Commentary on the reading of the day provided by
Thomas of Celano (c.1190-c.1260), biographer of Saint Francis and Saint Clare
« Vita prima » of Saint Francis, §76
Giving up everything because Christ gave up everything for us
Francis, the poor little one and father of the poor, wanted to live like a poor man in every way.
He suffered if he met someone poorer than himself, not out of vanity but because of the tender compassion he bore them.
He only wanted a plain, very rough tunic, but still it very often happened that he shared it with some unfortunate creature.
But he himself was a very rich poor man since, forced by his great charity to come to the help of the poor insofar as he could, he went about amongst the rich of this world during the times of greatest cold and asked them to lend him a cloak or fur trimmed coat.
They would bring them to him all the more readily in that he hadn’t begun to ask for them.
Then he would say: “I accept on condition that you don’t expect to see them again.”
Then Francis, with a glad heart, offered what he had just received to the first poor man he encountered.
Nothing caused him greater pain than to see a poor person insulted or any kind of creature blasphemed.
One day a brother let fly against a poor person who asked for an alms with wounding words. “Aren’t you by any chance rich while pretending to be one of the poor?” he said to him.
These words upset Francis, father of the poor, very much.
He inflicted a terrible reprimand on the culprit then commanded him to take off his outer garments in the poor man’s presence and to kiss his feet while asking his forgiveness.
“Anyone who speaks unkindly to a poor man,” he used to say, “injures the Christ of whom the poor represent the noble symbol, for Christ made himself poor in this world for our sake” (cf. 2Cor 8,9).