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St Francis of Assisi
Founder of the Friars Minor (the Franciscans) (entered heaven in 1226)
It’s nice to hear that things are going well for you. But I detected a worrying tone in your last note. It has to do with your comments about the interviews you’ve been having with potential employers. It seems you are comparing them superficially, looking at the amount of the salary they offer, the quality of leather exhibited by their furniture, the taste in ties shown by the interviewer… I commend your attention to detail, and I am sure that such considerations ought to be factored into your decisions. Nevertheless, are they the most important factors? Need I remind you that our Lord once asked, “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Aristotle pointed out that little mistakes at beginnings make for huge errors at the end – the decisions you are making now are the beginning of your life in the world; a little egoism now could throw you into a tragic tailspin later. I am not just speaking theoretically; better men than you have failed from similar causes. This year, I recommend that you adopt today’s saint as your patron. His words and example should keep you on track.
First his example. You are probably familiar with the story of St Francis – most people know more about him than about other saints. He was from the central Italian town of Assisi (still one of the gems of Europe, by the way, I hope you get a chance to see it some day), the outgoing and fashionable son of a successful cloth merchant. He cared little for business and less for studies, and dedicated himself wholeheartedly to having a good time with his friends and enjoying the luxurious pleasures that his plentiful pocketbook easily supplied. As he grew to manhood, he became enchanted with the chivalrous ideals of his age, and did his best to embark upon a career as a knight. But sickness intervened, as did the interior nudging of divine grace. He aborted his plans to go off and fight in the wars, and returned to his normal life, but God was at work in his heart, and he was fast falling in love with the heavenly kingdom. He didn’t know where that love affair would lead him, but he recognized early on that it required him to discipline his hitherto self-indulgent tendencies. At this juncture, he was riding one day through the plain beneath Assisi when he encountered a leper whose disease was so advanced that the mere sight of his horrific sores violently repulsed Francis. He recognized immediately that this was not a mere chance encounter. Gathering what strength he could to overcome his repugnance, he dismounted and approached the beggar. The poor man stretched out his disfigured hand to receive an alms, and Francis gave him one. At the same time he embraced the leper and kissed him. He had successfully mastered his selfish feelings of revulsion in order to perform a Christian act of charity. Thus began the incomparable and immortal (he founded the Franciscan Order) career of the saint whom history unanimously calls “the closest image of Christ after Christ himself.”
Now for his words. Among the many, here’s a sentence that you should engrave on your memory and your desk: “Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give.” It’s not that God doesn’t want you to strive to achieve greatness; it’s just that he wants you to strive to achieve greatness that will LAST FOREVER AND FOREVER, greatness that will bring joy to thousands of others, like the ripples in a pond.
So as you continue doing your interviews, keep St Francis in mind, and do what Christ would do.
Your devoted uncle, Eddy