This print available here.
St Francis has long been a powerful encouragement to me. Especially his love affair with Lady Poverty. Of St Francis it is said, "possessing nothing he belonged entirely to God" Sacrum Commercium. Unlike the rich young ruler in the New Testament - who goes away sad because when Jesus asked him to sell everything he owned, and give it to the poor, - he just couldn't do it... Francis did it - and we are still talking about him 800 years later.
I had the kind of bizarre experience in Leadership Grand Rapids this month -- playing a poverty simulation game, with a room full of people -- most of whom live a healthy distance from where we officially draw the poverty line in this country. It was a strange experience for me because I have been living deep in poverty ever since l left home and moved out on my own in the early 80s. And I have lived in poverty with a wife and six children. Last winter nearly every Sunday night after 10PM I could be found in the dumpster behind Aldis Grocery store looking for what might still be edible.
The powerful thought left to me by St Francis is that - like Jesus who didn't own anything but the clothes on his back, to be poor is to be in good company. To be vulnerable and in need of the help of others is truly a blessed state, though this kind of thinking runs completely against the grain of our dominant culture -- that holds up material success and comfort as a high ideal. Don't get me wrong, I do want to succeed in business and provide for my family - and I have not been in a dumpster for about eight months and am thankful to not have to right now. I am also thankful for the experience I have had with being numbered with the poor -- because I may have not married Lady Poverty like Francis but we did at least date for a long time.