Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4)   2 comments

Monastic; Church reformer; died in 1226

How can a person not like St. Francis?



From the New Zealand Anglicans:

Francis was born in 1181, the son of a successful cloth merchant of Assisi. Although christened John, he is always known as Francis (the Frenchman) because his mother was from Provence. As a young man, Francis took an active part in the social life of the city. He also saw service in a petty war with nearby Perugia. This led to a spell as a prisoner of war. On his release he turned his back on warfare. He continued to be involved in the social life of Assisi; but now a strain of seriousness became more and more apparent.

As he was feeling his way towards his new vocation, he knelt before a Byzantine-style crucifix in the half-ruined Church of San Damiano and prayed. The crucifix seemed to speak to him, “Francis, go and rebuild my church, which you see is in ruins.” With typical compulsiveness he sold some goods belonging to his father to pay for repairs, and went to live with the priest of San Damiano. A long and bitter altercation with his father culminated in the famous scene before the bishop of Assisi. Francis renounced his earthly father and all his wealth, even to the clothes he was then wearing. Dressed in a grey-brown peasant’s smock that the bishop gave him and with a piece of rope for a belt, Francis began a life of poverty, preaching the love of Christ.

The life of Francis after his conversion is inextricably entangled with the development of the Order of Friars Minor, which he almost unwillingly founded. He was living by himself at first, but then was joined by a small group of disciples. They lived at Portiuncula, three kilometres from Assisi, near a leper colony. A simple rule was approved in 1210. The order grew beyond all expectation and soon outgrew the carefree, unbelievably poverty-laden beginnings. The resultant tensions between simple poverty and the demands of a large organisation were part of the cross Francis had to bear. He accepted, reluctantly, a more formal rule in 1223, which made the order a part of the wider church. Francis resigned as minister-general of the order in 1220. He saw clearly that he lacked the administrative skills to run a large order. His place was taken by Brother Elias.

Alongside the active preaching in Italy and beyond (the first friars reached England in 1224), there was a strong strand of contemplative and eremitical devotion in Franciscan spirituality. In Francis’ own life this reached a climax in the seraphic vision of his crucified Lord and the marking of his body with the very wounds of Christ (stigmata which he bore till his death two years later). Francis’ preaching tours included one to the crusaders’ camp at Damietta in Egypt, which left him totally disillusioned about the crusades. He was never a robust man, and the preaching tours, his austerities, and the horrific medical practices of the period all weakened his health. In 1226 he was carried home to die at the chapel of the Portiuncula below Assisi. He was buried in the Church of San Giorgio, Assisi, but his relics were transferred in 1230 to the new basilica built by Brother Elias. There they remain. He was canonised only two years after his death.

Much loved, but misunderstood, Francis is today chiefly thought of as an animal and nature lover, but this, though a strand of his spirituality, is much less than the whole. His rejection of material possessions and security, his deep love of the by-no-means perfect church of his day, his missionary zeal, his deep devotion to the passion of his master, whom he strove so closely to follow (“naked following the naked Christ”); all these are as much St Francis as the sermon to the birds and the wolf of Gubbio.

For Liturgical Use

Francis of Assisi was born in 1181. After a relatively frivolous life, he rejected everything he had received from his father and embraced poverty totally. Gradually others gathered round him, and he began preaching tours around Italy. He prepared a simple rule of life for his followers, and the Order of Friars Minor was born. The order grew rapidly and spread all over Europe and beyond. Francis combined in his life many strands: mission preacher, lover of animals, ascetic, mystic, dramatic fool for Christ, happy singer, troubadour of God. He died in 1226 and was canonised two years later.


Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Jeremiah 22:13-16

Psalm 148:7-14

Galatians 6:14-18

Matthew 11:25-30

Francis of Assisi


2 responses to “Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4)

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. i am an aspirant for conventual franciscan brothers, the above history of st. francis really inspires alot and i would to know more about it thank you

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: