We have been enjoying a great time of family vacation in Florida this past week. I have enjoyed some great books as I sat in the sun by the pool. Most of them about Men and Women of God in Church history. Two of my reads were on St. Francis of Assisi.
I'm not sure if there has ever been anyone so austere in spiritual disciplines as St. Francis of Assisi. In every thing he did he strove to control his flesh for the glory and use of God. He did several 40 day fasts a year, strove to pray without ceasing, took vows of utter poverty and celibacy, renounced his family, and constantly kept his pride in check.
Partially because of this spiritual intensity and partially because of the endowment and calling of God he built a large following of thousands of poor preachers who gave their lives to touch lives for Christ.
I was shocked in reading his biography by St. Bonaventure that he at one point for a certain duration of time gave up his leadership of these friars to grow more like Christ. Bonaventure writes, "Now this evangelical merchant, that he might make the greater profit, and spend every moment of his life in laying up merit, ever chose to be a subject rather than a superior; to obey rather than to command. Therefore, laying aside his office of Minister-General, he desired to be under the Guardian, that he might in all things obey his will. For he declared that, so abundant is the fruit of holy obedience, that to those who place their neck beneath its yoke, no place and no time shall be without its profit."
He actually gave up leadership to become more like Christ. How vastly different than today's culture of leadership. So often I heard in college that we must learn to be followers before we can be leaders, but I'm not sure if I ever understood that idea until reading about humble St. Francis.