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Saint Francis was born in 1182 in Assisi, one of the oldest cities of Italy. His mother, Donna Pica, wanted to be like the Mother of God. She wanted her son to be born in a stable.
And that is what happened. She had to leave her beautiful bedroom and go to one of the stalls of her stable before her baby could be born. The first cradle of Francis was one of straw like Jesus.
Donna brought up her son in the fear of God. She told him stories about brave knights in shining armor mounted on strong horses.
These stories filled Francis with a great desire to do noble things, and even to shed his blood for God as the knights did.
While helping his father in his shop one day, Francis refused alms to a beggar. But he was sorry, ran after him, and gave the man a gift. He determined never to refuse anything asked of him in Gods name.
As Francis grew older, he gathered around him many friends because he was rich and liked to have a good time. These young men spent their time eating and drinking till all hours.
He became a partner in his fathers business and spent all his earnings for pleasure. But one day he became ill and had time to think.
When he regained his strength he took walks in the country, for he liked mountains, fields, and trees. He experienced sadness but through this sadness God would draw him to Himself.
Francis traveled to the south of Italy with an army, hoping to become a famous knight. He was dressed in rich clothes and armor. But, again, he became ill. One night as he lay in bed he heard a voice asking where he wanted to go. To Apulia to be a knight , he replied. Tell me, Francis, the voice continued, who can help you more, the Lord or the servant? Francis cried: Lord, what do You want me to do? He was told to go back home to find out. He left the next morning.
Once back home, Francis was again visited by the Lord while walking behind his friends one evening. His heart was filled with joy and peace.
One of his friends saw him and asked: Why are you so quiet? Are you thinking of getting married? Yes, was his reply, My bride is richer and more beautiful than any woman. He called her Lady Poverty because he was going to give up everything for a new life in Christ.
Francis used to go to San Damiano, a little chapel in the field, where he prayed before a large crucifix over the altar.
One day a voice that could be heard only in his heart, came from the crucifix: Go, Francis, and build up My house, for it is falling down.
Francis sold some goods from his fathers shop and offered the money to the old priest at the church to rebuild it. The priest was afraid to take it. So Francis left the money on the window sill. His father, Bernadone, went to look for him, but Francis hid in a cave. Bernadone returned to the shop with the money.
Francis prayed: Most Holy Lord, I want to love You. Dearest God, I have given up to You all my heart and my body, and I really want to do still more for love of You if only I knew how. My God and my All!
Francis appeared on the streets of Assisi in peasant clothes. He greeted everyone with: The Lord give you peace.
He preached to the crowds that peace was mans greatest good peace with God by keeping His commandments, peace with others by a kind life, and peace with oneself by having a good conscience. Francis led many people back to peace with God.
Francis was beginning to have many followers. The first follower was a pious merchant from Assisi named Bernard, who stayed with Francis one night. He saw Francis spend the night in prayer to God and Mary.
In the morning Bernard made up his mind to follow Francis in his new life.
Eight days later, another young man from Assisi named Giles was received into the Brotherhood. Later, Peter, a friend of Francis and Bernard, also joined them.
Several other men joined the group, and all met at the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels. Francis sent them out two by two to preach the Gospel in the towns around Assisi. They were very simple in their preaching. The words came from their hearts. Wherever the followers of Saint Francis went, people listened to them. Many sinners returned to God through their words.
There were now twelve people in the group. Francis wrote a simple Rule of Life for them and decided that they must go to Rome to have their Rule approved by the Pope. At Rome, Pope Innocent III received them with kindness and approved their way of life. He ordered them to preach penance wherever they went.
They returned to Assisi and lived together in a small hut near the town.
Francis was a lover of nature. He believed in a loving Father Who made all things. And he regarded all Gods creatures as his brothers and sisters. He composed a famous poem called the Canticle of the Sun in which he praised God for all His creatures. He once saw a flock of birds in a field. Drawing near, he said: Praise the Lord, my little sisters! He talked and they listened. Francis told them they should be thankful for their food, their sweet voices, their wings, and the other good things God had given them. At the end of the sermon, he blessed them and they all flew away singing joyfully.
Francis often went to Mount Alvernia to fast and pray. On the feast of the Holy Cross, Francis was praying outside his hut and waiting for the sunrise. He prayed: O Lord Jesus Christ, I beg You to give me two graces before I die: first, that in my lifetime I may feel in my body and soul as far as I can the pain You felt in the hour of Your bitter suffering; and second, that I may feel in my heart the love by which You, O Son of God, were willing to accept such cruel sufferings for us sinners.
He then saw a vision of an angel carrying the image of Jesus on the Cross, and his soul was filled with Divine love. When the vision ended, he found that his hands, feet, and side had the five wounds of Jesus. He said nothing about this, but the Brothers found blood on his clothes when they went to do the wash, and they knew that he had Our Lords wounds on his body.
Francis became ill and was near death. He asked to be carried down from the town of Assisi to the Church of Saint Mary of the Angels. On the way, he asked to be turned toward Assisi. With his half-blind eyes he stared for a long time at the town. Then he blessed it with the words: God has chosen you to give honor to His Name! The Brothers carried Francis to the church where he wanted to die.
After making preparations for his death and saying his farewells, Francis began to sing Psalm 141: I cry to the Lord. Bring my soul out of prison, O Lord, that I may praise Your Name. Francis of Assisi closed his lips forever; he went into eternity singing.
Saint Francis died October 4, 1226. His body was taken first to San Damiano so that the Sisters who had joined Saint Clare, as his followers, could see him for the last time.
Then a crowd of people, carrying torches and olive branches, brought the body into Assisi to the Church of Saint George. Later his remains were transferred to the Church of Saint Francis, which thousands still visit every year. The whole Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Francis on October 4.
There is hardly a saint who is more known and loved by Catholics and non-Catholics alike than Saint Francis of Assisi. His great aim in life was to find peace. He gave up the things of this world and found peace in God alone. The motto of his life was: My God and my All! He loved God and all His creatures for the love of God. They were all brothers and sisters to him, children of the same Heavenly Father.
Saint Francis can help us to get closer to God and Jesus. By imitating him in his love for God and all creatures, we will imitate Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of All.
Where there is sadness, let me sow joy. |
Where there is darkness, let me sow light.
Where there is despair, let me sow hope.
Where there is doubt, let me sow faith.
Where there is error, let me sow truth.
Where there is friction, let me sow union.
Where there is injury, let me sow pardon.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Prayer of Saint Francis
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
For it is in giving that we receive.
to be loved as to love.
to be understood as to understand,
to be consoled as to console,
Grant that I may not so much seek
O Divine Master,