Tuesday, October 4, 2005
St. Francis of Assisi

Memorial (1969 Calendar): October 4
Greater Double (1955 Calendar): October 4

Francis Bernardone was born in 1181 in Assisi, Umbria, Italy, to his who father was a wealthy merchant and to Pica, his mother. At his baptism, St. Francis received the name Giovanni (John), but his father changed it Francesco for France, where his business as a clothes merchant led him at that moment. He became a favorite of the nobles in Assisi and lived a life of a noblemen delighting in noble clothing and other possessions.

At the age of 20, after living a life away from God, Francis went to war against Perugia, but was captured and imprisoned for a year. While there, he received a fever that appears to have turned his thoughts to the things of eternity. However, he still wanted a military career. The very night before his departure, he experienced a vision of Christ that changed his life.

When he was approached by his noble friends afterward, his demeanor was utterly changed. He was a man of the spirit. They asked him if he was to be married. St. Francis said, "Yes", and he wanted to take as his bride Lady Poverty. He gave up his attire and sinful ways and submitted himself to a life of prayer and solitude although he was still uncertain over his change in life

St. Francis of Assisi was what we would call today a "radical". He loved God in such a radical way that from the moment of his conversion he served God completely. Once he saw a leper and was horrified by the man and kept walking until he realized his sin and turned around. He not only gave the man his money but...a kiss. Lepers were not only considered hideous but their odor was equally as disgusting as their appearance. And St. Francis fought against these desires of "Me" and "I" and turned them around to serving God through our neighbors.

"If anyone says: I love God, but he hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother"(1 John: 4:20-21)

St. Francis was not a priest but a holy man who did receive the five wounds of Christ - the stigmata and lived a life devoted to God.

Once Christ on the crucifix in a church actually spoke to him asking Him to rebuild His Church, which he did. His intense love of God one day even became a visible fire around his church where numerous people came and tried to put it out and realize it was not a fire but an intense love manifested - similar to a halo.

St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and was not a vegetarian but specifically would not eat lamb because Christ identified himself with the lambs as the Lamb of God. St. Francis said, "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."

Let us also be especially kind to those animals of the world. This week, give up meat in one extra meal (in addition of course to the required Friday abstinence) and give that money in the Sunday collection. Or, if you are able to fast, do so and spend extra time in prayer. I conclude with my favorite quotation by him, which he sang while lying on the ground dying: "Lead me out of my prison, that I may give thanks to your name" (Psalm 142).

Traditional Matins Reading:

Francis was born at Assisi in Umbria, and, after his father’s example, followed from his youth a mercantile career. One day, contrary to his custom, he repulsed a poor man who begged an alms of him for Christ’s sake; but, immediately repenting of what he had done, he bestowed a large bounty upon the beggar, and at the same time made a promise to God, never to refuse an alms to any one that asked him. After this he fell into a serious illness; and on his recovery, devoted himself more eagerly than ever to works of charity, making such rapid progress in this virtue, that, desirous of attaining evangelical perfection, he gave all he had to the poor. His father, angered at his proceedings, brought Francis before the bishop of Assisi, that, in his presence, he might formally renounce all claim to his patrimony. The saint gave up all to his father, even stripping off his garments, that he might, he said, for the future, have more right to say: Our Father who art in heaven.

After hearing one day this passage of the Gospel: Do not possess gold nor silver, nor money in your purses; nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, he took it for his rule of life, laid aside his shoes, and kept but one tunic. He gathered together twelve disciples and founded the Order of the Minors. In the year of our salvation 1209, he went to Rome, to obtain the confirmation of his rule and Order from the apostolic See. Pope Innocent HI at first refused to see him; but having in sleep beheld the man he had repulsed supporting with his shoulders the Lateran basilica which was threatening to fall, he had him sought out and brought to him; and receiving him kindly confirmed the whole system of his institute. Francis then sent his brethren into every part of the world to preach the Gospel. He himself, desirous of an opportunity of martyrdom, sailed into Syria; but the Soldan treated him most kindly; so that, unable to gain his end, he returned into Italy.

He built many convents of his Order, and then retired into solitude on Mount Alvernia; where he fasted forty days in honor of the Archangel St. Michael. On the feast of the Exaltation of the holy Cross, he had a vision of a seraph bearing between his wings the figure of the Crucified, who impressed the sacred stigmata on his hands and feet, and side. St. Bonaventure says he heard Pope Alexander IV, while preaching, relate how he had himself seen these wounds. These signs of Christ’s exceeding love for his servant excited universal wonder and admiration. Two years later, Francis grew very ill, and was carried, at his own request, into the church of St. Mary of the angels; that he might give up his mortal life to God, in the very place where he had commenced his life of grace. There, after exhorting the brethren to poverty and patience, and the preservation of the faith of the holy Roman Church, he said the psalm: I cried to the Lord with my voice. When he reached the verse: The just wait for me, until thou reward me, he breathed forth his soul, on the fourth of the Nones of October. He was renowned for miracles and Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints.

Auspicato Concessum:

A happy circumstance enables the Christian world to celebrate, at a not far distant interval, the memory of two men who, having been called to receive in heaven the eternal reward of their holiness, have left on earth a crowd of disciples, the ever-increasing off-spring from their virtues. For, after the centenary solemnities in honor of St. Benedict, the father and lawgiver of the monks of the West, the opportunity of paying public honors to St. Francis of Assisi will likewise be furnished by the seventh centenary of his birth. It is not without reason that We see therein a merciful intention of Divine Providence. For, by calling on men to celebrate the birthdays of these illustrious Fathers, God would seem to wish that they should be induced to keep in mind their signal merits, and at the same time to understand that the Religious Orders they founded ought on no account to have been the objects of such unbefitting acts of violence, least of all in those States where the seeds of civilization and of fame were cast by their labor, their genius, and their zeal.

Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on September 17, 1882.


A letter by St. Francis of Assisi


O God, Who, through the merits of blessed Francis didst give increase to Thy Church by enriching her with new offspring: grant us, that following his example we may despise earthly goods and ever be glad to partake of Thy heavenly gifts. Through our Lord.

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

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