St Francis of Assisi – Oct 4 I Confessor Saint of Catholic Church
Francesco, who is revered today as a saint, but began his life as a sinner, was the son of Pietro di Bernardone a wealthy, busy cloth merchant of Assisi, born in the year 1181/82 in a poor stable, of medieval country of Spoleto, Italy. His father also owned farmland around Assisi, and his mother Pica was a beautiful Frenchwoman. His was Baptised in the name of Giovanni, but the name was changed to Francesco. Francis learned to read and write Latin at the school near the Church of San Giorgio, acquired some knowledge of French language, literature, and culture. He attempted to sing songs in the language, as a boy. His father aspired him to be a businessman.
He grew up as a spoilt, privileged, lavish, young lad, that led to be a life moral lapses and his exuberant love of life, indulging himself with fine food, wine, and wild celebrations. His general spirit of worldliness made him a recognized leader of the young men of the town. He was also known for his charm and vanity. By age 14, he had left school and become known as a rebellious teenager who frequently drank and partied. He spent money lavishly. Handsome, witty, gallant, he was known for bright clothing, rich friends, and love of pleasures. His generosity and humor, was much appreciated by his friends and easily won the affection of all who knew him.
His birth already prophesied, that he would preach poverty to a world and that he was chosen to live for the world a living manifestation of Christ’s poor and suffering life on earth. More than once various holy persons foretold for him a future of glory, but in veiled terms. Francis did not understand these predictions and supposed he would become the leader of a large militia.
He joined a military expedition, of Assisi against Perugia Around 1202, and was taken as a prisoner at Collestrada, spent a year as a captive. In prison, an illness caused him to re-evaluate his life. He began to see visions from God. Upon his return to Assisi in 1203, Francis returned to his carefree life. However, one day a change came in his life. He was on horseback, selling cloth and velvet in the marketplace, on behalf of his father when he met a leper beggar. The beggar came to him and asked for alms. He took a path to avoid him, as usual. But, repenting he turned his horse around ran after the beggar, embraced him, and gave him generous alms. Francis abandoned his ward robe and gave the leper everything he had in his pockets. His friends mocked him for his charity; his father scolded him in rage, but he continued his way, and he was from that day a completely transformed person. He became inspired with a great esteem for poverty and humiliation. He abandoned his life of luxury and became a devotee of the faith, his reputation spreading all over the Christian world. He renounced his father’s wealth to care for the poor and the crippled. Francis heard the voice of Christ, who told him to repair the Christian Church and live a life of poverty.
He decided to use his wealth to care for the poor and the sick and dedicate himself in person to the same works. When he prayed one day in the little chapel to do only what God willed of him, the Saviour spoke again to him, repeating three times the mysterious words: Go, Francis, and repair My house which is falling into ruin. He then undertook to repair the old church of San Damiano where he had heard these words, retiring for refuge to a grotto. He was regarded as a fool by the people when he returned to the city in the clothing of a poor beggar. But. this was indeed the folly of the Cross. Francis as thought by many as a madman or a fool, but others viewed him as one of the greatest examples of how to live the Christian ideal since Jesus Christ himself.
Francis renounced his heritage and wealth and began to beg thereafter for his daily sustenance. The love of God, which was burning brightly in the rich man, who became a poor man of Assisi, began to give light and warmth of Christ. He left the city singing the praises of God. In 1208 he heard the commission which the risen Lord gave to his apostles, “Go, make all nations my disciples, …” His dedication to poverty, humility, obedience, patience and compassion soon attracted followers. Many came to join him, and they adopted the absolute poverty of Francis. He began preaching around Assisi and was soon joined by 12 loyal followers. This movement laid the foundations of the Franciscan Order, the Order of the Lesser Brethren, commonly called the Franciscans. Francis obeyed and devoted himself to Christianity. Francis began to train his followers for the task of making Jesus truly known and loved among the ordinary people of Italy. He lived a life of ascetic poverty and was dedicated to Christian charity. Francis as thought by many as a madman or a fool, but others viewed him as one of the greatest examples of how to live the Christian ideal since Jesus Christ himself. He quickly became well-known throughout the Christian world. After a wild youth and a brief career as a soldier, Francis had a conversion experience that inspired him to renounce his family’s wealth and devote his life to God. St Francis and St. Catherine of Siena are the patron saints of Italy, and he is also the patron saint of ecology and of animals.
Francis cared deeply for his new Order, but he also grew restless as it became an established institution of the Church. He distanced himself from its day-to-day life and eventually went his own way as he strove to imitate Christ’s total obedience to God. Two years before his death he was granted a sign which manifested this desire. One September day in 1224, he had a vision of the Crucified borne on the wings of a seraph. During one of these retreats on Mount Alverno, he received on his hands, feet, and side the imprints of the five wounds of Jesus, the scars like nail-wounds on his hands and feet, and in his right side a scar like a spear-wound. These marks, called the stigmata, remained on Francis’s body until his death two years later.”
St Francis was a lover of animals and nature. It is said he used to speak to animals and sings together with the birds. The beautiful custom of setting up mangers, Christmas Cribs to commemorate the birth of the Jesus was started by St. Francis of Assisi, in 1223 in the nearby woods of Greccio near Assisi. He set up an empty manger, the feeding trough of farm animals which served as Jesus’ crib, inside a cave, and even included a live ox, sheep and donkey, just as it was believed to have happened on that first Christmas night.
Francis, after visiting the Orient in a vain quest for martyrdom, spent his life like his Divine Master — now in preaching to the multitudes, now amid the desert solitudes in fasting and contemplation. His constant prayer was My God and my All! With the cry, Welcome, sister Death! he passed to the glory of his God, October 4, 1226, at the age of 44 years. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, selected Francis as his papal name in honor of Francis of Assisi, becoming the current Pope Francis. Many Churches, , schools, institutions have been named after St Francis. His feast day is celebrated in the Catholic Church on October 4.