I read St. Francis 2-3 weeks ago, and would have been better served had I thought to write about it then. Although it’s largely seeped away, through my porous neural network of a memory there does remain some residual. Chesterton’s portrayal of the child-like impetuous monk who began his quest for martyrdom by renouncing his family, stripping down to a hair shirt, and walking out into the wintry world did cause me to think how such actions would be perceived in today’s more modern era.
A few nights ago as I lay in bed, trying to sleep. I briefly fantasized about what it would be like to divest myself of everything and walk out into the world as did St. Francis, because I was intrigued by the argument that that is the only way to be truly free–to have nothing of worth that another might want–doing as St. Francis did; when begging for food, only accepting the lowest of offerings; when presented scraps for clothes, taking the scrappiest of scraps for yourself; if asked for anything you might happen to have, giving it up gladly, and so on.
My fantasy was not long-lived because what St. Francis did as a young man, without any dependents (that I know of) was not necessarily impractical for him, or any vocational person perhaps; however, for myself, with a job, family, obligations, it is decidedly impractical for me. So I will never be as free as St. Francis, but I will be much more comfortable.
I think that the idea of St. Francis, as a mirror of Christ, is beautiful, and lives on in his order. We need the saints, torches of bright fire lighting the darkness allowing us to see the way.
Although we can all approach the moral ideal of “to do good things” and lead a Christian life, we can’t all be saints. Someone has to pay the bills. What would the world be like if we all took a vow of poverty, or turned the other cheek. The fact is that there would always be someone who would not take that vow, or turn their cheek, and that would make our material, mortal world a very miserable place indeed.
So, we can admire the saints, look up to them, be inspired by their purity, but let us not delude ourselves into trusting others to behave as goodly as they. Like Reagen said, “trust, but verify,” and “peace, through strength.”