By Owen Phelps, Pd.D.

Director, Yeshua Institute

Today, Oct. 4, is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps the second most beloved saint of all after the Blessed Virgin Mary.

And a wonderful way to mark the occasion would be to order and read Leading Like Francis – Building God’s House by Carl Koch, a Fellow with the Yeshua Instiute.

About the saint

Born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family, Francis first reveled in the high life of a rich young man, but then famously rejected all of the trappings of wealth and adopted a life marked by simplicity, kindness, love and devotion. People and animals alike were drawn to him.

He is credited with creating the first Christmas crèche and founding the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of St. Francis.

According to Christian tradition, in 1224 he received the stigmata – becoming the first person ever to bear the wounds of Christ’s passion.

St. Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on July 16, 1228, only slightly less than two years after his death. With St. Catherine of Siena, he is co-patron of Italy.

On March 13, 2013, when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected pope, he chose the name Francis. Some assumed his choice was to honor Francis Xavier, a co-founder of the Jesuits, of which he was a member, Pope Francis corrected them and said his intention was to honor St. Francis of Assisi -- a gentle but fervent reformer.

About the book

When Leading Like Francis - Building God's House was published in 2014, I wrote a brief review for

This book is a delight! Its rich mix of information, inspiration and practical guidance recognizes that everyone is called to lead -- and that leadership begins on the inside. It will draw you closer to St. Francis, inspire you with his faith and devotion, and guide you every step of the way to becoming the kind of disciple and leader who would make Jesus, St. Francis -- and yes, Pope Francis -- all smile.

The short book (just 128 pages) outlines the basic principles of servant-leadership and shows how they were manifested in the life of St. Francis. It clarifies the 10 characteristics of servant-leaders as identified by Robert Greenleaf – so evident in both the saint and now in Pope Francis.

An anonymous reviewer of wrote: “By weaving Greenleaf’s work with the example of servant leadership provided by St. Francis of Assisi, Koch offers a concrete, practical, heartfelt, and passionate approach to the work of being a leader in any context.”

The book “will be a useful resource for congregation and charitable organizations but also deserves the attention of leaders in any context who seek to build something that is better than “business as usual,” the reviewer added.

If you would like to more closely approximate the example of St. Francis in your own life – and most especially in any leadership roles you have – there is no better place to start than with Koch’s fine little book.


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