Minister General Tibor Kauser, OFS
This is a translation of a reflection delivered by Tibor Kauser, OFS Minister General of the Secular Franciscan Order, at the opening ceremony honoring the 800th anniversary of St. Francis of Assisi’s stigmata.
St. Francis is a very relevant person. He is also an example for seculars, who can learn much from his life. As a young man, he was the leader of a group in Assisi.
Today we would say he was an influencer. Many wanted to follow him, to imitate him. Everything he did and said had a great impact on the lives of his friends.
It is important to note this because we can see what God changes and what he does not (change). God did not take many things out of Francis’s life but transformed them, thus conforming Francis to Christ. Francis kept his ambitions, to be the messenger of the great King, to be someone extraordinary. He depended on his father and loved his mother like everyone else.
God transformed Francis, keeping many things in his style (that were a part of his character), and not destroying his personality. This is the miracle — how God can transform a person by changing things in life and turning (things that are) bitter into sweetness.
Instead of being the knight of the city and the messenger of a great earthly king, he became the messenger of the greatest king. Instead of being extraordinary, shining by his wealth and riches of material goods, he remained extraordinary, but shining by his poverty and lack of material goods. Instead of depending on his father, he began to belong only to his Heavenly Father. His deep love for his mother turned into a deep love for the Virgin Mary.
So St. Francis is still an influencer today. He has had a great impact on many. He is an example for secular people as well because God retained many characteristics that we would connect to the secular lifestyle: ambitions, being a hero, and showing a special relationship with material goods. However, God changed these things so perfectly that Francis became so conformed to Christ that he became the “Alter Christus.”