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Saint Francis of Assisi,Founder of the Friars Minor, Confessor 1181-1226
EWTN & Lives of Saints ^ | 00/00/00 | John J Crawley & Co Inc(Publisher)

Posted on 10/04/2002 5:06:39 PM PDT by Lady In Blue


SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE FRIARS MINOR, CONFESSOR—1181-1226
Feast: October 4
We know more of St. Francis than of any other medieval saint. Not only have we his own words, his Rule, Testament, letters, poems, and liturgical writings, but also the intimate accounts of several of his disciples, written down within twenty years after his death. These first biographies, by Brothers Thomas of Celano, Leo, Angelo, and Rufino, were soon revised and added to by other friars who wanted to call attention to one phase or another of Francis' work and teachings. From this great store of authentic material a clear picture of the man emerges. St. Francis is one saint whom both Catholics and non-Catholics have united in honoring. Certainly no other has so appealed to Protestants and even to non-Christians. And the appeal is timeless: Francis captured the imagination of his contemporaries as well as that of modern men by his unique simplicity and a pure grace of spirit. A classic collection of popular legends, the <Little Flowers of St. Francis>, first printed in 1476, contains charming and beautiful stories of Francis' love of the poor, of animals, of all nature. In action he was original, in speech picturesque and poetic, yet he was a man utterly inspired by faith in and devotion to the risen Christ.

Francis was born in the stony hill-town of Assisi in Umbria, in the year 1181 or 1182. His father, Peter Bernadone, was a wealthy merchant. His mother, Pica, by some accounts was gently born and of Provencal blood. Much of Bernadone's trade was with France, and his son was born while he was absent in that country. Perhaps for this reason the child was called Francesco, "the French man," though his baptismal name was John. As a youth he was ardent in his amusements and seemed carried away by the mere joy of living, taking no interest at all in his father's business or in formal learning. Bernadone, proud to have his son finely dressed and associating with young noblemen, gave him plenty of money, which Francis spent carelessly. Though Francis was high-spirited, he was too fastidious to lead a dissolute life. It was the age of chivalry, and he was thrilled by the songs of the troubadours and the deeds of knights. At the age of twenty or thereabouts, during a petty war between the towns of Assisi and Perugia, he was taken prisoner. During a year of captivity he remained cheerful and kept up the spirits of his companions. Soon after his release he suffered a long illness. This he bore with patience.

After his recovery Francis joined the troop of a knight of Assisi who was riding south to fight under Walter de Brienne for the Pope against the Germans. Having equipped himself with sumptuous apparel and fine armor, he fared forth. On the way he met a knight shabbily clad, and was so touched with compassion that he exchanged clothes with him. That night he dreamed he saw his father's house transformed into a castle, its walls hung with armor, all marked with the sign of the cross; and he heard a voice saying that the armor belonged to Francis and his soldiers. Confident now that he would win glory as a knight, he set out again, but on the first day fell ill. While lying helpless, a voice seemed to tell him to turn back, and "to serve the Master rather than the man." Francis obeyed. At home he began to take long rambles in the country and to spend many hours by himself; he felt contempt for a life wasted on trivial and transitory things. It was a time of spiritual crisis during which he was quietly searching for something worthy of his complete devotion. A deep compassion was growing within him. Riding one day in the plains below Assisi, he met a leper whose loathsome sores filled Francis with horror. Overcoming his revulsion, he leapt from his horse and pressed into the leper's hand all the money he had with him, then kissed the hand. This was a turning point in his life. He started visiting hospitals, especially the refuge for lepers, which most persons avoided. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he emptied his purse at St. Peter's tomb, then went out to the swarm of beggars at the door, gave his clothes to the one that looked poorest, dressed himself in the fellow's rags, and stood there all day with hand outstretched. The rich young man would experience for himself the bitterness and humiliation of poverty.

One day, after his return from Rome, as he prayed in the humble little church of St. Damian outside the walls of Assisi, he felt the eyes of the Christ on the crucifix gazing at him and heard a voice saying three times, "Francis, go and repair My house, which you see is falling down." The building, he observed, was old and ready to fall. Assured that he had now found the right path, Francis went home and in the singleness and simplicity of his heart took a horseload of cloth out of his father's warehouse and sold it, together with the horse that carried it, in the market at the neighboring town of Foligno. He then brought the money to the poor priest of St. Damian's church, and asked if he might stay there. Although the priest accepted Francis' companionship, he refused the money, which Francis left lying on a window sill. Bernadone, furious at his son's waywardness, came to St. Damian's to bring him home, but Francis hid himself and could not be found.

He spent some days in prayer, and then went bravely to see his father. He was now so thin and ill-clad that boys in the streets pelted him and called him mad. The exasperated Bernadone beat Francis, fettered his feet, and locked him up. A little later his mother set him free and Francis returned to St. Damian's. His father pursued him there and angrily declared that he must either return home or renounce his share in his inheritance-and pay the purchase price of the horse and the goods he had taken as well. Francis made no objection to being disinherited, but protested that the other money now belonged to God and the poor. Bernadone had him summoned for trial before Guido, the bishop of Assisi, who heard the story and told the young man to restore the money and trust in God. "He does not wish," the bishop said, "to have His church profit by goods which may have been unjustly acquired." Francis not only gave back the money but went even further. "My clothing is also his," he said, and stripped off his garments. "Hither to I have called Peter Bernadone father.... From now on I say only, 'Our Father, who art in Heaven.’" Bernadone left the court in sorrow and rage, while the bishop covered the young man with his own cloak until a gardener's smock was brought. Francis marked a cross on the shoulder of the garment with chalk, and put it on.

Henceforth he was completely cut off from his family, and began a strange new life. He roamed the highways, singing God's praise. In a wood some robbers stopped him and asked who he was. When he answered soberly, "I am the herald of the Great King," they jeered and threw him into a ditch. He picked himself up and continued on his way singing. At a monastery, Francis was given alms and a job of work, as a poor traveler. Trudging on to the town of Gubbio, he was recognized by a friend, who took him to his house and gave him a proper tunic, belt, and shoes. These he wore for nearly two years as he walked about the countryside. When he returned to St. Damian's the priest welcomed him, and Francis now began in earnest to repair the church, begging for building stones in the streets of Assisi and carrying off those that were given him. He labored with the masons in the actual reconstruction, and, by the spring of 1208, the church was once more in good condition. Next he repaired an old chapel dedicated to St. Peter. By this time many people, impressed by his sincerity and enthusiasm, were willing to contribute to the work. Francis was now attracted to a tiny chapel known as St. Mary of the Portiuncula, belonging to a Benedictine monastery on Monte Subasio. It stood in the wooded plain, some two miles below Assisi, forsaken and in ruins. Francis rebuilt it as he had done the others, and seems to have thought of spending his life there as a hermit, in peace and seclusion. Here on the feast of St. Matthias, in 1209, the way of life he was to follow was revealed to him. The Gospel of the Mass for this day was Matthew X, 7-19: "And going, preach, saying The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.... Freely have you received, freely give. Take neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purses . . . nor two coats nor shoes nor a staff.... Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves...." These words suddenly became Christ's direct charge to him. His doubts over, he cast off shoes, staff, and leathern girdle, but kept his rough woolen coat, which he tied about him with a rope. This was the habit he gave his friars the following year. In this garb he went to Assisi the next morning and, with a moving warmth and sincerity, began to speak to the people he met on the shortness of life, the need of repentence, and the love of God. His salutation to those he passed on the road was, "Our Lord give you peace."

An early disciple was Bernard Quintavalle, a rich and prudent merchant of the city, who invited Francis to stay at his house. At night they had long talks, and there was no mistaking Francis' passionate dedication. Bernard soon informed Francis that he would sell all his goods and give the proceeds to the poor and join him. Shortly afterward, a canon of the cathedral, Peter de Cattaneo, asked to come with them. The three then went down to the Portiuncula, where, on April 16, Francis "gave his habit" to these two companions and they built themselves simple huts. Brother Giles, a man of great gentleness and purity of spirit, was the next to come, and others soon followed.

For a year Francis and his now numerous companions preached among the peasants and helped them in the fields. A brief rule which has not been preserved was drawn up. Apparently it consisted of little more than the passages from the Gospel which Francis had read to his first followers, with brief injunctions to manual labor, simplicity, and poverty. In the summer of 1210 he and some of the others carried it to Rome to obtain the Pope's approbation. Innocent III, the great ruler of Catholic Europe, listened but hesitated. Most of the cardinals he consulted thought that the existing orders should be reformed before their number was increased and that the proposed rule for the new organization, taken though it was from Christ's own command, was impractical. Cardinal John Colonna, who pleaded for Francis, was deputed to examine him as to his orthodoxy, while Innocent considered the matter. Later the Pope dreamed he saw Francis propping up the Lateran Church with his shoulder. He was to see Dominic in a similar position five years later. Summoning Francis and his companions, he orally approved their mission of preaching penitence, only requiring that they always get the consent of the local bishop; also they must choose a leader with whom the ecclesiastical authorities might communicate. Francis was thereupon elected head, and Cardinal Colonna gave them the monk's tonsure.

Francis and his little band returned to Umbria rejoicing. A temporary shelter was found near the foot of Monte Subasio, and from there they went out in all directions preaching repentance, and the blessedness of doing God's will. The cathedral of Assisi was the only church large enough to hold the crowds that flocked to hear them, especially after it was known that their rule had papal approval. Soon the abbot of the Benedictine monastery gave them in perpetuity their beloved Portiuncula chapel and the ground on which it stood. Francis would accept only the use of the property. The spirit of holy poverty must govern their order, if they were to be disciples of Him who had not where to lay His head. In token of this arrangement, the friars sent to the Benedictines every year as rent a basket of fish caught in a neighboring river. In return, the monks gave the friars a barrel of oil. This annual exchange of gifts still goes on between the Benedictines of St. Peter's in Assisi and the Franciscans of the Portiuncula. On the ground around the chapel the friars quickly built themselves some huts of wood and clay, enclosing them by a hedge. This was the first Franciscan monastery.

Because the body was meant to carry burdens, to eat scantily and coarsely, and to be beaten when sluggish or refractory, Francis called it Brother Ass. When, early in his new life, he was violently tempted, he threw himself naked into a ditch full of snow. Again when tempted like Benedict he plunged into a briar patch and rolled about until he was torn and bleeding. Yet before he died he asked pardon of his body for having treated it so cruelly; by that time he considered excessive austerities wrong, especially if they decreased the power to labor. He had no use for eccentricity for its own sake. Once when he was told that a friar so loved silence that he would confess only by signs, his comment was, "That is not the spirit of God but of the Devil, a temptation, not a virtue."

Francis was reverently in love with all natural phenomena—sun, moon, air, water, fire, flowers; his quick warm sympathies responded to all that lived. His tenderness for and his power over animals were noted again and again. From his companions we have the story of his rebuke to the noisy swallows who were disturbing his preaching at Alviano: "Little sister swallows, it is now my turn to speak; you have been talking enough all this time." We hear also of the birds that perched attentively around when he told them to sing their Creator's praises, of the rabbit that would not leave him at Lake Trasymene, and of the tamed wolf of Gubbio—all incidents that have inspired innumerable artists and story tellers.

The early years were a time of training in poverty, mutual help, and brotherly love. The friars worked at their various trades and in the fields of neighboring farmers to earn their bread. When work was lacking, they begged, though they were forbidden to take money. They were especially at the service of lepers, and those who were helpless and suffering. Among the recruits soon to present themselves were the "Three Companions," Angelo, Leo, and Rufino, who were in time to write of their beloved leader; and the ''renowned jester of the Lord," Brother Juniper, of whom Francis said, "I would I had a forest of such junipers." It was he who, while a crowd was waiting to receive him at Rome, was found playing seesaw with some children outside the city.

In the spring of 1212, an eighteen-year-old girl of Assisi named Clara[1] heard Francis preach in the cathedral and left her father's castle to take the vow of poverty and become a disciple. The monks of Monte Subasio again aided Francis by giving him a place where Clara and her earliest followers could be lodged; to them he gave the same rules as the brothers had. In the autumn of that year Francis resolved to go as a crusader of peace to the Mohammedans of the East. With a companion he embarked for Syria, only to suffer shipwreck off the Dalmatian coast. Having no money for the return passage, they got back to Ancona as stowaways. The follow ing year Francis preached up and down central Italy. In 1214 he made another attempt to reach the Mohammedans, this time by the land route through Spain. So eager was he to arrive that his companion could scarcely keep up with him on the road. But once more Francis was disappointed, for in Spain he was taken ill and had to return to Italy.

There, on his recovery, he resumed direction of the order and his tours of preaching. To the order he gave the name of Friars Minor, Little Brothers, to express his wish that they should never be in positions above their fellows. Many cities were now anxious to have the brothers in their midst to act as peace-makers in periods of civil strife, and small communities of them sprang up rapidly throughout Umbria, Tuscany, and Lombardy. In 1215 Francis went to Rome for the great Council of the Lateran, which was also attended by the future St. Dominic, who had begun his missionary work in Languedoc while Francis was still a youth.

At Pentecost in 1217 a general chapter of all Friars Minor was held at Assisi. They had now become so numerous and so widely dispersed that some more systematic organization was necessary. Italy was divided into provinces, each in charge of a responsible minister provincial. "Should anyone be lost through the minister's fault and bad example, that minister will have to give an account before our Lord Jesus Christ." Missions were sent to Spain, Germany, and Hungary, and Francis himself made plans to go to France, of which he had heard so much in childhood from his father. He was dissuaded by Cardinal Ugolino, who after the death of Cardinal John Colonna began to serve as advisor to the new convent. He sent instead Brother Pacifico and Brother Agnello; the latter was afterwards to establish the order in England.

Although still the head, Francis was prevailed on at times to submit to the prudent Ugolino. The cardinal actually presided at the general chapter of 1219, called, like its predecessor, a "mat chapter" because of the huts of wattles and straw hastily put up to shelter the five thousand friars present. The more learned and worldly-wise of the brothers were critical of the free and venturesome spirit of their founder, who, they claimed, was improvident and naive. They wanted more material security and a more elaborate rule, similar to that of the older orders. Francis defended his position with spirit: "My brothers, the Lord called me into the way of simplicity and humility, and this way He has pointed out to me for myself and for those who will believe and follow me.... The Lord told me he would have me poor and foolish in this world, . . . God will confound you by your own wisdom and learning, and, for all your fault-finding, bring you repentance whether you will or no."

From this chapter Francis sent some of his friars on missions to the infidels in Tunisia, Morocco, and Spain, while he himself undertook one to the Saracens of Egypt and Syria, embarking with eleven friars from Ancona in June, 1219. At the city of Damietta on the Nila Delta, which the crusaders were besieging, Francis was deeply shocked at the profligacy, the cynicism, and the lack of discipline of the soldiers of the cross. When in August the leaders prepared to attack, he predicted failure and tried to dissuade them from the attempt. The Christians were driven back with the slaughter of six thousand men, yet they continued the siege, and at last took the city. Meanwhile, a number of the soldiers had pledged themselves to live by Francis' rule. He also paid several visits to the Saracen leader, Melek-el-Kamil, Sultan of Egypt. There is a story to the effect that he first went among the enemy with only Brother Illuminato, calling out, "Sultan! Sultan!" When he was brought before the Sultan and asked his errand, Francis replied boldly, "I am sent 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, and other audiences. The Sultan, somewhat moved, invited Francis to stay with him. "If you and your people," said Francis, "will accept the word of God, I will with joy stay with you. If you yet waver between Christ and Mohammed, order a fire kindled and I will go into it with your priests that you may see which is the true faith." The Sultan replied that he did not think any of his <imams> would dare to enter the fire, and he would not accept Francis' condition for fear of upsetting the people. He offered him many presents, which Francis refused. Fearing finally that some of his Moslems might desert to the Christians, he sent Francis, under guard, back to the camp.

Sickened by the senseless slaughter and brutality that marked the taking of the city, Francis went on to visit the Holy Places of Palestine. When he returned to Italy he found that in his absence his vicars, Matthew of Narni and Gregory of Naples, had held a general chapter and introduced certain innovations, tending to bring the Franciscans a little more into line with other orders and to confine them in a more rigid framework. At several of the women's convents, regular constitutions, drawn up on the Benedictine model, had been imposed by Cardinal Ugolino. In Bologna Francis found his brothers housed in a fine new monastery. He refused to enter it, and went for lodging to Dominic's Friars Preachers. Sending for his provincial minister, he upbraided him, and ordered the friars to leave the building. He felt that his fundamental idea was being betrayed. It was a serious crisis, but it ended in Francis' acceptance of some measure of change. Ugolino convinced him that he himself, not the order, was the owner of the new building; also that systematic supervision and regulation were necessary for such a far-flung organization. Francis' profound humility made him ready to blame himself for anything that went wrong. He would not give up his faith in the way of life that Christ had shown him, but he became less confident. He finally went to Pope Honorius III and asked that the cardinal be made official protector and counselor of the order. At the chapter meeting of 1220 he resigned his position as minister general; in May, 1221, he offered his draft for a revised rule, a long and confused document, containing a new requirement, a year's novitiate before a candidate could be admitted; there were long extracts from the New Testament, and passionate appeals to the brothers to preserve the old life of poverty and love. The jurists of the order, those who knew the problems of administration, and the provincial ministers all wanted something more precise, a rule which could be understood and followed anywhere in the world by men who had never seen Francis, and which would also keep Franciscans from diverging too widely from the established usages of the historic Church.

Once at least during the two years that followed, Francis broke away to the solitude of a mountain near Rieti, and worked over the rule alone. The final result he delivered to Brother Elias of Cortona, then minister general, but the copy was somehow lost, and Francis patiently dictated the substance of it to Brother Leo. In the form in which it was at last presented to the chapter general in 1223 and solemnly approved by Pope Honorius it has remained ever since. The words of Christ which made up almost all of the original rule of 1210 are omitted. It is explicit on a number of points which in 1210 had been left indefinite-methods of admission, times of fasting, government by ministers and triennial general chapters, requirements for preaching, obedience to superiors; at the head of all is a cardinal governor appointed by the pope. The early simplicity is gone, though now and again the fervor of Franciscan idealism breaks through the sober text. The brothers are still to receive no money, to labor as far as they are able, to own no house "nor anything." They are not to be ashamed to beg, since "the Lord made himself poor for us in this world." They are not to trouble to educate illiterate brothers but to strive instead for pure hearts, humility, and patience. The contrast, however, between the old rule and the new shocked and pained some of the members. Yet it seemed true that such a great institution could not be run without a system of uniform control or let its members wander as they pleased over the earth, with no churches of their own where they could preach regularly, and no house where they could live together. To Brother Elias, the able and masterful friar who with Cardinal Ugolino became the directing force, there was still too much of the unworkable Franciscan dream in the new rule and in later years he refused to be bound by it. In 1230 the cardinal, then Pope Gregory IX, issued an official interpretation of it.

Somewhat earlier Francis and the cardinal had drawn up a rule for the fraternity of lay men and women who wished to associate themselves with the Friars Minor and followed as best they could the rules of humility, labor, charity, and voluntary poverty, without withdrawing from the world: the Franciscan tertiaries or Third Order of today.[2] These congregations of lay penitents became a power in the religious life of the late Middle Ages.

The Christmas season of 1223 Francis spent near the village of Greccio in the valley of Rieti, weary in mind and body. There he remarked to his friend, the knight, Giovanni di Vellita, "I would make a memorial of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, and in some sort behold with bodily eyes the hardships of His infant state, lying on hay in a manger, with the ox and the ass standing by." So a rude stable was set up at the hermitage, with a live ox and ass, and a child lying on straw, and the people crowded to the midnight Mass, at which Francis as deacon read the Gospel story and then preached. His use of the <creche> gave impetus to its later popularity. Having become extremely frail, he remained at Greccio for some months longer.

In June, 1224, Francis attended his last chapter meeting, at which the new rule was formally delivered to the provincial ministers. In August, with a few of the brothers closest to him, he made his way through the Apennine forest to the peak of Alvernia, a place of retreat put at his disposal years earlier by the lord of Chiusi. A hut of branches was built for him, a little way from his companions. Brother Leo daily brought him food. His fears for the future of the order now increased and reached a climax. And here it was, on or about Holy Cross Day, September 14, that at sunrise, after a night of prayer, he had a vision of a winged seraph, nailed to a cross, flying towards him; he also felt keen stabs of pain in hands, feet, and sides. The vision vanished, and he discovered on his body the stigmata of the crucified Christ. During his lifetime, few persons saw the stigmata, called by Dante, "the ultimate seal." Thenceforth he kept his hands covered with the sleeves of his habit, and wore shoes and stockings. To those who were there with him, he disclosed what had happened, and within a few days composed the poem, "Praise of the Most High God."

After celebrating the feast of St. Michael on September 29, the now enfeebled friar rode down the mountain on a borrowed horse, and healed several persons who were brought to him in the plain below. Weak as he was, he insisted on preaching, riding from village to village on an ass. Young and ambitious members of the order, already set on rivaling the Dominicans as brilliant and popular preachers in the towns, were eager to outshine them in the schools as well. Francis realized that learning had its uses, but to fulfill their special mission, he knew that his brothers needed much time for prayer, meditation, and helpful labor. He feared the prescribed scholastic training, thinking it tended to feed conceit and extinguish charity and piety. Above all, Lady Learning was dangerous as a rival to Lady Poverty. Yet under pressure he yielded so far as to consent to the appointment of Antony of Padua as reader and teacher.

Francis' health was growing worse, the stigmata were a source of pain, and his eyes were failing. In the summer of 1225 Cardinal Ugolino and the vicar-general, Elias, made him consent to put himself in the hands of the Pope's physician at Rieti. On his way there he stopped to pay a final visit to Abbess Clara and the nuns of St. Damian He stayed for over a month, and seemed depressed by his apparent failure to accomplish his mission in life. For two weeks he lost his sight, but finally triumphed over suffering and gloom, and in a sudden ecstasy one day composed the beautiful, triumphant "Canticle of the Sun," and set it to music. The brothers might sing it as they went about their preaching. He went on to Rieti to undergo the agonizing treatment prescribed- cauterization of the forehead by white-hot iron, and plasters to keep the wound open. Strangely enough, he obtained some relief. During the winter he preached a little, and dictated a long letter to his brothers, which he hoped would be read at the opening of future general chapters. They were to love one another, to love and follow Lady Poverty, to love and reverence the Eucharist, and to love and honor the clergy. He also composed a still longer letter to all Christians, repeating his message of love and harmony.

Yearning to be at home, when spring came he was carried north to Assisi and lodged in the bishop's palace, but these fine surroundings depressed Francis, and he begged to be taken to the Portiuncula. As they bore him down the hill, he asked to have the stretcher set down, and turning back for a moment towards the city he blessed it and bade it farewell. At the Portiuncula he was able to dictate his Will, a final, firm defense of all he had been and done. No one coming after him must introduce glosses to explain away any part of the rule or of this Will, for he had written it "in a clear and simple manner" and it should be understood in the same way and practiced "until the end." Four years later Ugolino, then Pope Gregory IX, at the same time that he gave an official interpretation of the rule, announced that the brothers were not bound to observe the Will.

As the end drew near, Francis asked his brothers to send to Rome for the Lady Giacoma di Settesoli, who had often befriended him. Even before the messenger started, the lady arrived at his bedside. Francis also sent a last message to Clara and her nuns. While the brothers stood about him singing the "Canticle of the Sun," with the new stanza he had lately given them, in praise of Sister Death, he repeated the one hundred and forty-first Psalm, "I cried to the Lord with my voice; with my voice I made supplication to the Lord." At his request he was stripped of his clothing and laid for a while on the ground that dying he might rest in the arms of Lady Poverty. Back upon his pallet once more, he called for bread and broke it and to each one present gave a piece in token of their love. The Gospel for Holy Thursday, the story of the Lord's Passion as told by St. John, was read aloud. And as darkness fell on Saturday, October 3, 1226, Francis died.

He had asked to be buried in the criminals' cemetery in the Colle d'Inferno, but early the next morning a crowd of his fellow citizens came down and bore his body to the church of St. George in Assisi. Here it remained for two years, during which time a process of canonization was being carried through. In 1228 the first stone was laid for the beautiful basilica built in Francis' honor, under the direction of Brother Elias. In 1230 his body was secretly removed to it and, in fear that the Perugians might send a raiding party to steal it, buried so deep that not until 1818, after a fifty-two days' search, was it discovered beneath the high altar of the lower church.

The order which Francis founded divided early into three branches, the Brothers Minor of the Observance, who follow the rule of 1223, preach, perform works of charity, and go as missionaries abroad, the Brothers Minor Conventual, who live by the later, less stringent rule, which permits the corporate holding of property, and the Brothers Minor Capuchin, for whom Francis' rule is not ascetic enough, and who live strictly cloistered, under a regimen of silence.


Canticle of the Sun

O most high, almighty, good Lord God, to Thee belong praise, glory, honor, and all blessing! By Thee alone, Most High, were all things made and no man is worthy to speak Thy name. Praised be my Lord with all his creatures, especially Messer Brother Sun, who brings us the day and brings us the light; fair is he and shining with a very great splendor; Most High, he signifies to us Thee! Praised be my Lord for Sister Moon, and for the stars, the which He has set in heaven clear and precious and lovely. Praised be my Lord for Brother Wind, and for air and cloud, calms and all weather, by the which Thou upholdest life in Thy creatures. Praised be my Lord for Sister Water, who is very serviceable unto us, and humble, and precious, and clean. Praised be my Lord for Brother Fire, through whom Thou givest us light in the night; and he is beautiful and joyous, and very mighty, and strong. Praised be my Lord for our Sister, Mother Earth, who doth sustain us and keep us, and bring forth divers fruits, and flowers of many colors, and grass. Praised be my Lord for those who pardon one another for His love's sake, and who endure weakness and tribulation; blessed are they who peaceably endure, for by Thee, Most Highest, shall they be crowned. Praised be my Lord for our sister the death of the body, from whom no man living can escape. Woe unto them who die in mortal sin. Blessed are they who are found walking by Thy most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm. Praise ye and bless my Lord, and give thanks unto Him and serve Him with great humility.


Will

<See in what manner God gave it to me, to me, Brother Francis>, to begin to do penitence; when I lived in sin, it was very painful to me to see lepers, but God himself led me into their midst, and I remained there a little while. When I left them, that which had seemed to me bitter had become sweet and easy.

A little while after I quitted the world, and God gave me such a faith in his churches that I would kneel down with simplicity and I would say: "We adore thee, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all thy churches which are in the world, and we bless thee that by thy holy cross thou hast ransomed the world."

Besides, the Lord gave me and still gives me so great a faith in priests who live according to the form of the holy Roman Church, because of their sacerdotal character, that even if they persecuted me I would have recourse to them. And even though I had all the wisdom of Solomon, if I should find poor secular priests, I would not preach in their parishes without their consent. I desire to respect them like all the others, to love them and honor them as my lords. I will not consider their sins, for in them I see the Son of God, and they are my lords. I do this because here below I see nothing corporally of the most high Son of God if not his most holy Body and Blood, which they receive and they alone distribute to others. I desire above all things to honor and venerate all these most holy mysteries and to keep them precious. Whenever I find the sacred name of Jesus or his words in indecent places, I desire to take them away, and I pray that others take them away and put them in some decent place. We ought to honor and revere all the theologians and those who preach the most holy word of God, as dispensing to us spirit and life.

When the Lord gave me some brothers no one showed me what I ought to do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I ought to live according to the model of the holy Gospel. I caused a short and simple formula to be written, and the lord pope confirmed it for me.

Those who presented themselves to observe this kind of life distributed all that they might have to the poor. They contented themselves with a tunic, patched within and without, with the cord and breeches, and we desired to have nothing more.

The clerks said the office like other clerks, and the laymen <Pater Noster>.

We loved to live in poor and abandoned churches, and we were ignorant and submissive to all. I worked with my hands and would continue to do so, and I will that all other friars work at some honorable trade. Let those who have none learn one, not for the purpose of receiving the price of their toil, but for their good example and to flee idleness. And when they do not give us the price of the work, let us resort to the table of the Lord, begging our bread from door to door. The Lord revealed to me the salutation which we ought to give: "God give you peace!"

Let the Brothers take great care not to receive churches, habitations, and all that men build for them, except as all is in accordance with the holy poverty which we have vowed in the Rule, and let them not receive hospitality in them except as strangers and pilgrims.

I absolutely interdict all the brothers, in whatever place they may be found, from asking any bull from the court of Rome, whether directly or indirectly, under pretext of church or convent or under pretext of preachings, or even for their personal protection. If they are not received anywhere, let them go elsewhere, thus doing penance with the benediction of God....

And let the Brothers not say: "This is a new Rule"; for this is a reminder, a warning, an exhortation; it is my Will, that I, little Brother Francis, make for you, my blessed Brothers, in order that we may observe in a more Catholic way the Rule which we promised the Lord to keep.

Let the minsters-general, all the other ministers, and the guardians be held by obedience to add nothing to and take nothing from these words. Let them always keep this writing near them, beside the Rule; and in all the chapters which shall be held, when the Rule is read, let these words be read also.

I interdict absolutely, by obedience, all the Brothers, clerics and laymen, to introduce glosses in the Rule or in this Will, under pretext of explaining it. But since the Lord has given me to speak and to write the Rule and these words in a clear and simple manner, without commentary, understand them in the same way, and put them in practice until the end....

And I, little brother Francis, your servitor, confirm to you so far as I am able this most holy benediction. Amen.

(Sabatier, Life of St. Francis of Assisi.)


Endnotes:

1 For <St. Clara>, see p. 259.

2 The name of Second Order was given to the nuns who under Clara's leadership based their lives on the Principles of St. Francis.

Saint Francis of Assissi, Founder of the Friars Minor, Confessor. Celebration of Feast Day is October 4. Taken from "Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.


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KEYWORDS: catholiclist; poverty; simplicity





St. Francis' Prayer For A Sick Animal


Heavenly Father, you created all things for your glory and made us stewards of this creature. If it is your will, restore it to health and strength. Blessed are you, Lord God, and holy is your name for ever and ever. Amen.


The Blessing of the Animals

“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”

1 posted on 10/04/2002 5:06:39 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: *Catholic_list; father_elijah; Salvation; nickcarraway; NYer; JMJ333; Siobhan
ping
2 posted on 10/04/2002 5:14:00 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
Oh my, you have truly outdone yourself this time!! Thank you, LadyInBlue for this truly magnificent tribute to one of the greatest and most recognized saints that has ever lived!

And as darkness fell on Saturday, October 3, 1226, Francis died.

Sensing that the end was near, Francis asked the brothers to carry him down to his beloved Porziuncola.

At his request, they placed his litter against one of the outer walls. He assured them that this church was blessed, that Christ and His Blessed Mother were present and that whosoever entered with a sincere heart, whatever they asked for would be granted by our Lord.

I am forever indebted to St. Francis who interceded on my behalf. Sixteen years ago, my prayer of 20 years was answered when my daughter was born.

3 posted on 10/04/2002 6:08:56 PM PDT by NYer
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To: Lady In Blue
BUMP. THANKS
4 posted on 10/04/2002 6:41:05 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: Lady In Blue
Lessons from St. Francis of Assisi

1. True joy comes not from earthly status and success, but from following Christ as completely as possible--and many others can be attracted to Jesus by our efforts to live out the Gospel.

2. As St. Francis realized, poverty, or a simple lifestyle, can be a great blessing, for it allows us to "store up treasures in Heaven" (Matthew 6:20).

3. God is pleased when we cherish and appreciate all the elements of His creation.

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury,pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen

5 posted on 10/04/2002 6:46:35 PM PDT by nickcarraway
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To: NYer
Thank you so much,NYer for your kind words and your beautiful post! That is so beautiful,that after 20 years you had a daughter! Thanks be to God and St.Francis!
6 posted on 10/04/2002 7:04:24 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue; NYer; nickcarraway
The Feast of St. Francis has a special place in my heart. It was on this feast when I attended Mass inside St. Peter's in Rome.

It was also on this feast, a while back, when the priest of the parish we attended (this was in Maryland on a Navy base) decided on the feast of St. Francis he wanted to include pets and bless them at Mass. So, we had Mass outside. People brought blankets and lawn chairs - and all their pets. At the time we had a heinz-57 who was really sweet. Anyway, those animals - mostly dogs - were perfectly quiet through the whole Mass. They sat or layed at their masters' feet and were all very well-behaved. It was amazing. Then there was the full bird marine colonel with the gold bridgework and the fighter pilot bad-a$$ shades holding a hamster in a cage. It was just a neat experience.
7 posted on 10/04/2002 7:07:25 PM PDT by Desdemona
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Comment #8 Removed by Moderator

To: Lady In Blue; Pippin
Posted by Pippin on another thread:

HOWDY EVERYBODY!!!!! This is the day the Lord has made, Let us rejoice and be glad! Today is October 4, 2002! OKAY! A no brainer! LOL! Except this the feast day of the founder of the order I belong to. I have been a Secular Franciscan since May of 2000 when I was professed. The Secular Franciscan Order or Third Order Tertiaries, as it used to be called at the time of it’s founding by ST.Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. There are three Franciscan Orders, The first are the friars (Order of the Friars Minor) The second are the Poor Claires, an order who’s foundress was St. Clair of Assisi. A townswoman of St. Francis. And then there were those persons who had families and other obligations, who wanted to live a life of penance according to the Gospel of Jesus and the rule of ST. Francis. St. Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, Italy. He was the thirteenth century’s version of the spoiled rich kid. He loved to party and do generally all the things that young men did in those days. War came to Assisi and with the other youths of the town, Francis marched into Perugia, with whom Assisi was at war. Francis was taken prisoner along with some of his fellow Assisians. While there, his cheerful singing astonished people for the other prisoners. After he and the others were released and returned to Assisi. Francis decided that he would be an adventurer and a soldier for the emperor. But God had other plans. Francis had a dream were he was shown a castle with an armory full of weapons and armor for warfare. A voice said this armory was for his warriors. Francis took this to mean he was going to be a great prince in front of a great, earthly army. So he went on.

He never made it to his destination of earthly glory, for reasons only known to him, he turned back to Assisi.

Needless to say his parents were scandalized and thought he has lost his mind to display such seaming cowardice. But it was not fear that made him turn back. It was another dream in which he was commanded to go back.

It was after this that Francis had gone to a ruined Byzantine Church, that was falling into disrepair, He was praying at the crucifix that still hung on what was left of the wall of the sanctuary. It was then that he heard a voice saying “Francis, go and repair my church that is, as you can see, falling apart”. The voice meant the spiritual church, but Francis took it literally to mean repair the church buildings. So he set out to do just that.

But that was not what he was called to do, even though he had rebuilt 5 churches in and around Assisi. The final straw was when his father, fearing his son had indeed gone insane, hauled Francis before the Bishop and the Mayor of Assisi. It was there that Francis denounced the world and his inheritance and trappings of wealth to become, a beggar, he had found his “true love” He called her “Lady Poverty”.

He is known for his great love for the Lord and love for Lady Poverty. He was soon joined by others who had a desire to be closer to God. Francis was known for his joy in all things and people. There is so much more I can tell you but it would take a book!

9 posted on 10/04/2002 9:15:59 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: Lady In Blue; SMEDLEYBUTLER
Christ's words to St. Francis, "repair my Church," appropriate for today says Archbishop Chaput
10 posted on 10/04/2002 9:40:04 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: Salvation
Thank You, Salvation, God bless you and all who post and lurk on this thread.
11 posted on 10/04/2002 9:45:06 PM PDT by Pippin
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: NYer
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
13 posted on 10/05/2002 6:48:47 AM PDT by Domestic Church
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To: nickcarraway
Thanks for posting St.Francis prayer.It's one of my favorite prayers.
14 posted on 10/05/2002 9:18:41 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Desdemona
What's a "Heinz 57"?
15 posted on 10/05/2002 9:21:58 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Salvation
I didn't realize that little church was a Byzantine church.
16 posted on 10/05/2002 9:26:16 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: HDMZ
You're welcome, HDMZ!
17 posted on 10/05/2002 9:28:13 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
What's a "Heinz 57"?

A basic brown mutt with no determinable lineage. Pure-breds are known by the breed and dogs cross-bred once are generally mixes. Unlike the yellow lab who lives in my house, who is actually a person.
18 posted on 10/06/2002 6:04:58 AM PDT by Desdemona
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To: Desdemona
Unlike the yellow lab who lives in my house, who is actually a person.

LOL:)

I have one of those too, only my "person" looks like a Jack Russell. Mack says it' the only thing he has ever been around that he couldn't out pester:)

Becky

19 posted on 10/06/2002 6:26:10 AM PDT by PayNoAttentionManBehindCurtain
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To: Lady In Blue
BTTT on 10-04-03
20 posted on 10/04/2003 9:42:21 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
Thanks again.
21 posted on 10/04/2003 9:23:10 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on 10-04-04, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi!


22 posted on 10/04/2004 10:24:49 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue; nickcarraway; franky; NYer; SMEDLEYBUTLER
Saint Francis of Assisi,Founder of the Friars Minor, Confessor 1181-1226

World Needs the Spirit of St. Francis, Says John Paul II

Saint Francis of Assisi’s Letter to the Clergy

Christ's words to St. Francis, "repair my Church," appropriate for today says Archbishop Chaput

Assisi frescoes rise from the rubble

23 posted on 10/04/2004 10:27:14 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

24 posted on 10/04/2004 10:28:33 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on the Solemnity of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4, 2005!


25 posted on 10/04/2005 9:47:40 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
American Catholic’s Saint of the Day



October 4, 2005
St. Francis of Assisi
(1182-1226)

Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a mite of self-importance.

Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy."

From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman.

He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up every material thing he had, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious "nut," begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, bringing sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking.

But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (see Luke 9:1-3).

Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity.

He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade.

During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44) he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side.

On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.

Comment:

Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He loved nature because it was another manifestation of the beauty of God. He did great penance (apologizing to "Brother Body" later in life) that he might be totally disciplined for the will of God. His poverty had a sister, humility, by which he meant total dependence on the good God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the gospel life, summed up in the charity of Jesus and perfectly expressed in the Eucharist.

Quote:

"We adore you and we bless you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world" (St. Francis).



26 posted on 10/04/2005 9:55:21 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

BTTT on the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4, 2006!


27 posted on 10/04/2006 10:00:45 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue
St. Francis of Assisi


St. Francis of Assisi
Feast Day: October 4, 2007
(1182-1226)

Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a mite of self-importance.

     Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy."
     From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman.
     He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up every material thing he had, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious "nut," begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, bringing sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking.
     But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (see Luke 9:1-3).
     Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity.
     He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade.
     During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44) he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side.
     On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.

Comment:

Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He loved nature because it was another manifestation of the beauty of God. He did great penance (apologizing to "Brother Body" later in life) that he might be totally disciplined for the will of God. His poverty had a sister, humility, by which he meant total dependence on the good God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the gospel life, summed up in the charity of Jesus and perfectly expressed in the Eucharist.

Quote:


"We adore you and we bless you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world" (St. Francis).
 


28 posted on 10/04/2007 8:27:31 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Lady In Blue

Saint Francis of Assisi
Memorial
October 4th

Apotheosis of the Franciscan Order
1707, Fresco
Basilica Santi XII Apostoli, Rome
by BACICCIO

History | Readings | Recipe | Peace Prayer

History

St. Francis of Assisi was the founder of the Franciscan Order, born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181 or 1182 -- the exact year is uncertain; died there, October 3, 1226.

His father, Pietro Bernardone, was a wealthy Assisian cloth merchant. Of his mother, Pica, little is known, but she is said to have belonged to a noble family of Provence. Francis was one of several children. The legend that he was born in a stable dates from the fifteenth century only, and appears to have originated in the desire of certain writers to make his life resemble that of Christ. At baptism the saint received the name of Giovanni, which his father afterwards altered to Francesco, through fondness it would seem for France, where business had led him at the time of his son's birth. In any case, since the child was renamed in infancy, the change can hardly have had anything to do with his aptitude for learning French, as some have thought.

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. Although associated with his father in trade, he showed little liking for a merchant's career, and his parents seemed to have indulged his every whim. Thomas of Celano, his first biographer, speaks in very severe terms of Francis's youth. Certain it is that the saint's early life gave no presage of the golden years that were to come. No one loved pleasure more than Francis; he had a ready wit, sang merrily, delighted in fine clothes and showy display. Handsome, gallant, and courteous, he soon became the prime favorite among the young nobles of Assisi, the foremost in every feat of arms, the leader of the civil revels, the very king of frolic. But even at this time Francis showed an instinctive sympathy with the poor, and though he spent money lavishly, it still flowed in such channels as to attest a princely magnanimity of spirit.

When about twenty, Francis went out with the townsmen to fight the Perugians in one of the petty skirmishes so frequent at that time between the rival cities. The Assisians were defeated on this occasion, and Francis, being among those taken prisoners, was held captive for more than a year in Perugia. A low fever which he there contracted appears to have turned his thoughts to the things of eternity; at least the emptiness of the life he had been leading came to him during that long illness. With returning health, however, Francis's eagerness after glory reawakened and his fancy wandered in search of victories; at length he resolved to embrace a military career, and circumstances seemed to favor his aspirations. A knight of Assisi was about to join "the gentle count", Walter of Brienne, who was then in arms in the Neapolitan States against the emperor, and Francis arranged to accompany him. His biographers tell us that the night before Francis set forth he had a strange dream, in which he saw a vast hall hung with armor all marked with the Cross. "These", said a voice, "are for you and your soldiers." "I know I shall be a great prince", exclaimed Francis exultingly, as he started for Apulia. But a second illness arrested his course at Spoleto. There, we are told, Francis had another dream in which the same voice bade him turn back to Assisi. He did so at once. This was in 1205.

Although Francis still joined at times in the noisy revels of his former comrades, his changed demeanor plainly showed that his heart was no longer with them; a yearning for the life of the spirit had already possessed it. His companions twitted Francis on his absent-mindedness and asked if he were minded to be married. "Yes", he replied, "I am about to take a wife of surpassing fairness." She was no other than Lady Poverty whom Dante and Giotto have wedded to his name, and whom even now he had begun to love. After a short period of uncertainty he began to seek in prayer and solitude the answer to his call; he had already given up his lavish attire and wasteful ways. One day, while crossing the Umbrian plain on horseback, Francis unexpectedly drew near a poor leper. The sudden appearance of this repulsive object filled him with disgust and he instinctively retreated, but presently controlling his natural aversion he dismounted, embraced the unfortunate man, and gave him all the money he had. About the same time Francis made a pilgrimage to Rome. Pained at the miserly offerings he saw at the tomb of St. Peter, he emptied his purse thereon. Then, as if to put his fastidious nature to the test, he exchanged clothes with a tattered mendicant and stood for the rest of the day fasting among the horde of beggars at the door of the basilica.

Not long after his return to Assisi, while Francis was praying before an ancient crucifix in the forsaken wayside chapel of St. Damian's below the town, he heard a voice saying: "Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin." Taking this behest literally, as referring to the ruinous church wherein he knelt, Francis went to his father's shop, impulsively bundled together a load of colored drapery, and mounting his horse hastened to Foligno, then a mart of some importance, and there sold both horse and stuff to procure the money needful for the restoration of St. Damian's. When, however, the poor priest who officiated there refused to receive the gold thus gotten, Francis flung it from him disdainfully. The elder Bernardone, a most niggardly man, was incensed beyond measure at his son's conduct, and Francis, to avert his father's wrath, hid himself in a cave near St. Damian's for a whole month. When he emerged from this place of concealment and returned to the town, emaciated with hunger and squalid with dirt, Francis was followed by a hooting rabble, pelted with mud and stones, and otherwise mocked as a madman. Finally, he was dragged home by his father, beaten, bound, and locked in a dark closet.

Freed by his mother during Bernardone's absence, Francis returned at once to St. Damian's, where he found a shelter with the officiating priest, but he was soon cited before the city consuls by his father. The latter, not content with having recovered the scattered gold from St. Damian's, sought also to force his son to forego his inheritance. This Francis was only too eager to do; he declared, however, that since he had entered the service of God he was no longer under civil jurisdiction. Having therefore been taken before the bishop, Francis stripped himself of the very clothes he wore, and gave them to his father, saying: "Hitherto I have called you my father on earth; henceforth I desire to say only 'Our Father who art in Heaven.'" Then and there, as Dante sings, were solemnized Francis's nuptials with his beloved spouse, the Lady Poverty, under which name, in the mystical language afterwards so familiar to him, he comprehended the total surrender of all worldly goods, honors, and privileges. And now Francis wandered forth into the hills behind Assisi, improvising hymns of praise as he went. "I am the herald of the great King", he declared in answer to some robbers, who thereupon despoiled him of all he had and threw him scornfully in a snow drift. Naked and half frozen, Francis crawled to a neighboring monastery and there worked for a time as a scullion. At Gubbio, where he went next, Francis obtained from a friend the cloak, girdle, and staff of a pilgrim as an alms. Returning to Assisi, he traversed the city begging stones for the restoration of St. Damian's. These he carried to the old chapel, set in place himself, and so at length rebuilt it. In the same way Francis afterwards restored two other deserted chapels, St. Peter's, some distance from the city, and St. Mary of the Angels, in the plain below it, at a spot called the Porziuncola. Meantime he redoubled his zeal in works of charity, more especially in nursing the lepers.

On a certain morning in 1208, probably February 24, Francis was hearing Mass in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, near which he had then built himself a hut; the Gospel of the day told how the disciples of Christ were to possess neither gold nor silver, nor scrip for their journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff, and that they were to exhort sinners to repentance and announce the Kingdom of God. Francis took these words as if spoken directly to himself, and so soon as Mass was over threw away the poor fragment left him of the world's goods, his shoes, cloak, pilgrim staff, and empty wallet. At last he had found his vocation. Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic of "beast color", the dress then worn by the poorest Umbrian peasants, and tied it round him with a knotted rope, Francis went forth at once exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace. The Assisians had already ceased to scoff at Francis; they now paused in wonderment; his example even drew others to him. Bernard of Quintavalle, a magnate of the town, was the first to join Francis, and he was soon followed by Peter of Cattaneo, a well-known canon of the cathedral. In true spirit of religious enthusiasm, Francis repaired to the church of St. Nicholas and sought to learn God's will in their regard by thrice opening at random the book of the Gospels on the altar. Each time it opened at passages where Christ told His disciples to leave all things and follow Him. "This shall be our rule of life", exclaimed Francis, and led his companions to the public square, where they forthwith gave away all their belongings to the poor. After this they procured rough habits like that of Francis, and built themselves small huts near his at the Porziuncola. A few days later Giles, afterwards the great ecstatic and sayer of "good words", became the third follower of Francis. The little band divided and went about, two and two, making such an impression by their words and behavior that before long several other disciples grouped themselves round Francis eager to share his poverty, among them being Sabatinus, vir bonus et justus, Moricus, who had belonged to the Crucigeri, John of Capella, who afterwards fell away, Philip "the Long", and four others of whom we know only the names. When the number of his companions had increased to eleven, Francis found it expedient to draw up a written rule for them. This first rule,as it is called, of the Friars Minor has not come down to us in its original form, but it appears to have been very short and simple, a mere adaptation of the Gospel precepts already selected by Francis for the guidance of his first companions, and which he desired to practice in all their perfection. When this rule was ready the Penitents of Assisi, as Francis and his followers styled themselves, set out for Rome to seek the approval of the Holy See, although as yet no such approbation was obligatory. There are differing accounts of Francis's reception by Innocent III. It seems, however, that Guido, Bishop of Assisi, who was then in Rome, commended Francis to Cardinal John of St. Paul, and that at the instance of the latter, the pope recalled the saint whose first overtures he had, as it appears, somewhat rudely rejected. Moreover, in site of the sinister predictions of others in the Sacred College, who regarded the mode of life proposed by Francis as unsafe and impracticable, Innocent, moved it is said by a dream in which he beheld the Poor Man of Assisi upholding the tottering Lateran, gave a verbal sanction to the rule submitted by Francis and granted the saint and his companions leave to preach repentance everywhere. Before leaving Rome they all received the ecclesiastical tonsure, Francis himself being ordained deacon later on.

After their return to Assisi, the Friars Minor -- for thus Francis had names his brethren, either after the minores, or lower classes, as some think, or as others believe, with reference to the Gospel (Matthew 25:40-45), and as a perpetual reminder of their humility -- found shelter in a deserted hut at Rivo Torto in the plain below the city, but were forced to abandon this poor abode by a rough peasant who drove in his ass upon them. About 1211 they obtained a permanent foothold near Assisi, through the generosity of the Benedictines of Monte Subasio, who gave them the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels or the Porziuncola. Adjoining this humble sanctuary, already dear to Francis, the first Franciscan convent was formed by the erection of a few small huts or cells of wattle, straw, and mud, and enclosed by a hedge. From this settlement, which became the cradle of the Franciscan Order (Caput et Mater Ordinis) and the central spot in the life of St. Francis, the Friars Minor went forth two by two exhorting the people of the surrounding country. Like children "careless of the day", they wandered from place to place singing in their joy, and calling themselves the Lord's minstrels. The wide world was their cloister; sleeping in haylofts, grottos, or church porches, they toiled with the laborers in the fields, and when none gave them work they would beg. In a short while Francis and his companions gained an immense influence, and men of different grades of life and ways of thought flocked to the order. Among the new recruits made about this time, by Francis were the famous Three Companions, who afterwards wrote his life, namely: Angelus Tancredi, a noble cavalier; Leo, the saint's secretary and confessor; and Rufinus, a cousin of St. Clare; besides Juniper, "the renowned jester of the Lord".

During the Lent of 1212, a new joy, great as it was unexpected, came to Francis. Clare, a young heiress of Assisi, moved by the saint's preaching at the church of St. George, sought him out, and begged to be allowed to embrace the new manner of life he had founded. By his advice, Clare, who was then but eighteen, secretly left her father's house on the night following Palm Sunday, and with two companions went to the Porziuncola, where the friars met her in procession, carrying lighted torches. Then Francis, having cut off her hair, clothed her in the Minorite habit and thus received her to a life of poverty, penance, and seclusion. Clare stayed provisionally with some Benedictine nuns near Assisi, until Francis could provide a suitable retreat for her, and for St. Agnes, her sister, and the other pious maidens who had joined her. He eventually established them at St. Damian's, in a dwelling adjoining the chapel he had rebuilt with his own hands, which was now given to the saint by the Benedictines as domicile for his spiritual daughters, and which thus became the first monastery of the Second Franciscan Order of Poor Ladies, now known as Poor Clares.

It was during Christmastide of this year (1223) that the saint conceived the idea of celebrating the Nativity "in a new manner", by reproducing in a church at Greccio the praesepio of Bethlehem, and he has thus come to be regarded as having inaugurated the population devotion of the Crib. Christmas appears indeed to have been the favourite feast of Francis, and he wished to persuade the emperor to make a special law that men should then provide well for the birds and the beasts, as well as for the poor, so that all might have occasion to rejoice in the Lord.

(Principal source - Catholic Encyclopedia - 1913 edition )


Readings

Collect:
Father,
you helped Saint Francis to reflect the image of Christ
through a life of poverty and humility.
May we follow your Son
by walking in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi,
and by imitating his joyful love.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading: Galatians 6: 14-18
But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God. Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 11:25-30
At that time Jesus declared, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."


Recipe

Mostaccioli - An Italian almond pastry

1 pound blanched almonds
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or 1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Approximately 1 cup of flour

Chop the almonds very fine or coarsely grind in a blender

In a bowl combine the nuts, honey, cinnamon, and egg whites. Mix thoroughly. Gradually stir in enough flour to form a thick paste.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the paste until smooth and stiff. Roll out to about 1/4 inch. Cut into diamond shapes, about 2 1/2 inches long. Place the diamonds on a lightly buttered and floured baking sheet. Let dry for 1 to 2 hours.

Bake in a preheated 250

°F oven for 20-30 minutes or until set. Do not let brown.

Yield: about 3 dozen


from A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz, originally published by Harper & Row in 1995, now available in paperback from Ignatius Press.

Peace Prayer*

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

*Although this popular “peace prayer” is attributed to St. Francis, it was not composed by him. According to the Franciscan Archive, it first appeared in 1912, as an anonymous prayer in a French devotional magazine.  Its first appearance in English was in 1936, in a book written by Kirby Page, a Disciples of Christ minister and pacifist, who attributed the prayer to the 12th century saint. During and after WWII, the prayer, and its attribution to St. Francis, was popularized by Cardinal Francis Spellman’s books.  (See http://www.franciscan-archive.org/franciscana/peace.html)


29 posted on 10/04/2008 9:12:02 AM PDT by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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