St. Francis of Assisi and the Knights of the Holy Eucharist

News: Commentary
by David Kilby  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 1, 2021   

Exchanging sin for the stigmata

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St. Francis of Assisi was cut from a different cloth than most. He came from a wealthy and noble family but abandoned that life to become a religious brother and found his own order. He would love nature, the poor and the ill like few others before him, and even received the stigmata for his love of Christ. His way of life, involving ardent prayer and service, could seem out-of-touch with modern aspirations.

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Depiction of young St. Francis as a noble

The Knights of the Holy Eucharist, nonetheless, find their charism in the spirituality of St. Francis. His humble brotherhood that inspired a life of chivalry for the one true king, Jesus Christ, remains surprisingly attractive today as it did in the 13th century. St. Francis was called the troubadour, a title given to poets of the Middle Ages who wrote of courtly love, only St. Francis wrote of his love of Christ. It was his greatest joy to simply love Love, and so naturally part of the mission of the Knights is "to make Love loved again."

But why be a religious brother? Being blessed with such piety and holiness, wouldn't it have been better for St. Francis if he answered a call to the priesthood? For many holy men, the priesthood is their calling, but that does not at all mitigate the importance of the faithful who do not choose Holy Orders. In the book Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in the Church, published by the Vatican on the Feast of St. Francis, 2015, we read:

From the first centuries of Christianity, consecrated life has been composed predominantly of lay members, an expression of the yearning of men and women to live the gospel with the radicalism proposed to all followers of Jesus. Even today lay members of the consecrated life — men and women — form the great majority.

In his youth, St. Francis was renowned for drinking and partying. He left behind his life of luxury to follow Christ. Young men today are similarly tempted by the life of pleasure that popular culture offers them. For a young man to turn away from those temptations requires a deep conversion experience.

The Knights of the Holy Eucharist understand the journey to God can be a tough one, requiring us to shed the desires that keep us from Him. But they also acknowledge that, when they found their vocation in the order, their journey was only beginning. As Pope St. John Paul II states in his book Vita Consecrata, "Consecrated life, like all forms of Christian life, is a quest for perfection in love."

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Within this quest, there is the temptation to activism. While the brothers do participate in acts of charity in the community, they primarily make sure they give ample time to prayer, meditation and contemplation, so their activism is firmly rooted in the source of all charity, God Himself. They understand that, cut off from God, they can accomplish nothing (John 15:5).

In today's society, where holiness is not encouraged, perhaps the greatest charity the brothers perform is in their willingness to live holy lives and serve as examples to others who may sense a similar call to holiness. Speaking of the holy witness of religious brothers, Mother Angelica said:

Religious are not better than other men — they are chosen for the benefit of mankind and the glorification of God on earth. Men climb mountains, scale heights, venture into the unexplored to prove to other men it can be done. This is the witness of today's disciples — they provide a needed witness that holiness is possible in today's world because there is one whose Indwelling Presence accomplishes the difficult, the impossible and the miraculous — a change of life, ideals and goals.

Following the example of St. Francis, the Knights of the Holy Eucharist strive to set an example of holiness themselves by abandoning the pleasures and promises of this world in exchange for the kingdom of Heaven. In having less, they have more.

If you would like to learn more about this order, founded by Mother Angelica, visit knights.org, where you can also donate to their mission.

David Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and editor of Catholic World Report.
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