St. Francis is a 16th century example of what parents fear: Send a child to college and he will return a stranger. We don’t know what Francis’ parents thought about all that happened to their son at the University of Paris, but there is no question that he was transformed, almost beyond recognition, there. And what happened to him at the University of Paris was St. Ignatius of Loyola.
If they slept on the ground, so did Francis. If they ate only rice, so did Frances. If they went hungry, so did Francis.
Ignatius publicly challenged his fellow students to devote their lives to Christ. Soon, Ignatius invited Francis and five other young men to form a new religious order, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).
Francis was born to wealth. He grew up cared for by servants. But, once Francis pledged his life to Christ, he became the servant rather than the served. He sailed for the east (India, Ceylon, the Philippines and Japan) and he refused to accept any comfort or food not available to the people with whom he lived. If they slept on the ground, so did Francis. If they ate only rice, so did Frances. If they went hungry, so did Francis. It was a difficult life. Not only did Frances embrace a radical poverty, but he also found himself working as a sailing missionary who suffered from seasickness and who had no aptitude for learning foreign languages.
But the obstacles he faced are not what people remembered about Francis. They remembered his courtesy, his gentle nature and the great love with which he spread the gospel.
Though Francis travelled far from his home in a Spanish castle, he always dreamed of sailing to China and working there. When he was 46 he received his orders to leave for Canton. He caught a fever on the voyage, and the sailors, fearing contagion, put him off on an island near the mainland. Francis died there, a devoted and faithful son of Christ.