Francis of Assisi – The Story Behind the Saint
FEAST DAY: OCTOBER 4 PATRON SAINT OF ANIMALS, ECOLOGY
Francesco di Bernardone lived from 1182 to 1226.
While his father was away on business he was actually baptized Giovanni after St. John the Baptist. But later his father, wanting not a “holy man” but a “business man”, and wanting to strengthen business ties with France, named him Francesco – which literary means Frenchman.
He grew up in wealth and lived a life of prosperity as a youth. He sought fame and power and nobility.
When the city state of Perugia was at war with the city state of Assisi, Francis became a soldier to fight against the enemy. Later, wanting to be a knight, he was on his way to fight in the fourth Crusade but strangely felt called by God to return to Assisi.
Thus, began his process of conversion.
One day, while he was praying enthusiastically to the Lord, Francis received this response: “Francis, everything you loved carnally and desired to have, you must despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. Because once you begin doing this, what before seemed delightful and sweet will be unbearable and bitter; and what before made you shudder will offer you great sweetness and enormous delight.” He was overjoyed at this and was comforted by the Lord. One day Francis was riding his horse near Assisi, when he met a leper. And, even though he usually shuddered at lepers, he made himself dismount, gave him a coin, and kissed his hand. After he accepted a kiss of peace from him, Francis remounted and continued on his way. He then began to consider himself less and less, until, by God’s grace, he came to complete victory over himself.
After a few days, he moved to a hospice of lepers, taking with him a large sum of money. Calling them all together, as he kissed the hand of each, he gave them alms. When he left there, what before had been bitter, that is, to see and touch lepers, was turned into sweetness. For, as he said, the sight of lepers was so bitter to him, that he refused not only to look at them, but even to approach their dwellings. If he happened to come near their houses or to see them, even though he was moved by pity to give them alms through an intermediary, he always turned away his face and held his nose. With the help of God’s grace, he became such a servant and friend of the lepers, that, as he testified in his Testament, he stayed among them and served them with humility.
Francis often prayed in the Church of San Damiano and while doing so on one occasion he heard Christ on the Crucifix speak to him and say: “Francis, repair my Church!”
Francis assumed it was church with a small “c” and began selling material from his father’s fabric shop (unbeknownst to his father) to pay for the rebuilding of the Church building of San Damiano. This enraged his father who brought him before the bishop to get him to confess to theft and to repay the loss. Francis renounced all his possessions, even taking off his very clothing and presented it to his Father. Francis said: “Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father. From now on I can say with complete freedom, ‘Our Father who art in heaven’.”
Francis went back to what he considered God’s call. He begged for stones and rebuilt the San Damiano church with his own hands, not realizing that it was the Church with a capital C (the people of God) that God wanted repaired. Scandal and avarice were working on the Church from the inside, while outside heresies flourished by appealing to those longing for something different or adventurous.
Slowly companions came to Francis, people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for garbage to eat…and loving God. With companions, Francis knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life he opened the Bible in three places.
“… If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me…” Matthew 19:16-22
“… He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics…” Mark 6:7-13
“Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ ” Luke 9:23
“Here is our rule,” Francis said — as simple, and as seemingly impossible, as that. He was going to do what no one thought possible any more — live by the Gospel.
The community went to Rome to seek permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new religious order. Though Pope Innocent initially had his doubts, after a vision he decided to endorse Francis’ order, and on April 12, 1210 the Franciscan Order was officially founded.
Prayers from St. Francis of Assisi
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master; grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
St. Francis’ Vocation Prayer
Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds.
Give us a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity, so that we may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen.
St. Francis’ Meditation Prayer
My God and My All!
St. Francis’ Prayer in Praise of God Given to Brother Leo
You are holy, Lord, the only God, and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love.
You are wisdom.
You are humility.
You are endurance.
You are rest.
You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage.
You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord, God Almighty, Merciful Saviour.
Prayer of St. Francis Before the Blessed Sacrament
We adore You, O Lord Jesus Christ, in this Church and all the Churches of the world, and we bless You, because, by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world.
St. Francis’ Prayer Praising Mary the Mother of Jesus
Hail, holy Lady, most holy Queen, Mary, Mother of God, ever Virgin. You were chosen by the Most High Father in heaven, consecrated by Him, with His most Holy Beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
On you descended and still remains all the fullness of grace and every good. Hail, His Palace. Hail His Tabernacle. Hail His Robe. Hail His Handmaid. Hail, His Mother. And Hail, all holy Virtues, who, by grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that from their faithless state, they may be made faithful servants of God through you.
Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon
Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour, Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and fair and stormy, all weather’s moods, by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water, so useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us, producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace, by You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death, from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks, And serve Him with great humility.