Post by Admin on Oct 4, 2018 11:27:31 GMT
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis is one of the most beloved of all the Saints, yet one of the most misunderstood. Many people, some not even Catholic, have appropriated him for sentimental and symbolic reasons, for the animals rights movement, the environment, etc. Every liberal has managed to find a way to have St. Francis as his Saint for his cause. Yet, to reduce this glorious Saint to a veritable nature boy is an affront, regardless of any good intention. This is a brief but more complete and in context account of St. Francis' life and death:
St. Francis of Assisi
Founder of the Friars Minor, born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181 or 1182; died on October 3, 1226. Feast Day: October 4. Feast of the Stigmata: September 17.
His father, Pietro Bernardone, was a wealthy merchant, much of whose trade was with France, thus the name given to the Saint, after the country his father was traveling in while St. Francis was being born; at baptism he had been given the name of John. What we know of his mother is her name, Pica.
Francis received some elementary instruction from the priests of St. George's at Assisi, though he learned more perhaps in the school of the Troubadours, who were just then making for refinement in Italy. However this may be, he was not very studious, and his literary education remained incomplete. And he likewise showed little interest in following his father in business.
When he was twenty strife broke out between the cities of Perugia and Assisi: Francis was taken prisoner by the Perugians, a plight he bore with good cheer. But as soon as he was released he was struck down by a serious illness. Upon recovery he planned to joined a military contingency. Riding out one day in his new uniform he met a pauper who touched his heart, so Francis exchanged clothes with the man. At Spoleto he fell sick again and as he lay a voice from Heaven told him to turn back and "Serve the master, rather than the man." Francis obeyed, although in the beginning he returned to his old life of pleasure, which he was not able to enjoy as he used to. Then he met a leper on the plain of Assisi; the leper's sores were so loathsome that Francis was horrified. Francis not only gave the man alms, he kissed his hand. It was after that meeting that our Saint started visiting hospitals to care for the sick and give clothes and money to the poor.
One day he was praying at the church of St. Damian, which was just outside of Assisi: he seemed to hear a voice coming from the Crucifix, saying to him three times:
"Francis, go and repair My house, which you see is falling down."
Francis, seeing that the church was old and in need of repair misunderstood Our Lord to mean that he was to undertake the rebuilding of that church itself. In his sincerity he went home, took some cloth from his father's store and sold it along with his horse, bring the proceeds to the priest at St. Damian's. Francis asked to stay there and the priest consented but would not take the money, so Francis placed the money on a window sill.
By then his father discovered what had happened and was indignant; he went to the church to find his son who had hidden himself. After some days in prayer and fasting, he appeared again, although so changed and ill-clad that people pelted him and called him mad. His father took Francis home and thrashed him, then locked him in, but his mother set him loose. The altercation between father and son continued until the Bishop of Assisi mediated, telling Francis he had to give the money he took back and then trust in God. The Saint obeyed so literally, that he stripped himself of the clothes on his back, which he said belonged to his father also. The Bishop found some clothing belonging to a laborer and gave them to Francis. So Francis made a cross on the garment with chalk and put it on.
Then he went in search of shelter, singing the Divine praises. He encountered a gang of thieves who asked who he was. He answered, "I am the herald of the King." They waylaid him and threw him into a ditch full of snow, but Francis continued to sing. He received alms and some work at a monastery. For two years he trekked as a pilgrim gathering alms in Assisi where all had known him as a former rich young man. He carried stones for the church and helped in its repair and also helped to fix another church named after St. Peter. After this he went to a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels on Mount Subasio. He fixed the chapel and made himself an abode by it. It was there on the Feast of St. Matthias, in 1209, his way of life was shown to him. The Gospel that day was from Matthew 10: 7-19, which included the admonishment not to possess gold nor two coats . . . The words went right to Francis' heart, so he gave away his shoes, leaving himself with but one poor coat, which he girt around him with a cord, the same garment he gave his friars the following year: the undyed woolen garb of the shepherds in those parts.
Many began to admire Francis and some desired to join him., among them a rich tradesman, a cathedral canon, and the now famous Brother Giles. When the band had grown to twelve, Francis drew up a short rule consisting primarily of the Gospel counsels of perfection, which he took to Rome in 1210 for the Pontiff's approval. Innocent III afterwards told his nephew who told St. Bonaventure, that he [the Pope] had one dream in which he saw a palm tree growing up at his feet; and another in which he saw the Saint propping up the Lateran, which seemed ready to fall. The Pope therefore sent for Francis, approving his rule, but only by word of mouth; then he tonsured them and commissioned them to preach repentance.
After a time Francis and his company were given the chapel of Mount Subasio, upon the condition that it should always continue as the head church of his order, which was founded on the spirit of holy poverty. St. Francis was ordained a deacon but never went beyond to that of the priesthood. In the autumn 0f 1212 Francis decided to preach to the Moslems, embarking with one other friar for Syria, but they were wrecked off the coast; they went back to Italy as they could not advance further. A landowner gave them a retreat place in the Apennines of Tuscany; afterwards Francis attempted again to travel to the Moslems, this time via Spain; again he was thwarted in his efforts, this time taking ill; After recovering he went back to Italy.
Out of humility, the Saint gave his order the name of Friars Minor, desiring that his friars should be below their fellows, and seek the last and lowest places. In 1216, Francis went to Rome where he likely met St. Dominic. His order grew and the members so numerous that some organization was needed. The order was divided into provinces. The Friars now extended beyond the Alps, with missions as far away as Hungary. The first general chapter had 5000 members attending. Francis sent some to the Moslems in Tunis and Morocco, reserving to himself the Saracens of Egypt and Syria, at the same time of the appeal of the Lateran Council's call for a Crusade. Francis was shocked at the self-seeking of the soldiers of the Cross. Burning with zeal for the conversion of the Saracens, he set out for the Sultan, although there was a price on the head of every Christian; the Sultan who asked him why he had come. Francis answered:
"I am sent, not by men, but by the most high God, to show you and your people the way of salvation by announcing to you the truths of the Gospel. Discussion followed along with more audiences with the chieftain. After a few days the ruler sent Francis back from when he came, a great disappointment. Then he was called back to Italy because of unauthorized changes in the rule of the order. He discovered his brethren housed in a fine convent, which he refused to enter, and lodged with the Dominicans instead. With the support of a Cardinal Ugolino and Pope Honorius III he revised the rule of the order and called a second general chapter. The revision kept the rule of poverty, humbleness and evangelical freedom which had characterized the order. It took more than two years to manage the protests and dissidence and come up with a revision that was not a compromise of the essential spirit and manner of life. He had already drawn up the rule for the Tertiary of third order of laymen, the Rule of Penance.
During the Christmas of 1223, the Christmas manger or "Crib" was popularized by Francis: Francis was surely no stranger to Nativity plays and other church dramas, however, they sometimes got out of hand and were finally banned by the Pope. According to Francis's biographer, St. Bonaventure, Francis asked Pope Honorius III for permission to keep Christmas in his own way and the Pope granted his request. Francis asked his friend, landowner Giovanni Vellita, to prepare everything for a special Christmas Mass in Greccio, Italy. Giovanni hastened to do as Francis asked; a manger was filled with hay, an ox and ass were led in, and an invitation to be present was sent to all in the neighborhood. Saint Francis's other early biographer, Thomas of Celano, also described the scene. No one impersonated anyone - no shepherds, no angels, etc. According to Thomas, it was beautiful in its simplicity.
In 1224 St. Francis made himself a cell on Mount Alvernia, the earlier retreat in the Apennines, around the time of the Feast of the Assumption, forbidding anyone to come to him until the Feast of St. Michael. On Holy Cross Day in 1224, Francis received the stigmata. Having thus been marked with the signs of Our Lord's Passion, Francis tried to conceal this favor of Heaven from the eyes of men, and for this purpose he ever after covered his hands with his habit and wore shoes and stockings on his feet.
The two years that were left of his life were years of suffering and of happiness in God. His health worsened and the stigmata was very painful, and his eyesight was failing. His condition was so poor that the Pope urged him to seek treatment from his own physicians. On his way there Francis paid his last visit to his good friend, St. Clare and her nuns at San Damiano. Here, almost maddened with pain, he wrote the "Canticle of Brother Sun," which he taught the friars to sing. The treatment did no good and he knew he was dying. He lodged in the Bishops' house at Assisi; by that time he was told he had weeks to live and he welcomed death; he was taken back to his place by the chapel. On the evening of October 3rd, the Saint died. He asked to be buried in the criminals' cemetery, but the next day his body was taken to the church of St. George at Assisi, where it remained until two years after his canonization, in 1230, which had been proclaimed by Gregory IX, July 16, 1228. On the following day the Pope laid the first stone of the great Basilica of St. Francis, erected in honour of the new Saint; on 25 May, 1230, Francis' remains were secretly transferred by Brother Elias and placed under the high altar in the lower church. Here, after lying hidden for six centuries, like that of St. Clare's, Francis' coffin was found, December 12, 1818, after a rigorous fifty-two day search. The discovery of the Saint's body is commemorated in the Order by a special office on December 12.
Two favorite maxims or proclamations of St. Francis:
"May I die, O Lord, through love of Thee, Who through love of me didst not disdain to die!"
"Man should tremble, the world should vibrate, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest."
Adapted from here.