Generous to a fault – Have you ever heard that phrase? It describes a person who gives until he has nothing else to give; he gives from the heart for the benefit of others. He gives in a self-sacrificing manner, making the gesture magnanimous. The saints are great examples of people who do things for the right reason, with the right intention – that of self-sacrificing love. Saint Francis of Assisi is one of the most magnanimous saints, according to Father Romano Guardini:
The perfection of expression can be seen in the saints. God appears in them. But since man is the image of God, and God is the model of man, this manifestation also reveals the essential nature of man, of every man. He becomes truly himself. How did St. Francis of Assisi become truly himself? By not seeking himself in anything. If he had remained the son of Bernadone and continued to play the great role in Assisi and Umbria, which his father wished him to play, and for which his talents and his fortune fitted him, then he would probably have been a glamorous and charming person, but his essential nature would have remained hidden. But when he took his great step – “only God and nothing else” – then the beauty of God blossomed in him, and he became the man he was meant to be, the man who expressed the magnanimity of divine love more than almost anyone else. 1
Saint Francis responded to his call to holiness by humbly living for Christ and dying to self. He always placed other’s needs before his own. His generous, self-sacrificing nature put others first, at St. Francis’ own expense. As an example, St. Francis is known to have given his only winter’s cloak to a man who had none. St. Francis then walked around without a cloak and got sick. Here’s another example: If people came to the door of the monastery hungry, St. Francis would give them the food off of his own table and go hungry himself. I agree with Father Guardini when he states that St. Francis “expressed the magnanimity of divine love more than almost anyone else.” They were always simple, yet generous gestures given from a humble heart. St. Francis had given up all of his wealth to live a life of poverty. He was magnanimous because he gave self-sacrificially from his own need.
How can we become more magnanimous ourselves? How can we aspire to live self-sacrificially for Christ, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and ultimately practice magnanimity routinely? We’ll answer these questions in our next reflection. Don’t miss it!
- Guardini, Romano. Learning the Virtues That Lead You to God. Page 158. Manchester: Sophia Institute Press. 1987. Print
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