St. Francis of Assisi makes this acute observation: “The spirit of the world cares much for words, but little for works; and it seeks not religion and sanctity of the heart, but a religion and sanctity which may appear before men.” Therefore, he advises: “It is better to serve God than to govern the world. How happy we are when we serve the Lord!”
Francis, who, in his youth, took up arms alongside his fellow townsmen to promote the interests of Assisi, in later years concluded: “It seems to me difficult and embarrassing to be possessed of worldly goods, which we can only preserve at the price of a thousand annoyances, often even being obliged to have recourse to arms to put a stop to the quarrels and lawsuits which arise therefrom.”
Hence, he offers this advice: “I recommend very specially our brothers in Jesus Christ, when mixing in the world, not to dispute, not to speak too loud, not to judge others; but to be meek, peaceable, retiring, affable, humble, and, as becomes them, to speak courteously with every one.”
St. Francis, knowing full well that actions speak louder than words, offers this guidance: “Your life in the midst of the world should be such that all who see or hear you should glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”
St. Francis looked beyond the good things of this earthly life to the greater goods in store in eternal life. He speaks of the futility of placing all one’s hopes in temporal goods: “Let us be on our guard against pride and vainglory. Let us arm ourselves against the attacks of worldly wisdom and the prudence of the flesh.” Why? Because “man loses at death all that he possessed in this world; but he takes with him charity and the alms deeds he has done, and for these he shall receive an abundant reward from God.”
The learned St. Antony of Padua, who was received into the Franciscan order in 1220, remarked: “Nothing is more certain than death and nothing more uncertain than the day and hour of our death. The great folly of worldlings consists in putting the thought of death far from them, and acting as if they were to live for ever.”
Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).