days at the crumbling ruins of a church, rebuilding it stone by stone. People began to take notice of his strange behavior. And some joined him.San Damiano

However, not everyone was pleased with the new Francis. Many friends distanced themselves. People made fun of him. His own father didn’t know what to make of him.

But Jesus Christ once said, “If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” And Francis took these words literally.

No longer attached to worldly things, Francis gave away everything, including his horse. And he sold cloth from his father’s shop. He needed to raise money for that church he was rebuilding. As you can imagine, this infuriated his father, who then dragged him before the local bishop to have him tell Francis to repay the money and renounce all rights as his heir.

But Francis went farther. He stripped off every stitch of his clothing—I am not recommending this—and he declared that God was his only father now. Francis wasn’t totally naked, as some stories go. He had been wearing a hair shirt as a penance. When the bishop saw this, he gave Francis a rough tunic, similar to what he wore from then on. And Francis went off into the woods happy and singing.

Saint FrancisSt. Francis went all in. He didn’t answer the call of God by halves. He didn’t go through life simply doing what was necessary. He lived the gospel literally. He gave up his life of ease for the life of a poor man and a joyful beggar, relying on God for all. He had nothing, and he had everything. And he died happy and fulfilled.

St. Francis is one of the most beloved and well-known saints today. Something in his example of total self-giving speaks to our hearts. There are thousands of Franciscans throughout the world today, thousands of men and women who have given up all to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis.

Does the life of this saint have a message for you? Even if you are not called to join a religious order, I think the answer is still “yes, the life of St. Francis has a message for everyone.”

What is your calling? No one feels satisfied by doing the bare minimum or by going through the motions. Whatever you are called to, throw yourself into it and give it your best. Take the first step today and don’t look back.

And if you make a mistake or take a wrong turn, don’t worry. St. Francis often told the friars, “Let us begin again, brothers, for up until now, we have done little or nothing.”

So, it’s time to start anew or begin again. Take that first step. And before you know it, you will be doing the impossible.

You only get one life. Live it to the fullest. Follow your calling. Give it your all.

Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden is the author of award-winning Catholic teen fiction. Raised in a military family, she developed a strong patriotism and a sense of adventure. Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She has six published novels, and two short stories in Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body (Full Quiver Publishing). She holds a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University and is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the International Writers Society. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in northeast Ohio with her husband and three teenage boys.


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