Oct. 4: ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI
Dear friends, this year, the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi falls on a Sunday which takes precedence over it. Nevertheless, we could interiorly celebrate the feast of this beloved saint, a great example of self-forgetfulness, detachment and poverty such that during his life, a lot of people have already considered him a saint.
Let us imitate this holy man in his great love for Christ, in his apostolic zeal, love for detachment from material goods and generosity in helping the poor. Let us pray for all the Franciscans in the world so that they may be holy and faithful to their vocation and to the charisms of their founder. Let us pray as well for all those who celebrate their saint’s day today,
especially our beloved Pope Francis.
Below you’ll find a beautiful profile of the saint’s life which I have translated from some of my notes in Spanish taken from ewtn.com.
A Blessed Sunday to all! God bless you and your family!
-Fr. Rolly Arjonillo, priest of Opus Dei, of CATHOLICS STRIVING FOR HOLINESS FB page in: www.facebook.com/CatholicsstrivingforHoliness . Hope you like our page and invite your friends as well to do so in order to help more people.
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FRANCIS, A YOUNG MAN WITH A BIG HEART
- When he was still a young man, Francis enjoyed attending parties and gatherings. Coming from a wealthy family, his father had a garment and clothing business and Francis had all the money he wanted. He wasn’t interested, however, neither with his studies nor his father’s business. Nevertheless, he had the huge heart shown by his generosity to the poor who asked him for his help, assisting them with the means within his reach.
THE ELEGANT ARMOR
- He was 20 years of age when war broke between Assisi and Perugia. Francis fought for his city and fell into the hands of his enemies. His captivity lasted for a year, during which he took advantage to meditate and seriously reflect on his life. After being freed from the prison, he joined the army of his city and fought for its defense. He bought a very elegant armor and the best horse he could find. Along the way, he met a poor soldier who had no means to buy his own armor and horse. Francis, moved by the poor soldier, gave him his own luxurious armor and horse. That night, he dreamt that he will be given a better armor to fight against his spiritual enemies, in exchange of the good deed he had done to the poor soldier.
THE DIVINE CALL
- Francis did not reach the battlecamp since he got ill. During his illness, he heard a heavenly voice saying: “Why dedicate yourself to servethe labourers if you could serve the Supreme Chief of all instead?” He returned to the city, but this time, no longer to seek worldly pleasures but to meditate seriously regarding his future. Upon seeing him so pensive, people thought that he was in love. He commented: “Yes, I am in love with the most faithful, purest, holiest girlfriend who ever existed.” They did not understand what he was saying, but Francis jnew very well that he was in love with poverty, i.e., the way of life which is most similar to the poverty Jesus lived during his life. He also got convinced that he must sell all his goods and give them to the poor.
- One day, while he was taking a stroll on the countryside, he came upon a leper, filled with wounds. Francis felt repugnance towards him, but he also felt a divine inspiration which told him that if we do not fight against our instincts, we would never become saints. Hence, he approached the leper and he kissed his wounds! From that moment, he received a powerful grace from God to overcome his instincts and passions and to sacrifice himself for the others. He started visiting sick people, hospitals and the ppor and he gave them all he had with him.
“FRANCIS, YOU HAVE TO FIX MY HOUSE”
- One day, while praying in front of a crucifix in the Church of St. Damian, he seemed to have Heard Jesus telling him: “Francis, you have to fix my house because it is in ruins.” He thought that Jesus was asking him to repair the deteriorated walls of the Chuch of St. Damian so he went home, sold his horse and a great amount of textiles from his father’s store, gave the money to the Chaplain of St. Damian, asking him his permission to remain there and help him repair in the renovation of the Church walls. The priest told him he could stay but he could not accept the money for fear of the violent reaction of Francis’ father, Pietro Bernardone. Francis hid the money inside a window and upon knowing that his enfuriated father was about to punish him, he prudently hid himself.
“TILL NOW, I HAVE BEEN PIETRO BERNADONE’S SON. FROM NOW ONWARDS, I COULD SAY: OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN.”
- Pietro Bernardone declared in front of the Bishop that he would disown and disinherit him and that he had to return all the money he had from the sale of the textiles from his store. The bishop returned the money to his father. Francis removed all his clothes, gave them to his father and told him: “Up to now, I have been Pietro Bernadone’s son. From now on, I could say: Our Father, who art in heaven.”
- The Bishop gave him some clothes of one of his farmers: a simple tunic, of ordinary cloth, tied at the waist with a cord. Francis drew a cross with chalk on his new robe, which will become his clothes till the rest of his life. It will be the habit of his friars: the dress of a poor peasant, a simple worker.
- He went through the fields praying and singing. Some bandits found him and said, “Who are you? – He replied: – I am the herald or messenger of the great King.” The others did not understand what he meant with this and in return got a beating for his answer. He nevertheless remained same with joyful, singing and praying to God. Then, he returned to Assisi to rebuild the little church of St. Damian. And for that he began to roam the streets begging. People who had previously seen him rich and elegant and now begging and dressed so poorly, mocked him. But he managed to rebuild what little temple The Portiuncula. This name is very dear to the Franciscans of the whole world, because it was in this chapel where Francis began his community. Portiuncula means ‘ little ground. ” It was a tiny little farm with a chapel in ruins. It was 4 kilometers from Assisi. The Benedictine monks gave him permission to live there, and the holy Francis liked the peaceful and solitary place peaceful and because the chapel was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
- During the Mass of the feast of St. Matthias, God showed him what He expected from him through the gospel that day, which is the program that Christ gave to his apostles when he sent them to preach. It reads: “Go and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is near. Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Freely you have received , freely give”. Francis took this to the letter and resoleved to dedicate himself to apostolate, but amidst the strictest poverty. St. Bonaventure recounts that Francis met a man strickened with cancer which horribly disfigured his face. The sick man tried to kneel at his feet, but Francis stopped him and kissed him on the face, and the patient was cured instantly. And people said: “We do not know what to admire more, the kiss or the miracle.”
TEMPTATIONS AGAINST HOLY PURITY
- Francis sometimes had to fight with terrible impure temptations. To overcome the passions of his body, he threw himself and wallowed among thorns. He could repeat what the old saint said “I treat with my body harshly, because it treats my soul severely.”
- Clare, a young lady of Assisi, got enthusiastic about the life of poverty, prayer and holy joy which she saw in the example of the Francis’ followers and abandoning her family, she fled to be a nun under Francis wise guidance. With St. Clare, he founded the “Poor Clares” convent they have today worldwide.
- Francisco had the rare gift of endearing animals. The swallows followed him in droves, forming a cross over the place where he preaches. When he was alone in mounting a blackbird came to wake him up with his singing for it was the hour for his midnight prayer. But if the saint was sick, the blackbird did not wake him up. A bunny followed him for some time out of great fondness. Some say that a ferocious wolf obeyed when the saint asked him to stop attacking people.
- Francisco retreated for 40 days to Mount Alvernia to meditate, and he thought so much of Christ’s wounds, that the same wounds appeared on the hands, feet and side. His followers became so numerous that in 1219, at a general meeting called “The Chapter of Mats”, more than five thousand Franciscans gathered in Assisi. The saint was so moved to see that there were plenty of vocations everywhere and that diverse regions of asked him to send them his fervent disciples to preach. Francis reminded his followers to love for Jesus Christ and the Holy Catholic Church a lot, and to live with the greatest possible detachment from material goods. He never got tired of recommending them to fulfill as closely as possible everything that the Holy Gospel teaches.
- Francisco travelled from one town to another inviting people to love Jesus more, and kept repeating: “Love is not loved”. People listened to him with special affection and were amazed at how much his words moved their hearts for Christ and his religion.
- He arranged to go to Egypt to evangelize the Sultan and the Muslims. But neither the Muslim head nor his followers wanted to accept his messages. He then went to visit the Holy Land in a devout pilgrimage to the holy places where Jesus was born, lived and died: Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, etc. In memory of his visit this pious Franciscans are responsible for centuries to guard the holy places in the Holy Land. Francis contracted an eye illness for not taking good care of the hot desert sands of Egypt and when he died he was almost completely blind, another suffering which Our Lord Lord permitted so that Francis gain more heavenly reward.
- Only two years had elapsed after his death, when the Pope declared him a saint and in all countries of the earth , this simple and good man, who went through the world teaching to love nature and to live detached of material goods and in love with our good Lord, is revered and admired man It was he who popularized the custom of Christmas cribs.
PHOTO SOURCE: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, “San Francisco abrazando a Cristo en la Cruz” in https://i2.wp.com/image1.findagrave.com/photos/2010/199/CF46875673_127957189513.jpg
TEXT SOURCE: https://www.ewtn.com/spanish/Saints/Santos/Francisco_As%C3%ADs.htm (English translation mine)