Utterly clear-eyed and profoundly childlike

“One cannot imagine St. Francis of Assisi speaking of rights,” observed the French intellectual and mystic Simone Weil. Rights alone leach the fun out of everything. Rights alone — rights as an organizing principle, rights as a god — have led to a culture where the crowning glory of womanhood, the ability to give birth, is being reduced to a business transaction between two people who need never even touch.

To be both utterly clear-eyed and profoundly childlike is a paradox that can only be lived out by those with creative imaginations fired by a wildcard sense of joy.

St. Francis of Assisi was one such person. Writing of the pope’s namesake frolicking with his monks in freshly-fallen snow, G.K. Chesterton observed: “A man will not roll in the snow for a stream of tendency by which all things fulfill the law of their being. He will not go without food in the name of something, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness. He will do things like this, or pretty nearly like this, under quite a different impulse. He will do these things when he is in love.”

~ Heather King, “In Rome: The Synod on the Family”

The conversion of human beings

The real difference between Francis and Dominic, which is no discredit to either of them, is that Dominic did happen to be confronted with a huge campaign for the conversion of heretics, while Francis had only the more subtle task of the conversion of human beings. It is an old story that, while we may need somebody like Dominic to convert the heathen to Christianity, we are in even greater need of somebody like Francis, to convert the Christians to Christianity.

~ G. K. Chesterton via Dominicana Blog

To go and do something…

Francis sprang up and went. To go and do something was one of the driving demands of his nature; probably he had gone and done it before he had at all thoroughly thought out what he had done. In any case what he had done was something very decisive and immediately very disastrous for his singular social career.

~G.K. Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi

He was a poet…

He was a poet whose whole life was a poem. He was not so much a minstrel merely singing his own songs as a dramatist capable of acting the whole of his own play. The things he said were more imaginative than the things he wrote. The things he did were more imaginative than the things he said. His whole course through life was a series of scenes in which he had a sort of perpetual luck in bringing things to a beautiful crisis.

~G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi

And Francis trailed back in his sickness to Assisi…

And Francis trailed back in his sickness to Assisi, a very dismal and disappointed and perhaps even derided figure, with nothing to do but to wait for what should happen next. It was his first descent into a dark ravine that is called the valley of humiliation, which seemed to him very rocky and desolate, but in which he was afterwards to find many flowers.

~G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi

He was very practical indeed…

If we mean by what is practical what is most immediately practicable, we mean merely what is easiest. In that sense St. Francis was very impractical, and his ultimate aims were very unworldly. But if we mean by practicality a preference for prompt effort and energy over doubt or delay, he was very practical indeed.

~G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi