Today is the birthday of one of my most beloved dudes, St. Francis of Assisi. In honor of this special day, I would like to draw your attention to the image on the right, which appears among the many frescoes in the Basilica of St. Francis. Here, you can see that the great saint has three hands!
I first came across this unusual image while visiting Assisi in 2003. As I contemplated it, I heard the following words, as if St. Francis himself were speaking directly to me, "If you offer your two hands in service to the Lord, He will provide you with a third." The significance of this statement is that giving away your gifts to others in the spirit of selfless service causes these gifts to multiply.
In his 2011 book, Flourish, psychologist Martin Seligman observes, "We scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested." He recounts the tale of a childhood friend whose mother would tell him, whenever he was in a bad mood, to go out and help someone. If there is a single incontrovertible fact in spiritual life, it is that those who act for the benefit of others reap the greatest benefit for themselves. When we give away something of value, we open ourselves to the flow of even greater gifts. It is as if we transform oursleves into a conduit through which these gifts flow freely into the world. In the words of St. Francis, we become an "instrument of peace."
The famous Prayer of St. Francis concludes with the following words: For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen. To honor this wise teacher, let's give away something of ourselves, beginning with a simple act of kindness or forgiveness. In doing so, we follow his simple prescription for turning hate into love, doubt into faith, despair into hope, darkness into light, and sadness into joy. Happy Birthday, Saint Francis!
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