[The secular press occasionally noted how Blessed Pope John Paul II enjoyed “rock star” celebrity. Many clerics of all faiths encourage a “personality cult,” wherein people’s faith is in the cleric and not in the Lord. In the last year two Roman Catholic priests with cult-like followings had falls from grace: Fr. Albert Cutie and Fr. John Corapi. Here is a wonderful story about St. Francis of Assisi who always gave credit to God.]
One day, St. Francis was returning from the forest, where he had been in prayer, and a friend named Brother Masseo walked over to him and asked, half jokingly: “Why all the rage?” To which Francis replied, “What are you talking about?” Brother Masseo said: “Why is it that the whole world seems to be running after you and everyone wants to see you and hear you and be like you? You’re not that good looking and you’re not very smart. You’re not of noble descent. So why is everybody running after you?”
On hearing this, Francis was thrilled. He lifted his eyes toward heaven and reportedly stood for a long time, his heart absorbed in worship. Then giving thanks, he turned to Brother Masseo and said, “Do you want to know why people run after me? Do you want to know why they seek me out? Do you want to know why so many seem so eager to hear what I have to say? I’ll tell you why. It is because the Lord—who is in heaven and who sees the evil and the good in all places—the Lord has laid his holy eyes on me and found no creature more vile or insufficient than I am. And thus to accomplish the wonderful work He intends to do—for God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put shame to the wise—He has chosen me, to confound all strength, all beauty, all greatness, all noble birth, and all science, that people may know that every virtue and every good gift comes from him, and not from any creature, that none may boast before God; but if any one boasts, let him boast in the Lord, that praise and honor may belong to Him alone forever.”
To praise the Lord is both a declaration of allegiance and defiance; it denotes a total reordering of reality, both outside and in. “What a person is before God,” Francis wrote, “that he or she is and nothing more.” Yet as Francis showed, nothing more can be something else.
— Rev. Daniel M. Harrell