Today Christians Celebrate Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

St Francis of AssisiSaint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) Image Courtesy: Catholic Online

(Franciscan Media) Born in Italy Umbria, Francis (baptismal name ‘Giovanni’) father Pietro Bernardone returned from a trip to France to find out his wife had given birth to a son. Far from being excited and overjoyed according to Catholic Online Pietro was furious because his wife had their baby baptized as ‘Giovanni’ after St. John the Baptist — The last thing that Pietro wanted in his son, was a ‘Man of God’ for he wanted a man of business, a cloth merchant like he was and especially wanted a son who would reflect his infatuation with France, so Pietro had him renamed ‘Francesco’ which was equivalent in calling him a Frenchman.

Francesco (‘Francis’) enjoyed a very rich easy life growing up because of his father’s wealth and the permissiveness of the times. From the very beginning everyone loved Francis as he was a happy go lucky young lad–when he was picky, people would excuse him, when he was ill, people cared for him. if he did poorly in school people excused him, in many ways, he was too easy to like for his own good–no one attempted to control or teach him.

As he grew up, Francis became the leader of the crowd of young people who spent their nights at wild parties–Francis himself acknowledged his misspent youthful days saying, “I lived in sin,’ during that time.

Serious illness brought young Francis to see the error in his ways with his frolicking life–prayer lengthy and difficult, led Francis to a self emptying  like that of Jesus Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in a payer:

“Francis! Everything that you have loved and desired in the flesh, it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know My will and when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy.”

From the Cross in the neglected field Chapel of San Damiano, Christ told Francis: “Go out and build up My House, for it is nearly falling down.” Francis would become the totally poor and humble workman. Francis must have suspected a deeper meaning to ‘build My House’ but he would have been content to be the rest of his life the ‘poor nothing man’ actually putting brick-on-brick on abandoned Chapels.

Francis gave up all of his possessions, piling even his clothes before his father Pietro (who was demanding restitution for Francis’ gifts to the poor–so that he would be totally free to say: “Our Father in Heaven.” Francis was for a time considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door-to-door to get money for his work, evoking sadness and disgust in the hearts of his (now) former friends and ridicule from the thoughtless but genuineness will tell.

A few people began to realize that Francis was actually trying to live a Christian life. He really believed what Jesus said about proclaiming the Kingdom of God, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money–not even an extra tunic.’ —Luke 9:2-3

Francis’ first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an Order but once it began, he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. Francis’ devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church’s unity. Francis was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching the Good News, he decided in favor of the latter but always returned to solitude whenever he could.

During the last years of Francis’ relatively short life (he passed away at the age of 44) he was half-blind and seriously ill. Two years prior to his death, Francis received the ‘Stigmata’, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side.

Francis passed away on this date in Italy Portiuncula and was Canonized in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX

More here from American Catholic

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