St. Francis of Assisi
Religious, deacon, confessor and religious founder
1181 – 1182, Assisi, Umbria, Papal States
October 3, 1226 (aged 43–45), Assisi, Umbria, Papal States
Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheran Church, Old Catholic Church, and New Age ecologists
July 16, 1228, Assisi, Italy by Pope Gregory IX
Basilica of San Francesco d' Assisi
Tau cross, dove, birds, animals, wolf at feet, Pax et Bonum, Poor Franciscan habit, stigmata
Birds, Mammals & Reptiles; the environment; Italy; merchants; stowaways; cub scouts; San Francisco, California
|St. Francis returns from Perugia|
When he arrived at Spoleto, he had a dream. God appeared to him, and said,
"Who can do thee more good, the master or the servant?"
"The master," answered Francis.
"Why then hast thou abandoned the master for the servant, the prince for the subject? Return to Assisi, and there I will show thee what thou oughtest to do."
You speak the truth for I have resolved to espouse a wife nobler, richer, and more beautiful than all those that you know.
Francis, do you not see that my house is falling to ruins? Go and repair my house.
I will return to my father even the clothes which I have received from him. Until now I have called Pietro Bernardone my father; from henceforth I will say in all truth: Our Father who art in heaven, you are my treasure and my hopeHe called himself the "herald of God," and began his work of charity among the unfortunate in the leper house on the Gubbio road.
Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff.This was a new revelation to him. He now saw his ideal of poverty more clearly and fully, and he realized that it was the ideal of the Apostles when they set out to win the world to Christ. This impression strengthened him in his determination: he left the church, threw away with horror the little money which he had received in alms, discarded his staff and his shoes, put on the rough habit of the Umbrian peasant, with a cord around his waist, and began preaching penance, evangelical perfection, and above all, peace. "May God give you peace!" was his motto, his salutation, the beginning and the end of all his exhortations and discourses.
We shall go to church and seek in the Gospel what Our Lord has recommended to His disciples.According to the custom of the time, Francis opened the book of the Gospel three times at random, to know what kind of life they should adopt. The first time he read this passage of St. Matthew:
If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow me.The second time he found these words of St. Luke:
Take nothing for your journey; neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats.
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.Francis was overwhelmed with joy: God had given him another proof that he and his disciples must live up to the apostolic ideal of poverty in order to reform the world. He said:
Brethren, this will be our life and our rule; it will be also the life and the rule of all those who will join our company.
Consider, my dear brethren, the vocation to which God has called you, not only for your own salvation, but for that of many, that we may go through the world, exhorting men by our example more than by our words to do penance for their sins, and to remember the commandments of God. Do not fear, though you be weak and ignorant, but announce penance simply, confiding in God who has conquered the world, for His Spirit will speak in you and through your mouth, and will exhort all men to be converted and to keep His commandments. You will find some men faithful, meek, and kind, who will receive you with joy and will hear your words. You will find others, and these far more numerous, who are unfaithful and proud; they will receive you with blasphemies, they will resist you and what you say to them. Take, therefore, the resolution to support everything with patience and humility. Then after some time many men will come to you, some of them noble and learned, and will go with you to preach to the kings, the princes, and the people, and many will return to God, who will multiply and increase His family in the entire world.
Be cheerful, be cheerful, and rejoice in the Lord. Let not your little number be to you a cause of sadness: God has revealed to me that He will deign to propagate throughout the world this family of which He is the Father. I would wish to be silent on what I have seen, but charity requires me to tell you. I have seen a great multitude of men coming to us, wishing to wear the habit of our company, and to follow the rule of our holy religion. The roads were filled with them. The French are coming, the Spaniards hasten to join us, the Germans and English are running, as well as an immense multitude from other countries. And even now the sounds of the footsteps of those who are coming and going where obedience calls them are ringing in my ears.
My lord," answered Francis, if we possessed anything, we would need arms to protect ourselves. For, from possession arise difficulties and disputes which put obstacles of all kinds to the love of God and our neighbor.This is why we wish to possess nothing in this world."
Go in the name of the Lord, and preach penance to all as the Lord will inspire you, and when the Almighty will have increased your number, come to me again and I will do more for you and confide to you greater charges.
Go your way, Brother Fly, you have not yet given up your home and your family; you have given your goods to your relatives and robbed the poor; you are not worthy to become the companion of the poor of Christ. You have begun by the flesh; it is a dangerous foundation for a spiritual edifice.Not only was every individual member bound to practice absolute poverty, but the communities themselves, and the order as a whole, were not allowed to possess anything whatever.1 It was the first religious order which, as a community, renounced the holding of property. In all other cases, though the individual religious did not possess property, the community could and did possess land, houses, and money. The "Minores," according to Francis's mind, were to own nothing beyond what satisfied the needs of the moment.
At the close of his sermon, he spoke only of the extinction of hatreds and of the necessity of concluding treaties of peace and union. He converted noblemen whose boundless ferocity and unrestrained cruelty had made blood flow throughout the country, and among whom many became reconciled.
Oh, how beautiful, how splendid, and how glorious was this countenance which reflected the innocence of his life, the purity of his heart, and on which could be continually read his burning love for God and for his neighbor. His was truly an angelic appearance. Sweet in his manners, he was of a tranquil nature; affable in his discourse, his exhortations were appropriate; he was faithful in his charge, foreseeing in counsel, and effective in his transactions; gracious in all, he was ever serene in mind and tender in feeling; he was constant in contemplation, prompt in pardoning, and slow to anger; gifted with a wonderful memory, he was sharp in discussion, circumspect in choice, and yet simple in all. Strict towards himself, he displayed the utmost consideration for others. Simple and eloquent in his speech, he continually spent himself in the service of others, and far from being haughty in his demeanor, he showed himself cheerful and kind to all.
In stature he was a little above the middle size; his head was round and not too large; his face was oval and his features drawn; his forehead was small and even; his eyes were of medium size, black and truthful; black hair, eyebrows straight, a nose fine, even and straight, ears erect and small, and flat temples, constituted the upper part of his countenance; his voice was vehement, sweet, clear, and sonorous; his teeth were closely set, even, and white, his lips small and thin; his slender neck was set on square shoulders, and his short arms ended in small hands with long fingers, the nails of which were projecting; his legs were slender and his feet small; his skin was thin and he was very lean; he was coarse in his attire, he slept little, and gave abundantly of the little he had; because he was most humble, he showed himself mild to all, and conforming himself to the customs of others, he surpassed the most holy in sanctity, and when among sinners considered himself as one of them.
When he approached a town, the clergy rejoiced, the bells were rung, men exulted, women were filled with joy, children applauded; they often went to meet him in procession, threw branches and flowers on the road on which he was to pass, and received him amidst the singing of hymns and universal jubilation.
1. The Emotional Man.
the rivers and the seas, the mountains and the valleys, men and angels, to praise their Maker, and he remained in the center of this concert like an inspired musician, summing up in his heart all the sublime harmonies, to offer them up in burning adorations to Him who is the source of all harmony and all beauty.
Altissimo omnipotente bon Signore, Tue son laude. (Most High Almighty Good Lord, Yours are praise.)
What are indeed the servants of God but His jongleurs, who must raise their hearts to Him and fill them with spiritual joy.
Brother, you ask the Lord to receive you as His servant and His knight. This is no small favor. If the emperor were passing through Assisi, and if he were pleased to select a favorite, everyone would say, 'Pray Heaven it may be I.' How much more ought you to bless the great King of heaven for having cast His eyes upon you?
These are my brothers, soldiers of the Round Table. The reward of their merits and of their works is the eternal kingdom which they have conquered by the violence of their humility, their simplicity, their prayers, and their tears.
Charles the Emperor and Roland and Oliver, and all the paladins, and all the robust heroes who were powerful on the battle-field, pursuing the heathens, sparing neither sweat nor labor, even unto death, conquered their enemies, and the holy martyrs themselves have died in the lists for Christ's faith. But now, there are many who are satisfied with reading the narration of their deeds and expect to receive honor and human praise.
She was in the crib, and, like a faithful squire, she remained well armed at your side during the great battle which you have waged for our redemption. In your Passion she alone has not abandoned you. Mary, your Mother, remained at the foot of the cross; but Poverty ascended with you the wood of the cross and pressed you to her bosom to the end. . . . She, attentive spouse, when you died with thirst, prepared for you the gall which you drank. You have expired in her sweet embrace . . etc.
"My brother, trust in the Lord. The word of the Gospel is realized in us: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.”
When the Lord had given me the care of my brothers, no one showed me what I should do,—but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the holy Gospel.
"The sense is that the brothers must have nothing except a tunic, with a cord and drawers (femoralibus), as the rule says; and in case of necessity they may wear shoes."
"I must not and I can not permit this against my conscience and the perfection of the holy Gospel which we have embraced."
My brothers, the ministers think that they will deceive the Lord and myself; but in order that my brothers may know that they are obliged to observe the perfection of the holy Gospel, I wish that in the beginning and in the end of the rule it should be written that the brothers are bound to observe strictly the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and, that my brethren may be inexcusable, I have always proclaimed, and I now proclaim, the things which the Lord has revealed to me, and which are necessary for my salvation and for theirs, and I will show them in my works, with the help of the Lord, and observe them as long as I live.
Francis, there is nothing in the rule which is thine, but it is all mine, and I wish the rule to be observed to the letter, to the letter, without gloss, without gloss, without gloss. I know of what human infirmity is capable and what is the power of my assistance; let those who do not wish to observe the rule leave the order.
It is not I, most blessed Father, who have put these precepts or these words in the rule, but Christ, who knows better than anyone all that is useful and necessary for the salvation of souls and of the brothers, as well as for the well-being and preservation of this order,—Christ, to whom all things which will happen in the Church and in our order are present and mam fest; therefore I must not and I cannot change or suppress altogether the words of Christ.
I do not want you to name to me any other rule the rule of St. Benedict, or of St. Augustine, or of St. Bernard, or any other way or form of life besides that which has been shown and given to me by the merciful Lord. The Lord has told me that He wished us to lead this new form of life.
"Woe to those brothers who oppose me in what I know firmly to be the will of God."
And to my brothers, clerics and laymen, I command firmly in the name of obedience not to put any glosses on the rule or on these words, saying, It is in this way that they should be understood; but as the Lord had given me the grace to speak and to write simply and purely the rule and these words, so, also, purely and simply, you must understand them without glosses and fulfill them in holy observance unto the end.
My brethren, we have promised great things, we have been promised greater things, let us keep our promises, let us sigh after God's promises. Short is the pleasure, the punishment is eternal. Small is the suffering, the glory will be infinite. All are called, few are chosen. To each one it shall be given according to his works.
All the clouds were soon dispelled at the sound of his fiery eloquence, and all hearts became again serene.
Le grand mouvement ombrien du treizieme siecle . . . est, entre tous les essais de fondation religieuse celui qui ressemble le plus au mouvement galileen . . . Francois d'Assise (est) l'homme du monde qui par son exquise bonte, sa communion delicate, fine et tendre avec la vie universelle, a le plus ressemble a Jesus." Translation: "The great Umbrian movement of the thirteenth century ... is, among all tests religious foundation which most closely resembles the Galilean movement Francis of Assisi ... (is) the man of the world by its exquisite kindness, his communion delicate, fine and tender with universal life, is more like a Jesus.
|Pope Innocent III has a dream of St. Francis of Assisi supporting the tilting church attributed to Giotto|
"The Lord gave me, and gives me, on account of their order, so great a faith in priests who tive according to the rules of the holy Roman Church, that, even if they persecuted me, I would have recourse to them . . . however poor they may be, I would not preach against their will. I wish to fear, love, and honor them, and all others as my lords, and I will not consider sin in them, because I see in them the Son of God and because they are my masters. . . ."'
.. the life which you wish to lead seems to be very hard and rigorous. Your fervor, I know, is so great that I cannot doubt your perseverance. But we must also think about those who will come after you, and we must be careful not to impose on them obligations which they would not be able to carry.
"Without the Cardinal of Santo Paolo," says the Abbe Le Monnier,' " the order of the Friars Minor would perhaps never have come into existence; but undoubtedly, it would never have developed and would have hardly subsisted without Cardinal Ugolino."The Cardinal acted wisely in opposing Francis's trip to France at a time when his presence was so much needed at headquarters. Again, the Protector of the order was present at the chapter of the Mats, in 1219, and took an active part in the deliberations. The brethren sent to foreign countries had, as we have seen, failed in their efforts. He obtained for them from the Pope official letters addressed "To the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Deans, Archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical Superiors," to all of whom the brethren were recommended as good Catholics, and members of an order approved by the Church. By this means many misunderstandings were avoided which had been the greatest cause of failure until then."
"In the composing of the rules and form of life of these (Brothers of the Third Order), the Lord Pope Gregory of holy memory, then constituted in a lower dignity (when cardinal) and bound by ties of intimate friendship with Blessed Francis, supplied devoutly what the holy man lacked in the science of redaction."
"After having prayed and being filled with the divine spirit, assisted by the counsels and help of the Lord Cardinal Ugolino, Cardinal of Ostia, who was later Pope Gregory IX, he (Francis) composed and wrote a short form of life (for the Third Order) in fourteen chapters. . . St. Francis remained with the Cardinal for the composition of this rule and told him what the spirit suggested to him, and the Cardinal wrote with his own hands and added a few things."
Beatus pater (Franciscus) necessaria providebat, sed felix Dominus (Cardinalis) ilia provisa effectui mancipabat.
By: Stanley Yavneh Klos
Edited By: Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph.D.
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