A medical crisis that proved to be a false alarm changed the life of this 16th-century saint. At age 22 Francis developed a troublesome skin disease resembling leprosy—one of the most dreaded diseases of the day.
He vowed that if he recovered he would devote his life to God. The skin condition cleared up completely. Convinced his recovery was miraculous, Francis kept his promise to God.
He studied for the priesthood in Naples. There he befriended a man who wanted to establish a new religious community that would focus on both the active and the contemplative life. Francis helped draw up Rules for the new Order of the Minor Clerks Regular. Members of the Order agreed among themselves never to seek leadership within the group, though Francis was elected many times to serve in such positions.
Even in his capacity as superior of the Order, he insisted on sharing simple tasks: sweeping rooms, making beds, washing dishes. As a priest Francis spent many hours in the confessional. He also begged in the streets for the poor and gave away most of his possessions to the needy.
Francis died in 1608. He is the patron saint of Naples.
The buzzword in the modern business world is empowerment. In firms everywhere, hands-on management is being phased out and employees are gaining responsibility. Francis came at it from the other direction: In spite of his high position in his order, he put his hand to the most ordinary tasks. We who exercise authority in our families and elsewhere might welcome opportunities to pitch in with tasks that lack status or glamour.