Skip to comments.World Needs the Spirit of St. Francis, Says John Paul II
Posted on 02/12/2003 12:02:15 AM PST by nickcarraway
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II invited the Bernardine Franciscans to be ever more faithful witnesses of the spirit of St. Francis in a world that needs the traits of the "Poverello of Assisi."
The Pope expressed this challenge to a group of Friars Minor he received in audience on the occasion of the 550th anniversary of their presence in Poland and Ukraine.
In his address to the religious, the Holy Father joined in the community's thanksgiving and spoke about the good their presence has borne on Polish soil.
Referring to the link between the anniversary and the foundation of the religious' monastery in Krakow, he recalled that monastery with affection as well as the Basilica on Bernardynska Street, which he often visited in his youth, and later as a priest and eventually bishop of the city.
Addressing the group of Friars Minor, John Paul II said that mankind and the world "await, perhaps more than ever, to be invaded by the spirit of St. Francis."
Indeed, "the man of today needs the faith, hope and charity of Francis; he needs the joy that springs from poverty of spirit, that is, from inner freedom."
Man also needs "to learn again to love all that God has created, and he needs peace and goodness to reign in families, society and among nations," the Pope concluded.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour, Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair. Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, And fair and stormy, all weather's moods, by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water, So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us, producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs. Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial. Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death, from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will. No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks, And serve Him with great humility.
St. Francis of Assisi
Feast Day: October 4, 2007
Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literallynot 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. Prayerlengthy and difficultled 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.
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.
"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).