Saint Francis of Assisi
Thank, Serve and Bear. These are the very basics of the lay Francis Spirituality
Feastday: October 4
of Assisi was born in 1182 in Assisi as Giovanni, later, Francisco, di Pietro di
Bernardone. The son of Pietro di Bernardone and monna Pica. His father was a
respectable salesman and hoped that Francis would follow him into his business.
As happy go lucky young man Francis saw himself fit for a career as a Knight. In
1202 has a young 20-year-old boy; he went to fight in Perugia. Having been taken
prisoner, he then spent a year in a dungeon. This was to be the commencement of
a long slow conversion, which covers many years, and results in Francis making
an extremely radical chose to follow Jesus Christ.
As he kneeled in the broken down church in, San Portiuncula in 1205, The Lord
spoke to him: “Repair My church”. At first he took this very literally and
started to repair the masonry of decaying
old churches. For example the church in Portiuncula and the Basilica of Our lady
of the Angels. He earned the much-needed money with which to do this by selling
his fathers materials, which caused his father to be very angry with him. His
father complained about this to the Bishop that Francis was stealing family
property, but when he was called before the Bishop, Francis became a member of
the Clergy. His father disowned him, after which Francis gave all his clothes
back to call God Alone Father. He chose to live the rest of his life in poverty.
A life, in which poverty was preached out of the Love of God, was very obvious.
In 1219 Francis went to join the knights of the crusade in Damiate Egypt and to visit the country where his Great example, Jesus Christ travelled and lived.
It is a moment for decisions when he meets a man with leprosy. This man did not throw him of his horse; Francis did not throw him a coin, but got off his horse, went to the man and embraced him. After this occurrence, (he was feeling very vulnerable) and he started to think more and more about the way in which to treat people and animals, property and money, with the good things in life and the disappointments, friendship and authority. The authority of that time was a Sultan. Whilst the crusades continue Francis decides to go and visit the Sultan at his army headquarters and does so going completely unarmed to talk to the sultan who greets him with respect.
He decides to return home when he hears that his fellow brothers, within his order, are in disarray. Once again at home he steps down from his position as Superior of the Order. In 1224 the now much larger group of Franciscans read and vote for the temporary rule, which puts down in writing their experience and way of life over the previous ten years. As this does not appear sufficient, Francis then makes a new and better version. Christmas that year he celebrates with a living Crib.
His following of Christ goes so far that having spent forty days and nights fasting on the La Verga mountain, he receives the Blessed Wounds of Our Lord as if he had been hanging on The Cross.
In 1225 he is being treated for his illness in San Damiano, where Clare lived with her sisters. He very gradually lost his sight. During his last years of life he wrote his well known, Canticle of the Creatures/Brother Sun in which he sings about the beauty of Creation. In the last couple of months that he lived, he dictated his Will. In the first half of which he described his religious journey, his absolute and sincere service to Lady Poverty, which caused him to neglect his own body. He died on the third of October 1226 at the chapel in Portiuncla, forty-four years old and completely exhausted. The 3rd of October is the feast day of his patron saint and in 1929 the World Wild Life Funds made the 4th of October World Animal Day, as Francis was renowned for his love of animals. His body was taken in procession, by the residents of Assisi to San Giorgio, his first place of burial and the place where Pope Gregory the 1X declared him a saint on the 16th of July 1228. Later Fra Elia built the Basilica, it is devoted to St Francis and the saint was buried in the lower church. Clare lived for many years after St Francis and it was very near her death in 1253 that Pope Innocence1V agreed to her rules for The Poor Clare’s.
Francis is known for bringing feeling into the religious life. Not only the terrors of religion were emphasised, but also feeling: the love of God for the people, the human facets in Christ and His Holy Mother Mary. He also had a special love off Nature: which God had created. According to the legend his preaching was also aimed at the birds and flowers. He called them all to love God and to obey Him. All living creatures were called his brothers. He asked all people to open their heart for God, nature in which He was ever present. Another well-known legend is that about Gubbio’s wolf. It is said that when this wolf was attacking a man, Francis made the sign of the Cross over the animal that then shut his mouth and lay down quietly on his back.
If we want to maintain our earth for future generations we must find a way whereby we can reconcile people and ecology, which is essential for all human life. We must recognize the Ecology is very valuable, more so than we treat it. We must treat it with respect in its own and our interest. No philosopher or religious thinker has ever been more sensitive to the relationship between man and nature than Saint Francis of Assisi. What we are now doing to preserve nature, to treat it with more respect, to take better care of it and the intimate relationship between man and nature, respect for the wilderness and all that lives therein was really started by Francis of Assisi.
The Symbol of Tau:
once wrote a short letter to his friend, Brother Leo,
in which he blessed him. Brother Leo affirmed that Fransciscus himself had
written this blessing and signed it with a
Benedicat to Brother Leo, which means: May The Eternal
bless you Brother Leo.
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