St. Francis of Assisi
If you had everything in this world, what would you become? If you havewealth, power and fame, you would probably say “I’d be the happiest onthe planet!” But the question is: are these things the real reasons forour happiness? Let us get to know the life of St. Francis of Assisi andlearn from him what happiness really means.
Living the Dream…Really?
- His father Pietro di Bernardone dei Moriconi was a very wealthy
cloth merchant. Francesco’s mother Giovanna, who was also known as Pica
Bourlemont, about whom little is known except she is said to have
belonged to a noble family of Provence, France. So, in general,
Francesco belonged to a well-off family in the whole of Assisi. Because
of their immense wealth and the privileges that his father had from the
authorities, Francesco obtained his education at the Catholic school of
San Giorgio. He spoke fluent Latin and Provençal and was considered by
his father the natural successor of his family business.
From a Valiant Warrior to a Tame Sheep
But Francesco, with all the privileges and riches he enjoyed, dreamed ofanother thing. No, it is not about becoming holy! He wanted to become aknight. However, the best place to obtain the prestige and glory he solonged for was through battle. Not long after, in 1202, he got his firstopportunity when Assisi declared war on the nearby town of Perugia,their longtime enemy.
Most of Assisi’s soldiers were killed, while those who were wealthy weretaken prisoners so that they would be ransomed. And yes, we are rightthat Francesco was one of those who were taken as prisoners. He waschained and thrown into a dark dungeon and after a year, he was finallyransomed after his parents paid a substantial amount of money.
Francesco’s experience started a spiritual crisis. One day, while he waspraying in the dilapidated church in San Damiano, Francesco heard Christsay three times from the crucifix: “Francesco, go repair my house,which, as you can see, is falling completely to ruin.” He understoodthat he was to repair the church he prayed in, though his followerslater would realize that this was his call to reform the Church. So, hewent home and sold off their family goods to raise money for repairs.His father Pietro tried to bring him back to his senses, first withintimidations and threats and then with corporal punishment. After afinal interview in the presence of the bishop Guido II, Francisrenounced his father and his wealth. He even laid aside the garments hehad received from him. Seeing such a scene, the bishop clothed him withhis mantle.
A Beggar Re-Building the House of God
Now stripped off of wealth, Francesco lived as a beggar around Assisi.He embraced meditation, nursed lepers and begged for the poor. Asidefrom the San Damiano Church, he restored several other ruined churches.Francesco’s way of life inspired other men, and so in 1209, he gathereda small group of 12 men who wished to share in his life and ministry. Hewrote a Rule and set off to Rome to gain the pope’s approval for hiswork. This became the First Order of Franciscans, and Francesco waselected superior.
Francesco dedicated the rest of his life to help the poor and to preachrepentance. As he entered his mid-forties, illness afflicted his bodyand eventually became half blind. In his final years, Francesco composedhis celebrated “Canticle of Brother Sun”, the poem that meritedFrancesco his deserved reputation as one who marveled in God’screation. He breathed his last on the evening of October 3, 1226,singing Psalm 141 while lying on the bare ground. His feast day isobserved on October 4.
Five Interesting Facts About St. Francis of Assisi
- Two years before his death, St. Francis received the stigmata, the
real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side.
- St. Francis attended the Fourth Lateran Council where he met another
prominent religious figure, St. Dominic de Guzman.
- There was a story about St. Francis and a wolf that had been eating
human beings. When the townspeople wanted to slay the wolf, St. Francis
intervened and he talked the wolf into never killing again.
Miraculously, the wolf became a pet of the townspeople who made sure
that he always had plenty to eat.
- St. Francis’ holiness inspired many men and women, one of them was
St. Clare who later on founded the Order of Poor Ladies, now commonly
known as the Poor Clares.
- St. Francis is the patron saint of ecology and of animals.
Prayer to St. Francis of Assisi
Father,You helped Saint Francis to reflect the image of Christthrough a life of poverty and humility.May we follow Your Sonby walking in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi,and by imitating his joyful life.Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.