In the World, Not of the World

St Francis of Assisi, Homage of a Simple Man by Giotto di Bondone

None of us has a choice in this: we are in the world, and we are all in it together. But each of us has a choice to be or not to be of the world. Here is how St. Francis and four other Franciscans distinguish between being in the world but not of the world:

St. Francis wisely advises: “Never praise a man before his death, because you never can tell how he will end.”

He declares: “Happy he who, when he is honoured and esteemed by men, thinks no more of himself than when he was humbled and despised, because man is what he appears to the eyes of God, and nothing more.” Again, he reminds us: “Know that there are many high and sublime things in the eyes of God which are vile and abject in the esteem of men; while, on the contrary, there are numberless things which men consider grand and beautiful, and which are mean and valueless before God.”

St. Elzear of Sabran remarks: “It ought to be a cause of confusion to us that, being placed on this earth in order to fit ourselves for heaven, we yet think so little of our home, and speak of it so rarely.”

St Clare by Simone Martini

St. Clare of Assisi, therefore, exhorts: “Never forget that the way which leads to heaven is narrow; that the gate leading to life is narrow and low; that there are but few who find it and enter by it; and if there be some who go in and tread the narrow path for some time, there are but very few who persevere therein.”

St Anthony of Padua by Bicci di Lorenzo

St. Antony of Padua argues that worldly vices destroy the theological virtue of charity: “Charity is a fire; but three things can extinguish it: the wind of pride, the water of gluttony and luxury, and the thick smoke of avarice.”

The human person is made up of body and spirit. Blessed Egidius of Assisi offers this suggestion on how to manage our affairs: “We have two eyes—the right and left. Let us use the former to contemplate all that is above us, and the latter to manage what is beneath us.”

Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).

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