So what major changes did Francis have to undergo. It concerns the commandment to love your neighbour as your self. This is easier if you like your neighbour. But what if your neighbour is unlovable? For Francis this was the leper. How could he strive to live out this commandment and yet despise the leper? God lead him to love and care for the leper.
This is what Francis wrote in his Testament:
“The Lord granted me, Brother Francis, to begin to do penance in this way: While I was in sin, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I had mercy upon them. And when I left them that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body; and afterward I lingered a little and left the world.”
Thomas of Celano, the first biographer of St Francis, tells us that Francis could not stand the sight of a leper. Even if he saw the leprosarium in the distance he would hold his nose and ride in the other direction. All that changed one day. As he rode down the path deep in thought when suddenly, a leper appeared before him begging alms. Francis nevertheless got down from his horse and kissed the leper. When his kiss was returned, Francis was filled with joy. As he rode off, he turned around for a last wave, and saw that the leper had disappeared. He always looked upon it as a test from God.