About Giovanni de Pietro di Bernardone, Saint Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi , San Francesco d'Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but nicknamed Francesco ("the Frenchman") by his father, 1181/1182 – October 3, 1226)[ was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher and is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.
On 13 March 2013, upon his election as Pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, becoming Pope Francis.
St. Francis of Assisi CNN report -- St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis of Assisi biography
St. Francis of Assisi, born in Italy circa 1181, was renown for drinking and partying in his youth. After fighting in a battle between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was captured and imprisoned at ransom. He spent nearly a year in prison—awaiting his father's ransom—and, during this time, reportedly began receiving visions from God.
After his release from prison, Francis reportedly heard the voice of Christ, who told him to repair the Christian Church and live a life of poverty. Thusly, he abandoned his life of luxury and devoted his life to Christianity, and became known all over the Christian world. Later in life, Francis reportedly received a vision that left him with the stigmata of Christ—marks resembling the wounds Jesus Christ suffered when he was crucified—making Francis the first person to receive the holy wounds of the stigmata. He was canonized as a saint on July 16, 1228. Today, St. Francis of Assisi has had a lasting resonance, with millions of followers across the globe.
EARLY LIFE OF LUXURY
Born circa 1181 in Assisi, duchy of Spoleto, Italy, St. Francis of Assisi, though revered tosay, began his life as a confirmed sinner. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant who owned farmland around Assisi, and his mother was a stunning Frenchwoman. Francis wanted for nothing during his youth; he was spoiled, indulging himself with fine food, booze and women, and left school at the age of 14. By this time, he had become renown as a teenage tearaway who frequently drank, partied and broke the city curfew. He was also known for his charm and for being dandy in his dress.
In these rustic surroundings, Francis of Assisi learned the skills of archery, wrestling and horsemanship. He was expected to follow his father into the family textile business, but was bored by the prospect of life in the cloth trade. Instead of planning a future as a merchant, he began daydreaming of a future as a knight; knights were Medieval action heroes, and if Francis had any ambition, it was to be a war hero like them. It wouldn't be long before the opportunity for warfare beckoned.
In 1202, war broke between Assisi and Perugia, and Francis eagerly took his place with the cavalry. Little did he know at the time, his experience with war wold change him forever.
WAR AND IMPRISONMENT
Francis and the men of Assisi came under heavy attack, and in the face of superior numbers, they took flight. The whole battlefield was soon covered with the bodies of butchered, mutilated men, screaming in agony. Most of the surviving Assisi troops were immediately put to death.
Dressed like an aristocrat in expensive new armour, Francis was quickly captured by enemy soldiers, but, judging him worthy of a decent ransom, decided to spare his life. He and the other wealthy prisoners were thusly taken as prisoners, led off to a dank underground cell. Francis would spend nearly a year in this miserable prison cell—awaiting his father's ransom—during which time he may well have contracted a serious disease.
Also during this time, he would later report, he began to receive visions from God.
AFTER THE WAR
Finally, after a year of negotiations, Francis's ransom was accepted and he was released from prison in 1203. When he came back to Assisi, however, Francis was a very different man. Upon his return, he was dangerously sick in both mind and body—a shell-shocked casualty of war. He had fought and lost in a bitter, bloody war, and was left with mental and physical scars.
One day, as he would later report, whilst riding on a horse in the local countryside, Francis encountered a leper—regarded, at the time, as the lowest of the low, an untouchable. Previously, Francis would have run from the leper, but on this occasion, his behavior was very different. Viewing the leper as a symbol of moral conscience—or as Jesus incognito, according to some religious scholars—he embraced and kissed him, later describing the experience as a feeling of sweetness in his mouth. After this incident, Francis felt released from many of his inhibitions. Suddenly, his earlier life of wine, women and song had lost all of its appeal.
Subsequently, Francis, now in his early 20s, began turning his focus toward God. Instead of working, he spent an ever-increasing amount of time at a remote mountain hideaway as well as in old, quiet churches around Assisi, praying and looking for answers. During this time, while praying before an old Byzantine crucifix at the church of San Damiano, Francis reportedly heard the voice of Christ, who told him to rebuild the Christian Church and to live a life of extreme poverty. Thusly, Francis abandoned his life of luxury and devoted his life to Christianity.
He began preaching around Assisi and was soon joined by 12 loyal followers. Some regarded Francis as a madman or a fool, but others viewed him as one of the greatest example of how to live the Christian ideal since Jesus Christ himself. Whether he was really touched by God, or simply a man misinterpreting hallucinations brought on by mental illness and/or poor health—following his release from prison, he was incredibly sleep-deprived and malnourished—one thing is for certain: Francis of Assisi quickly became well-known throughout the Christian world.
DEVOTION TO CHRISTIANITY
After his epiphany at the church of San Damiano, Francis experienced a defining moment in his life. In order to raise money to rebuild the Christian Church, he stole a bolt of cloth and a horse from his father. His father became furious upon learning of his son's crimes, and subsequently dragged Francis before the local bishop. The bishop told Francis to return his father's money, to which his reaction was extraordinary: He stripped off his clothes and passed them, along with the money, back to his father, declaring that God was now the only father he recognized; this event is credited as Francis's final conversion, and there is no indication that Francis and his father ever spoke again thereafter.
The bishop gave Francis a rough tunic, and dressed in these new humble clothes, Francis left Assisi.
Unluckily for him, the first people he met on the road were a group of dangerous thieves, who beat him badly. Despite his wounds, Francis was elated. From now on, he would live according to the Bible.
Francis's Christ-like poverty was a radical notion at the time. The Christian Church was tremendously rich, much like the people heading it, which concerned Francis and many others, who felt that the Church's long-held apostolic ideals had eroded. Thusly, Francis set out on a mission to restore Jesus Christ's own, original values to the now-decadent Church. With his incredible charisma, thousands of followers were soon drawn to him, listening to his sermons and joining in his way of life; his followers became known as Franciscan friars.
Continuously pushing himself in the quest for spiritual perfection, Francis was soon preaching in up to five villages per day, teaching a new kind of emotional and personal Christian religion that everyday people could understand. He even went so far as to preach to animals, which garnered criticism and earned him the nickname "God's fool." But Francis's message was spread far and wide, and thousands of people were captivated by what they heard.
In 1224, Francis reportedly received a vision that left him with the stigmata of Christ—marks resembling the wounds Jesus Christ suffered when he was crucified, through his hands, and the gaping lance wound in his side—making Francis the first person to receive the holy wounds of the stigmata. (According to scripture, Francis's wounds never left him for the rest of his life; some believe that his wounds were actually symptoms of leprosy, not proof of a miracle.)
DEATH AND LEGACY
As he approached his death, many predicted that Francis was a saint in the making. When his health began to decline more rapidly, Francis went home. Knights were sent from Assisi to guard him, and to make sure that no one from neighbouring towns would carry him off (the body of a saint was viewed, at the time, as an extremely valuable relic that would bring, among many things, glory to the town where it rested).
Francis of Assisi died on October 3, 1226, at the age of 44, in Assisi, Italy. Today, Francis has had a lasting resonance, with millions of followers across the globe. He was canonized as a saint just two years after his death, on July 16, 1228, by his former protector, Pope Gregory IX. Today, St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint for ecologists—a title honoring his boundless love for animals and nature. Source
St. Francis of Assisi (2013). The Biography Channel website.
Saint Francis of Assisi - Wikipedia
Saint Francis of Assisi's ' father was Pietro di Bernardone, a prosperous silk merchant. He lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi. While going off to war in 1204, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he joined the poor in begging at St. Peter's Basilica. The experience moved him to live in poverty. Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon amassed a following. His Order was authorized by Pope Innocent III in 1210. He then founded the Order of Poor Clares, which became an enclosed religious order for women, as well as the Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance (commonly called the Third Order).
In 1219, he went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the Sultan to put an end to the conflict of the Crusades. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient. He returned to Italy to organize the Order. Once his community was authorized by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. In 1223, Francis arranged for the first Christmas manger scene. In 1224, he received the stigmata, making him the first recorded person to bear the wounds of Christ's Passion. He died during the evening hours of October 3, 1226, while listening to a reading he had requested of Psalm 140.
On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX. He is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment, and is one of the two patron saints of Italy (with Catherine of Siena). It is customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of October 4. He is also known for his love of the Eucharist, his sorrow during the Stations of the Cross, and for the creation of the Christmas creche or Nativity Scene.
Francis of Assisi was one of seven children born to Pietro, and his wife Pica de Bourlemont, about whom little is known except that she was a noblewoman originally from Provence, France. Pietro was in France on business while Francis was born in Assisi, and Pica had him baptized as Giovanni. When his father returned to Assisi, he took to calling him Francesco ("the Frenchman"), possibly in honour of his commercial success and enthusiasm for all things French. Since the child was renamed in infancy, the change can hardly have had anything to do with his aptitude for learning French, as some have thought.
As a youth, Francesco became a devotee of troubadours and was fascinated with all things Transalpine. Although many hagiographers remark about his bright clothing, rich friends, and love of pleasures, his displays of disillusionment toward the world that surrounded him came fairly early in his life, as is shown in the "story of the beggar." In this account, he was selling cloth and velvet in the marketplace on behalf of his father when a beggar came to him and asked for alms. At the conclusion of his business deal, Francis abandoned his wares and ran after the beggar. When he found him, Francis gave the man everything he had in his pockets. His friends quickly chided and mocked him for his act of charity. When he got home, his father scolded him in rage.
In 1201, he joined a military expedition against Perugia and was taken as a prisoner at Collestrada, spending a year as a captive. It is possible that his spiritual conversion was a gradual process rooted in this experience. Upon his return to Assisi in 1203, Francis returned to his carefree life and in 1204, a serious illness led to a spiritual crisis. In 1205, Francis left for Puglia to enlist in the army of the Count of Brienne. A strange vision made him return to Assisi, deepening his ecclesiastical awakening.
According to the hagiographic legend, thereafter he began to avoid the sports and the feasts of his former companions. In response, they asked him laughingly whether he was thinking of marrying, to which he answered, "yes, a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen," meaning his "Lady Poverty". He spent much time in lonely places, asking God for enlightenment. By degrees he took to nursing lepers, the most repulsive victims in the lazar houses near Assisi. After a pilgrimage to Rome, where he joined the poor in begging at the doors of the churches, he said he had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ in the country chapel of San Damiano, just outside of Assisi, in which the Icon of Christ Crucified said to him, "Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins." He took this to mean the ruined church in which he was presently praying, and so he sold some cloth from his father's store to assist the priest there for this purpose.
His father, Pietro, highly indignant, attempted to change his mind, first with threats and then with beatings. In the midst of legal proceedings before the Bishop of Assisi, Francis renounced his father and his patrimony, laying aside even the garments he had received from him in front of the public. For the next couple of months he lived as a beggar in the region of Assisi. Returning to the countryside around the town for two years, he embraced the life of a penitent, during which he restored several ruined chapels in the countryside around Assisi, among them the Porziuncola, the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels just outside the town, which later became his favorite abode.
Founding of the Franciscan Order
At the end of this period (on February 24, 1209, according to Jordan of Giano), Francis heard a sermon that changed his life forever. The sermon was about Matthew 10:9, in which Christ tells his followers they should go forth and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was upon them, that they should take no money with them, nor even a walking stick or shoes for the road. Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty. Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Gospel precept, without staff or scrip, he began to preach repentance. He was soon joined by his first follower, a prominent fellow townsman, the jurist Bernardo di Quintavalle, who contributed all that he had to the work. Within a year Francis had eleven followers. Francis chose never to be ordained a priest and the community lived as "lesser brothers," fratres minores in Latin. The brothers lived a simple life in the deserted lazar house of Rivo Torto near Assisi; but they spent much of their time wandering through the mountainous districts of Umbria, always cheerful and full of songs, yet making a deep impression upon their hearers by their earnest exhortations.
Francis' preaching to ordinary people was unusual since he had no license to do so. In 1209 he composed a simple rule for his followers ("friars"), (the Regula primitiva or “Primitive Rule”) which came from verses in the Bible. The rule was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps.” In 1209, Francis led his first eleven followers to Rome to seek permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new religious Order.
Upon entry to Rome, the brothers encountered Bishop Guido of Assisi, who had in his company Giovanni di San Paolo, the Cardinal Bishop of Sabina. The Cardinal, who was the confessor of Pope Innocent III, was immediately sympathetic to Francis and agreed to represent Francis to the pope. Reluctantly, Pope Innocent agreed to meet with Francis and the brothers the next day. After several days, the pope agreed to admit the group informally, adding that when God increased the group in grace and number, they could return for an official admittance.
The group was tonsured. This was important in part because it recognized Church authority and prevented his following from possible accusations of heresy, as had happened to the Waldensians decades earlier. Though Pope Innocent initially had his doubts, following a dream in which he saw Francis holding up the Basilica of St. John Lateran (the cathedral of Rome, thus the 'home church' of all Christendom), he decided to endorse Francis' Order. This occurred, according to tradition, on April 16, 1210, and constituted the official founding of the Franciscan Order. The group, then the "Lesser Brothers" (Friars Minor or Franciscan Order), preached on the streets and had no possessions. They were centered in Porziuncola, and preached first in Umbria, before expanding throughout Italy.
From then on, his new Order grew quickly with new vocations. When hearing Francis preaching in the church of San Rufino in Assisi in 1209, Clare of Assisi became deeply touched by his message and she realized her calling. Her cousin Rufino, the only male member of the family in their generation, also joined the new Order.
On the night of Palm Sunday, March 28, 1211, Clare snuck out of her family's palace. Francis received Clare at the Porziuncola and hereby established the Order of Poor Ladies, later called Poor Clares. This was an Order for women, and he gave a religious habit, or dress, similar to his own to the noblewoman later known as St. Clare of Assisi, before he then lodged her and a few companions in a nearby monastery of Benedictine nuns. Later he transferred them to San Damiano. There they were joined by many other women of Assisi. For those who could not leave their homes, he later formed the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance. This was a fraternity composed of either laity or clergy whose members neither withdrew from the world nor took religious vows. Instead, they carried out the principles of Franciscan life in their daily lives. Before long this Order grew beyond Italy.
Determined to bring the Gospel to all God’s creatures, Francis sought on several occasions to take his message out of Italy. In the late spring of 1212, he set out for Jerusalem, but he was shipwrecked by a storm on the Dalmatian coast, forcing him to return to Italy.
On May 8, 1213, he was given the use of the mountain of La Verna (Alverna) as a gift from Count Orlando di Chiusi, who described it as “eminently suitable for whoever wishes to do penance in a place remote from mankind.” The mountain would become one of his favorite retreats for prayer. In the same year, Francis sailed for Morocco, but this time an illness forced him to break off his journey in Spain. Back in Assisi, several noblemen (among them Tommaso da Celano, who would later write the biography of St. Francis) and some well-educated men joined his Order. In 1215, Francis went again to Rome for the Fourth Lateran Council. During this time, he probably met a canon, Dominic de Guzman (later to be Saint Dominic, the founder of the Friars Preachers, another Catholic religious order). In 1217, he offered to go to France. Cardinal Ugolino of Segni (the future Pope Gregory IX), an early and important supporter of Francis, advised him against this and said that he was still needed in Italy.
In 1219, accompanied by another friar and hoping to convert the Sultan of Egypt or win martyrdom in the attempt, Francis went to Egypt where a Crusader army had been encamped for over a year besieging the walled city of Damietta two miles (3.2 kilometers) upstream from the mouth of one of the main channels of the Nile. The Sultan, al-Kamil, a nephew of Saladin, had succeeded his father as Sultan of Egypt in 1218 and was encamped upstream of Damietta, unable to relieve it. A bloody and futile attack on the city was launched by the Christians on August 29, 1219, following which both sides agreed to a ceasefire which lasted four weeks.
It was most probably during this interlude that Francis and his companion crossed the Saracen lines and were brought before the Sultan, remaining in his camp for a few days. The visit is reported in contemporary Crusader sources and in the earliest biographies of Francis, but they give no information about what transpired during the encounter beyond noting that the Sultan received Francis graciously and that Francis preached to the Saracens without effect, returning unharmed to the Crusader camp. No contemporary Arab source mentions the visit.
One detail, added by Bonaventure in the official life of Francis (written forty years after the event), concerns an alleged challenge by Francis offering trial-by-fire in order to prove the veracity of the Christian Gospel. Although Bonaventure does not suggest as much, subsequent biographies went further, claiming that a fire was kindled which Francis unhesitatingly entered without suffering burns. Such an incident is depicted in the late 13th c. fresco cycle, attributed to Giotto, in the upper basilica at Assisi (see accompanying illustration). According to some late sources, the Sultan gave Francis permission to visit the sacred places in the Holy Land and even to preach there.
All that can safely be asserted is that Francis and his companion left the Crusader camp for Acre, from where they embarked for Italy in the latter half of 1220. Drawing on a 1267 sermon by Bonaventure, later sources report that the Sultan secretly converted or accepted a death-bed baptism as a result of the encounter with Francis. The Franciscan Order has been present in the Holy Land almost uninterruptedly since 1217 when Brother Elias arrived at Acre. It received concessions from the Mameluke Sultan in 1333 with regard to certain Holy Places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and (so far as concerns the Catholic Church) jurisdictional privileges from Pope Clement VI in 1342.
At Greccio near Assisi, around 1220, Francis celebrated Christmas by setting up the first known presepio or crèche (Nativity scene). His nativity imagery reflected the scene in traditional paintings. He used real animals to create a living scene so that the worshipers could contemplate the birth of the child Jesus in a direct way, making use of the senses, especially sight. Thomas of Celano, a biographer of Francis and Saint Bonaventure both, tell how he only used a straw-filled manger (feeding trough) set between a real ox and donkey. According to Thomas, it was beautiful in its simplicity with the manger acting as the altar for the Christmas Mass.
Reorganization of the Franciscan Order and death
By this time, the growing Order of friars was divided into provinces and groups were sent to France, Germany, Hungary, Spain and to the East. When receiving a report of the martyrdom of five brothers in Morocco, Francis returned to Italy via Venice. Cardinal Ugolino di Conti was then nominated by the Pope as the protector of the Order.
The friars in Italy at this time were causing problems, and as such, Francis had to return in order to correct these problems. The Franciscan Order had grown at an unprecedented rate, when compared to prior religious orders, but its organizational sophistication had not kept up with this growth and had little more to govern it than Francis' example and simple rule. To address this problem, Francis prepared a new and more detailed Rule, the "First Rule" or "Rule Without a Papal Bull" (Regula prima Regula non bullata) which again asserted devotion to poverty and the apostolic life. However, it introduced greater institutional structure, although this was never officially endorsed by the pope.
On September 29, 1220, Francis handed over the governance of the Order to Brother Peter Catani at the Porziuncola. However, Brother Peter died only five months later, on March 10, 1221, and was buried in the Porziuncola. When numerous miracles were attributed to the deceased brother, people started to flock to the Porziuncola, disturbing the daily life of the Franciscans. Francis then prayed, asking Peter to stop the miracles and to obey in death as he had obeyed during his life. The reports of miracles ceased. Brother Peter was succeeded by Brother Elias as Vicar of Francis.
Two years later, Francis modified the "First Rule" (creating the "Second Rule" or "Rule With a Bull"), and Pope Honorius III approved it on November 29, 1223. As the official Rule of the order, it called on the friars "to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience without anything of our own and in chastity." In addition, it set regulations for discipline, preaching, and entry into the order. Once the Rule was endorsed by the Pope, Francis withdrew increasingly from external affairs. During 1221 and 1222, Francis crossed Italy, first as far south as Catania in Sicily and afterwards as far north as Bologna.
While he was praying on the mountain of Verna, during a forty-day fast in preparation for Michaelmas (September 29), Francis is said to have had a vision on or about September 14, 1224, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, as a result of which he received the stigmata. Brother Leo, who had been with Francis at the time, left a clear and simple account of the event, the first definite account of the phenomenon of stigmata. "Suddenly he saw a vision of a seraph, a six-winged angel on a cross. This angel gave him the gift of the five wounds of Christ." Suffering from these stigmata and from trachoma, Francis received care in several cities (Siena, Cortona, Nocera) to no avail. In the end, he was brought back to a hut next to the Porziuncola. Here, in the place where it all began, feeling the end approaching, he spent the last days of his life dictating his spiritual testament. He died on the evening of October 3, 1226, singing Psalm 142(141) – "Voce mea ad Dominum".
On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX (the former cardinal Ugolino di Conti, friend of St Francis and Cardinal Protector of the Order). The next day, the Pope laid the foundation stone for the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi. He was buried on May 25, 1230, under the Lower Basilica, but his tomb was soon hidden on orders of Brother Elias to protect it from Saracen invaders..
His burial place remained unknown until it was discovered in 1818. Pasquale Belli then constructed for his remains a crypt in neo-classical style in the Lower Basilica. It was refashioned between 1927 and 1930 into its present form by Ugo Tarchi, stripping the wall of its marble decorations. In 1978, the remains of St. Francis were examined and confirmed by a commission of scholars appointed by Pope Paul VI, and put in a glass urn in the ancient stone tomb.
Character and legacy
It has been argued that no one in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitate the life, and carry out the work of Christ, in Christ’s own way. This is important in understanding Francis' character and his affinity for the Eucharist and respect for the priests who carried out the sacrament. He and his followers celebrated and even venerated poverty.
Poverty was so central to his character that in his last written work, the Testament, he said that absolute personal and corporate poverty was the essential lifestyle for the members of his order. He believed that nature itself was the mirror of God. He called all creatures his “brothers” and “sisters,” and even preached to the birds and supposedly persuaded a wolf to stop attacking some locals if they agreed to feed the wolf. In his “Canticle of the Creatures” (“Praises of Creatures” or “Canticle of the Sun”), he mentioned the “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon,” the wind and water, and “Sister Death.”
He referred to his chronic illnesses as his “sisters." His deep sense of brotherhood under God embraced others, and declared that “he considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died.” Francis's visit to Egypt and attempted rapprochement with the Muslim world had far-reaching consequences, long past his own death, since after the fall of the Crusader Kingdom it would be the Franciscans, of all Catholics, who would be allowed to stay on in the Holy Land and be recognized as "Custodians of the Holy Land" on behalf of the Catholic Church.
Nature and the environment
Many of the stories that surround the life of St. Francis deal with his love for animals. Perhaps the most famous incident that illustrates the Saint's humility towards nature is recounted in the "Fioretti" ("Little Flowers"), a collection of legends and folklore that sprang up after the Saint's death. It is said that, one day, while Francis was travelling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds." The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. He is often portrayed with a bird, typically in his hand.
Another legend from the Fioretti tells that in the city of Gubbio, where Francis lived for some time, was a wolf "terrifying and ferocious, who devoured men as well as animals." Francis had compassion upon the townsfolk, and so he went up into the hills to find the wolf. Soon, fear of the animal had caused all his companions to flee, though the saint pressed on. When he found the wolf, he made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf to come to him and hurt no one. Miraculously the wolf closed his jaws and lay down at the feet of St. Francis. "Brother Wolf, you do much harm in these parts and you have done great evil," said Francis. "All these people accuse you and curse you...But brother wolf, I would like to make peace between you and the people." Then Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens made a pact between them and the wolf. Because the wolf had “done evil out of hunger, the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly. In return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks. In this manner Gubbio was freed from the menace of the predator. Francis even made a pact on behalf of the town dogs, that they would not bother the wolf again. Finally, to show the townspeople that they would not be harmed, Francis blessed the wolf.
Francis preached the teaching of the Catholic Church, that the world was created good and beautiful by God but suffers a need for redemption because of the primordial sin of man. He preached to man and beast the universal ability and duty of all creatures to praise God (a common theme in the Psalms) and the duty of men to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God's creation and as creatures ourselves.
On November 29, 1979, Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis to be the Patron of Ecology. Then during the World Environment Day 1982, he said that St. Francis' love and care for creation was a challenge for contemporary Catholics and a reminder "not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us."
The same Pope wrote on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 1990, the saint of Assisi "offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation..." He went on to make the point that St Francis: "As a friend of the poor who was loved by God's creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honor and praise to the Lord. The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples."
Pope John Paul II concluded that section of the document with these words, "It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of 'fraternity' with all those good and beautiful things which Almighty God has created."
Saint Francis's feast day is observed on October 4. A secondary feast in honor of the stigmata received by St Francis, celebrated on September 17, was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1585 (later than the Tridentine Calendar) and suppressed in 1604, but was restored in 1615. In the New Roman Missal of 1969, it was removed, as something of a duplication of the main feast on October 4, from the General Calendar and left to the calendars of certain localities and of the Franciscan Order. Wherever the traditional Roman Missal is used, however, the feast of the Stigmata remains in the General Calendar.
On June 18, 1939, Pope Pius XII named Francis a joint Patron Saint of Italy along with Saint Catherine of Siena with the apostolic letter "Licet Commissa", AAS XXXI (1939), 256–257. Pope Pius mentioned the two saints in the laudative discourse he pronounced on May 5, 1949, in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
St. Francis is honored in the Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church USA, the Old Catholic Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and other churches and religious communities on October 4. The Evangelical Church in Germany, however, commemorates St. Francis' feast day on his death day, October 3. Source
- • Canticum Fratris Solis or Laudes Creaturarum, Canticle of the Sun.
- • Prayer before the Crucifix, 1205 (extant in the original Umbrian dialect as well as in a contemporary Latin translation).
- • Regula non bullata, the Earlier Rule, 1221.
- • Regula bullata, the Later Rule, 1223.
- • Testament, 1226.
- • Admonitions.
- • For a complete list, see The Franciscan Experience.
Media / Films
- • The Flowers of St. Francis, a 1950 film directed by Roberto Rossellini and co-written by Federico Fellini
- • Uccellacci e uccellini (The Hawks and the Sparrows), a 1966 film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
- • Francis of Assisi, a 1961 film directed by Michael Curtiz, based on the novel The Joyful Beggar by Louis de Wohl
- • Francis of Assisi (1966 film), a 1966 film directed by Liliana Cavani
- • Brother Sun, Sister Moon, a 1972 film by Franco Zeffirelli
- • Francesco, a 1989 film by Liliana Cavani, contemplatively paced, follows Francis of Assisi's evolution from rich man's son to religious humanitarian, and eventually to full-fledged self-tortured saint. Saint Francis is played by Mickey Rourke, and the woman who later became Saint Clare, is played by Helena Bonham Carter
- • St. Francis, a 2002 film directed by Michele Soavi, starring Raoul Bova and Amélie Daure
- • Clare and Francis, a 2007 film directed by Fabrizio Costa, starring Mary Petruolo and Ettore Bassi
- • Pranchiyettan and the Saint, a 2010 satirical Malayalam film
- • Franz Liszt:
- • Cantico del sol di Francesco d'Assisi, S.4 (sacred choral work, 1862, 1880–81; versions of the Prelude for piano, S. 498c, 499, 499a; version of the Prelude for organ, S. 665, 760; version of the Hosannah for organ and bass trombone, S.677)
- • St. François d'Assise: La Prédication aux oiseaux, No. 1 of Deux Légendes, S.175 (piano, 1862–63)
- • Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Fioretti (voice and orchestra, 1920)
- • Gian Francesco Malipiero: San Francesco d'Assisi (soloists, chorus and orchestra, 1920–1921)
- • Amy Beach: Canticle of the Sun (soloists, chorus and orchestra, 1928)
- • Leo Sowerby: Canticle of the Sun (cantata for mixed voices with accompaniment for piano or orchestra, 1944)
- • Francis Poulenc: Quatre petites prières de Saint François d'Assise (men's chorus, 1948)
- • Seth Bingham: The Canticle of the Sun (cantata for chorus of mixed voices with soli ad lib. and accompaniment for organ or orchestra, 1949)
- • Juiusz Łuciuk: Święty Franciszek z Asyżu (oratorio for soprano, tenor, baritone, mixed chorus and orchestra, 1976)
- • Olivier Messiaen: opera Saint François d'Assise (1975–83)
- • William Walton: Cantico del sol (chorus, 1973–74)
- • Sofia Gubaidulina: Sonnengesang (solo cello, chamber choir and percussion, 1997)
- • Balada de Francisco [Ballad of Francis] voices accompanied by guitar – Juventude Franciscana and O.F.S – "Semeadores da Paz – JUFRA (1999)
- • Saint Francis of Assisi, written and illustrated by Demi, Wisdom Tales, 2012, ISBN 978-1-937786-04-5
- • Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, by Augustine Thompson, O.P., Cornell University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-080145-070-9
- • Francis of Assisi in the Sources and Writings, by Robert Rusconi and translated by Nancy Celaschi, Franciscan Institute Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-57659-152-9
- • The Stigmata of Francis of Assisi, Franciscan Institute Publications, 2006. ISBN 978-1-57659-140-6
- • Francis of Assisi – The Message in His Writings, by Thaddee Matura, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1997. ISBN 978-1-57659-127-7
- • Saint Francis of Assisi, by John R. H. Moorman, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1987. ISBN 978-0-8199-0904-6
- • First Encounter with Francis of Assisi, by Damien Vorreux and translated by Paul LaChance, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1979. ISBN 978-0-8199-0698-4
- • St. Francis of Assisi, by Raoul Manselli, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1985. ISBN 978-0-8199-0880-3
- • Saint Francis of Assisi, by Thomas of Celano and translated by Placid Hermann, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8199-0554-3
- • Francis the Incomparable Saint, by Joseph Lortz, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1986, ISBN 978-1-57659-067-6
- • Respectfully Yours: Signed and Sealed, Francis of Assisi, by Edith van den Goorbergh and Theodore Zweerman, Franciscan Institute Publications, 2001. ISBN 978-1-57659-178-9
- • The Admonitions of St Francis: Sources and Meanings, by Robert J. Karris, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1999. ISBN 978-1-57659-166-6
- • We Saw Brother Francis, by Francis de Beer, Franciscan Institute Publications, 1983. ISBN 978-0-8199-0803-2
- • Sant Francesco (Saint Francis, 1895), a book of forty-three Saint Francis poems by Catalan poet-priest Jacint Verdaguer, three of which are included in English translation in Selected Poems of Jacint Verdaguer: A Bilingual Edition, edited and translated by Ronald Puppo, with an introduction by Ramon Pinyol i Torrents (University of Chicago, 2007). The three poems are "The Turtledoves", "Preaching to Birds" and "The Pilgrim".
- • Saint Francis of Assisi (1923), a book by G. K. Chesterton
- • Blessed Are The Meek (1944). a book by Zofia Kossak
- • Saint Francis of Assisi a Doubleday Image Book translated by T. O'Conor Sloane, Ph.D., LL.D. in 1955 from the Danish original researched and written by Johannes Jorgensen and published in 1912 by Longmans, Green and Company, Inc.
- • Saint Francis (1962), a book by Nikos Kazantzakis
- • Scripta Leonis, Rufini Et Angeli Sociorum S. Francisci: The Writings of Leo, Rufino and Angelo Companions of St. Francis (1970), edited by Rosalind B. Brooke, in Latin and English, containing testimony recorded by intimate, long-time companions of St. Francis
- • Saint Francis and His Four Ladies (1970), a book by Joan Mowat Erikson
- • The Life and Words of St. Francis of Assisi (1973), by Ira Peck
- • The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi (1996), a book by Patricia Stewart
- • Reluctant Saint: The Life of Francis of Assisi (2002), a book by Donald Spoto
- • Flowers for St Francis (2005), a book by Raj Arumugam
- • Chasing Francis, 2006, a book by Ian Cron
- • John Tolan, St. Francis and the Sultan: The Curious History of a Christian-Muslim Encounter. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
- • Vita di un uomo: Francesco d'Assisi (1995) a book by Chiara Frugoni, preface by Jacques Le Goff, Torino: Einaudi.
- • Francis, Brother of the Universe (1982), a 48 page comic book by Marvel Comics on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi written by Father Roy Gasnik O.F.M. and Mary Jo Duffy, artwork by John Buscema and Marie Severin, lettering by Jim Novak and edited by Jim Shooter.
- • In Rubén Darío's poem Los Motivos Del Lobo (The Reasons Of The Wolf) St. Francis tames a terrible wolf only to discover that the human heart harbors darker desires than those of the beast.
- • In Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan Karamazov invokes the name of 'Pater Seraphicus,' an epithet applied to St. Francis, to describe Alyshosha's spiritual guide Zosima. The reference is found in Goethe's "Faust," Part 2, Act 5, lines 11918–25.
- • St. Francis Preaches to the Birds (2005), chamber concerto for violin by composer Lewis Nielson
- • Rich Mullins co-wrote Canticle of the Plains, a musical, with Mitch McVicker. Released in 1997, it was based on the life of St Francis of Assisi, but told as a western story.
- • Bernard Malamud's novel The Assistant (1957) features a protagonist, Frank Alpine, who exemplifies the life of St. Francis in mid-twentieth-century Brooklyn, New York City.
- • Michele Paulicelli's musical Forza Venite Gente is completely dedicated to the entire life of St. Francis, with several songs about the main events of his life.
Francis was born in the hill-town of Assisi in Umbria, in the year 1181 or 1182. His father called him Francesco, "the French man," though his baptismal name was John. As a youth he was ardent in his amusements and seemed carried away by the mere joy of living. Francis was given plenty of money, which he spent carelessly. He was high-spirited, but too fastidious to lead a completely dissolute life. During a petty war between the towns of Assisi and Perugia, he was taken prisoner. He remained cheerful during a year of captivity and kept up the spirits of his companions. Soon after his release he suffered a long illness. This he bore with patience.
After his recovery Francis joined a knight of Assisi who was riding south to fight for the Pope against the Germans. Having equipped himself with sumptuous apparel and fine armor, he fared forth. On the way he met a knight shabbily clad, and was so touched with compassion that he exchanged clothes with him. Later in the campaign Francis fell ill. While lying helpless, a voice seemed to tell him to turn back, and Francis obeyed.
At home he began to take long rambles in the country and to spend many hours by himself; he felt contempt for a life wasted on trivial and transitory things. It was a time of spiritual crisis during which he was quietly searching for something worthy of his complete devotion. A deep compassion was growing within him.
Riding one day in the plains below Assisi, he met a leper whose loathsome sores filled Francis with horror. Overcoming his revulsion, he leapt from his horse and pressed into the leper's hand all the money he had with him, then kissed the hand. This was a turning point in his life. He started visiting hospitals, especially the refuge for lepers, which most persons avoided. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he emptied his purse at St. Peter's tomb, then went out to the swarm of beggars at the door, gave his clothes to the one that looked poorest, dressed himself in the fellow's rags, and stood there all day with hand outstretched. The rich young man would experience for himself the bitterness and humiliation of poverty.
One day after his return from Rome, as he prayed in the humble little church of St. Damian outside the walls of Assisi, he felt the eyes of the Christ on the crucifix gazing at him and heard a voice saying three times, "Francis, go and repair My house, which you see is falling down." The building, he observed, was old and ready to fall. Assured that he had now found the right path, Francis went home and took cloth out of his father's warehouse and sold it, together with the horse that carried it, brought the money to the poor priest of St. Damian's church, and asked if he might stay there. Although the priest accepted Francis' companionship, he refused the money, which Francis left lying on a window sill. His father pursued him to St. Damian's and angrily declared that he must either return home or renounce his share in his inheritance-and pay the purchase price of the horse and the goods he had taken as well. Francis made no objection to being disinherited, but protested that the other money now belonged to God and the poor.
Henceforth he was completely cut off from his family, and began a strange new life. He roamed the highways, singing God's praise. When he returned to St. Damian's the priest welcomed him, and Francis now began in earnest to repair the church, begging for building stones in the streets of Assisi and carrying off those that were given him. He labored with the masons in the actual reconstruction, and, by the spring of 1208, the church was once more in good condition. Next he repaired an old chapel dedicated to St. Peter. By this time many people, impressed by his sincerity and enthusiasm, were willing to contribute to the work.
On the feast of St. Matthias, in 1209, the way of life he was to follow was revealed to him. The Gospel appointed for this day was Matthew 10 : 7-19: And going, preach, saying The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.... Freely have you received, freely give. Take neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purses . . . nor two coats nor shoes nor a staff.... Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.... These words suddenly became Christ's direct charge to him.
He cast off his shoes, staff, and leathern girdle, but kept his rough woolen coat, which he tied about him with a rope. This was the habit he gave his friars the following year. In this garb he went to Assisi the next morning and began to speak to the people he met on the shortness of life, the need of repentence, and the love of God. His salutation to those he passed on the road was, "Our Lord give you peace." For a year Francis and his now numerous companions preached among the peasants and helped them in the fields. A brief rule which has not been preserved was drawn up. Apparently it consisted of little more than passages from the Gospel which Francis read to his first followers, with brief injunctions to manual labor, simplicity, and poverty.
Soon the abbot of the Benedictine monastery gave them in perpetuity their beloved Portiuncula chapel and the ground on which it stood. Francis would accept only the use of the property. The spirit of holy poverty must govern their order, if they were to be disciples of Him who had not where to lay His head. In token of this arrangement, the friars sent to the Benedictines every year as rent a basket of fish caught in a neighboring river. In return, the monks gave the friars a barrel of oil. This annual exchange of gifts still goes on between the Benedictines of St. Peter's in Assisi and the Franciscans of the Portiuncula. On the ground around the chapel the friars quickly built themselves some huts of wood and clay, enclosing them by a hedge. This was the first Franciscan monastery.
Francis never wanted to found a religious order -- this former knight thought that sounded too military. He thought of what he was doing as expressing God's brotherhood. His companions came from all walks of life, from fields and towns, nobility and common people, universities, the Church, and the merchant class. Francis practiced true equality by showing honor, respect, and love to every person. The early years were a time of training in poverty, mutual help, and brotherly love. The friars worked at their various trades and in the fields of neighboring farmers to earn their bread. When work was lacking, they begged, though they were forbidden to take money. They were especially at the service of lepers, and those who were helpless and suffering. Francis is especially admired by those who practice Celtic Spirituality because he was reverently in love with all natural phenomena -- sun, moon, air, water, fire, flowers; his quick warm sympathies responded to all that lived. His tenderness for and his power over animals were noted again and again. Much has been written about Francis' love of nature but his relationship was deeper than that. We call someone a lover of nature if they spend their free time in the woods or admire its beauty. But Francis really felt that nature, all God's creations, were part of his brotherhood. The sparrow was as much his brother as the pope.
Francis did not try to abolish poverty, he tried to make it holy. Following the Gospel literally, Francis and his companions went out to preach two by two. At first, listeners were understandably hostile to these men in rags trying to talk about God's love. People even ran from them for fear they'd catch this strange madness! But soon these same people noticed that these barefoot beggars wearing sacks seemed filled with constant joy. They celebrated life. And people had to ask themselves: Could one own nothing and be happy? Soon those who had met them with mud and rocks, greeted them with bells and smiles.
Francis and Cardinal Ugolino drew up a rule for the fraternity of lay men and women who wished to associate themselves with the Friars Minor and follow as best they could the rules of humility, labor, charity, and voluntary poverty, without withdrawing from the world: the Franciscan tertiaries or Third Order of today. These congregations of lay penitents became a power in the religious life of the late Middle Ages.
Francis' final years were filled with suffering as well as humiliation. Not long before his death, during a retreat on Holy Cross Day, Francis received the stigmata, the marks of the Lord's wounds in his own hands and feet and side. As his health was growing worse, he consented to put himself in the hands of the Pope's physician. For two weeks he lost his sight, but finally triumphed over suffering and gloom, and in a sudden ecstasy one day composed the beautiful, triumphant "Canticle of the Sun," and set it to music.
As the end drew near, Francis sent a last message to Clare and her nuns. While the brothers stood about him singing the "Canticle of the Sun," with the new stanza he had lately given them, in praise of Sister Death, he repeated the one hundred and forty-first Psalm, "I cried to the Lord with my voice; with my voice I made supplication to the Lord." At his request he was stripped of his clothing and laid for a while on the ground that dying he might rest in the arms of Lady Poverty. Back upon his pallet once more, he called for bread and broke it and to each one present gave a piece in token of their love. Source