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October 4

Saint Francis of Assisi - October 4

Saint Francis of Assisi

Founder of Franciscans

(Around 1181 – 1226)

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Saint Francis of Assisi

His Early Life

Francis was born around 1181 in Assisi, Umbria, Italy. His baptismal name was Giovanni (John), but his father renamed him Franceso, in honor of his love for France.  His  father Pietro was a successful and wealthy cloth merchant. His mother, Pica, with little known about her accept that she was a French noblewoman from Provence.

A handsome, charming, wealth,  and educated young man, Francis spent his early life leading young nobles to parties. He dreamed of knighthood and longed for the adventurous life of chivalry.

Although many recorded Francis’ early life of love of pleasures, his displays of disillusionment toward the world that surrounded him came fairly early in his life, as is shown in the “story of the beggar”. In this account, he was selling cloth and velvet in the marketplace on behalf of his father when a beggar came to him and asked for alms. At the conclusion of his business deal, Francis abandoned his wares and ran after the beggar. When he found him, Francis gave the man everything he had in his pockets. His friends mocked him for his charity; his father scolded him in rage.

Prisoner of War

Around 1202 at the age of 20, in pursuit of his knighthood, Francis joined a military expedition in the war between Assisi and Perugia, Italy. In that war, Francis fought with youthful enthusiasm, but was wounded and taken prisoner. Spending the next year in a dungeon as a prisoner of war, Francis contracted malaria. Ransomed by his father, a more reflective Francis returned to Assisi. Sickness overtook him and in that languishing experience he heard the first stirrings of a vocation to peace and justice.

“Follow the Master, Not the Servant”

Returning to Assisi and his care-free life, a serious illness in 1204 sparked a spiritual crisis. On recovery, Francis dreamed of becoming a knight in the Crusades and left to join the papal forces as a soldier. The military victories of Count Walter of Brienne revived Francis’ desire for knighthood. Under Brienne’s command, he hoped to win his favor and become a knight. On his way to join Brienne, Francis stopped in Spoleto and heard the shocking news of his death.

One night a mysterious voice asked him, “Who do you think can best reward you, the Master or the servant?” Francis Answered, “The Master.” The voice continued, “Why do you leave the Master for the servant?” Francis realized the servant was Count Walter. He left Spoleto convinced God had spoken to him.

From that moment on, Francis began to care for the sick and the poor — especially the lepers — convinced that this was what God had called him to do.

“Repair My House”

While praying in the ruined church of San Damiano just outside Assisi, Francis saw the icon of Christ crucified come alive and say to him three times: “Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” So he sold his horse together with some cloth from his father’s store, and went to help the priest repair the church.

His father, who was already upset about the life he was leading, took him to court, where was ordered him to pay back the money. But Francis’s response was to strip himself naked and hand back all his fine garments to his father. “From now on I will call God my father,” he said, renouncing his inheritance. From then on he lived as a beggar in Assisi, working manually at restoring three churches. Dressed only in a workman’s smock, he left town and spent the next two years as a hermit, taking a vow of poverty and dedicating his life his life to God.

Life of Poverty in the Portiuncula

In one of these churches, the Portiuncula he heard the reading about Jesus sending out the disciples without money, or two tunics, or sandals or staff and saw this as his vocation. So keeping only a rough shepherd’s tunic, he devoted himself to a life of poverty, preaching repentance on the streets of Assisi. People mocked him, but they were also fascinated by what he was doing.portiuncula

Portiuncula means “a small portion” and refers to a little piece of land outside the town given to Francis by the Benedictines. Here he repaired the chapel and it became his favourite place. A huge basilica – St Mary of the Angels – has since been built over it.

Founded Franciscans and Poor Clares

Francis began to attract followers. Companions soon joined Francis. Within a year he had eleven. Francis chose not to be ordained a priest, and the community lived as fratres minores (or “lesser brothers“). They lived a simple life together in poverty, but also went preaching through Umbria, singing cheerful songs, but making a deep impression on their hearers.

In 1209, Francis brought his companions to Rome to seek permission from Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) to found a new religious order. The Pope refused at first, but that night had a dream of a crumbling church being held up by a poor man. So next day, he called Francis and gave his verbal approval to the “lesser brothers”.  After that, great numbers joined.

Then, in 1212, with Saint Clare of Assisi, Francis founded the foundation of the Order of “Poor Ladies,” now known as the “Poor Clares.” He also founded the “Third Order of Penance” (the Third Order) which included lay people.

Travels

Francis’s dreams of going on a crusade had now changed to wanting a universal peaceful dialogue, even with heretics and especially with the Saracens. He left for Jerusalem, but, shipwrecked by a storm on the Dalmatian coast, he had to return to Italy. A few years later he sailed for Morocco, but this time only got as far as Spain. Illness forced him back again to Assisi.

In 1219, Francis sailed with a few companions to Damietta in Egypt, where he addressed the Sultan. The Sultan allowed him to preach and then go on to the Holy Land, where he visited all the holy places. There has been a Franciscan presence in the Holy Land ever since.  On Francis’s return from the Holy Land in 1220, he resigned the leadership of the Franciscan order that had friars branching out to Germany, France, Hungary, Spain and Morocco.

The First Christmas Crèche at Greccio

Francis composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals and worked with his hands.

Francis is the originator of the Christmas crèche . It was in the town of Greccio near Assisi that he used a straw-filled manger (feeding trough) set between a real ox and donkey to create a Nativity scene. (Nativity scene. Worshippers could contemplate the birth of the child Jesus in a direct way, making use of their senses, especially sight.

First Known Stigmata

Francis had acquired land and set up a hermitage on Mount Verna in the Apennines in September 1224. While praying there during a forty day fast in preparation for Michaelmas (September 29), he had a vision on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross 1224. where he received the stigmata or the five wounds of Christ. His stigmata periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life.

The Legend of the Wolf of Grubbio

In the city of Gubbio, where Francis lived for some time, was a wolf “terrifying and ferocious, who devoured men as well as animals”. Francis went up into the hills and when he found the wolf.  He made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf to come to him and hurt no one. Then, Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens made a pact between them and the wolf. Because the wolf had “done evil out of hunger”, the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly. In return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks. In this manner Gubbio was freed from the menace of the predator.

Nature and The Environment

Francis was one who saw God reflected in nature and was a great lover of God’s creation. In Francis’ the Canticle of the Sun, he gives God thanks for Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth, all of which he sees as rendering praise to God.

Many of the stories that surround the life of Francis say that he had a great love for animals and the environment. One legend describes how one day, while Francis was travelling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to “wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds.” The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. He is often portrayed with a bird, typically in his hand.

His Death

On October 3, 1226, Francis died in Assisi, Umbria, Italy. He was canonized by Pope Gregory IX less than two years later. While Francis’ feast day is observed on October 4, a secondary feast in honor of the stigmata received by Francis is celebrated on September 17.

In art, Saint Francis of Assisi is usually depicted in a brown habit with a rope around his waist with three knots, symbolizing the three Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Born :                   Around 1181 0r 1182 in Assisi, Umbria, Italy

Died:                    October 3, 1226 in Assisi, Umbria, Italy

Beatified:            Unknown

Canonized:         July 16, 1228 by Pope Gregory IX

Feast Day:          October 4

Patron Saint:    Against Fire; Animals; Archdiocese of San Francisco, California; Archdiocese of Sante Fe, New Mexico; Assisi, Italy; Catholic Action; Colorado; Diocese of Salina, Kansas; Dying Alone; Ecology; Environment; Families; Italy; Lacemakers; Merchants; Nature; Peace; Umbria, Italy; Venice, Italy; Zoos

Source:

 Reflection 

Saint Francis of Assisi stated “Do all you can to preach the gospel and if necessary use words!” He did just that when he went from a life of enjoying the pleasures of the world with the fame and wealth. Then, Saint Francis realized that these things are of little true value. This is a lesson that God wants us all to learn. Instead, Saint Francis discovered that a life utterly devoted to God through serving the poor was much more valuable. From Saint Francis, we can learn to truly assess the quality of the things to which we choose to devote our time.

What are you devoting your time to do today? How could you spend your time in ways that more readily foster your relationship with God and allow you to show that love to others?

Prayers

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,

it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

 

Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us. Amen.

 

Saint Links 

Aleteia – From “Hill of Hell” to “Hill of Paradise”: The Basilica of St. Francis, in Assisi

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Francis of Assisi

AnaStpaul – Quote/s of the Day – 4 October – St Francis of Assisi

Bartleby – Rev. Alban Butler Volume X: October. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. October 4 St. Francis of Assisium, Confessor

Catholic Exchange – St. Francis of Assisi: Lover of the Eucharist

Catholic News Agency – St. Francis of Assisi Feast day: Oct 04

Catholic Online – St. Francis of Assisi

CatholicSaints.Info – Saints of the Day – Francis of Assisi, Founder by Katherine I Rabenstein

Franciscan Media – Saint Francis of Assisi

Heralds of the Gospel – St. Francis of Assisi – The Joy of Unpretentiousness and Complete Surrender By Bruna Piv

Independent Catholic News – Dialogue between St Francis and the Sultan – relevance today by Fr Joseph Victor Edwin SJ

Loyola Press – Saint Francis of Assisi Feast Day October 4

National Catholic Register – Who Was St. Francis of Assisi? 12 Things to Know and Share by Jimmy Akin

New Advent –  Robinson, P. (1909). St. Francis of Assisi. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Reason2bCatholic – St Francis of Assisi: Light Overcomes Dark

RC Spirituality (Uncle Eddy) – St. Francis of Assisi: Light Overcomes Darkness

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Francis of Assisi’s Story

Saints for Sinners – Francis of Assisi, Saint Medal #5, Patron of Environment, Animal Lovers, Bird Watchers

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226)

Saint Resources – Francis of Assisi

Sanctoral – Saint Francis of Assisi Founder of the Franciscan Orders (1182-1226)

uCatholic – Saint Francis of Assisi

Video Link

St. Francis of Assisi: Go and Rebuild my Church – YouTube (Catholic Online)

Meditating on Francis of Assisi (with Fr. Duane Reinert) – YouTube (Capuchin Franciscans)

Learning From St. Francis and the Leper – YouTube (Franciscan University of Steubenville)