St. Francis (1182-1226) was born in Assisi, a town rising out of the Umbrian plains of Italy. He left us a spiritual legacy which will endure forever because he encompassed in his vision not only man but the world of nature.

As a youth, he delighted in fine clothes, loved pleasure and dreamed of glory in the battlefield of the Middle Ages. Reality gradually set in, at twenty he went with his townsmen to fight the Perugians who lost. He was captured and held in prison for over a year. Upon his return to Assisi he had a dream where he saw a great hall covered with shields and military banner. Francis believed that this meant that he would find glory in battle, so he joined the papal army or Walter of Brienne. "Francis’ interpretation of his dream was not fully on target. He had not traveled too great a distance when he stopped at Spoleto for the night. There God spoke to him again in his sleep: “Who is it better to serve,” God asked Francis, “the Lord or the servant?” Francis answered, “The Lord, of course.” God responded, “Then why are you obeying the servant and not the Lord?” So Francis decided to return to Assisi.

Now Francis began to pray more and sought solitude. He sought to find meaning in life by using some of his father's money to repair the Church of San Damiano but this brought him to conflict with his father Pietro.

His father brought him before the bishop in the presence of the town's people and demanded that Francis return the money he had taken. Not only did he return the money but stripped himself naked and laid his clothes at the feet of his father as you see in Giotto's painting. Up to now he he said, I have called Peter Bernardone my father but from now on I say only "our Father, who art in Heaven." By this decision be became poor, stripped of any support from his family and giving up his family inheritance.

In time, like minded men came to Francis wishing to live a similar life, thus the origin of the Franciscan Order. But what impresses me most is Francis affinity to the animal kingdom and all God's creation. He was enabled by the Holy Spirit to pass beyond our utilitarian mentality to see all of creation bathed in God's love.

(Painting by Giotto)

 

 

One day he began to preach in the town of Savurniano and realizing that the swallows were making to much noise, he ordered them to be quiet until he had finished and the swallows obeyed. On his way again with his companion he noticed a great number of birds on some trees by the wayside. He told his companion to wait "while I go to preach to my little sisters the birds". Entering the field he began to preach to the birds which were on the ground and suddenly all those in the trees flew down around him and all listened to St. Francis. They only flew away after had given them his blessings. This shows that the love of God extends to all his creatures.

Francis toward the end of his life had become practically blind and having extinguished all selfish desires is able to see with the eye of his soul God's glory that is all around us and expressed it in--

 

Canticle to The Sun

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

 

Please click image to hear song.