St. Francis of Assisi (1182-4October 1226)
St. Francis was born in Assisi in 1182, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, who spent much time in France (hence the nickname Francisco). After sickness and military service he heard Christ tell him to fix his falling down house. Francis took this literally and sold a bale of silk and used the money to restore the church. His father was not happy about this and he denounced Francis and disinherited him. Francis gave his father back his purse, and is said to have laid down his clothes to depart naked. Frances claimed for his bride the Lady Poverty, and begged unused stones and did the work on St. Damien’s himself, doing both the manual labour on the church and to earn food. He also scrounged food from the garbage. He stayed with the priest, and took care of the lepers as well, cleaning and washing them, as well as feeding them.
Eventually some other young men took up with him, and the Order of Friars Minor was born. In 1210 it was made official by the Pope, and Francis was ordained to the diaconate so he could read the Gospels to his Friars. Francis and his friars not only rebuilt the crumbling church of St. Damien, but renovated the church in a time when clergy were becoming a little too involved with money. His friars went out, following the Gospel to take nothing with them and to give without charge. They preached the Gospel, using words when necessary. Frances probably also set up the first manger scene. He also went to the Holy Land in 1219 to talk with the Sultan, volunteering to walk through the fire to prove the truth of Christianity. He did set up an armistice, but sadly the Christian rulers would not agree to it. There was one good result; the Franciscans were made guardians of the Christian shrines in the Holy Land.
Sadly, the same thing happened to the Order of Friar’s Minor as happened to the early church. Many people joined seeing the joy of the Friars, but were not ready to embrace Lady Poverty, not realizing the joy of being unencumbered by possessions.. While the order was small, Francis was able to keep this practice up. After he retired though, Franciscans began to own houses and other property, and fell quickly from the high ideals of Francis.
Aside from his joy, Francis was also known for his love of animals, whom he often preached to, and which would obey him. During a 40 day fast near the end of his life he received the stigmata, for which he gave thanks, now being able to know first hand the sufferings of Christ. Francis died, October 4, 1226 singing Psalm 141. Francis is one of the most admired of all saints, but the least imitated. Francis wrote many songs showing his joy, some of which we have with us today. A good way to celebrate the day is watching the movie, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” about the life of St. Francis. May we learn to be joyful, needing only the Lord Jesus Christ, and nothing else.
Collect: Father, your servant Francis gave up the riches of the world to serve you in poverty. Guide us that we would not only admire Francis, but seek to imitate him as he imitated you. Make us oh Lord, instruments of your peace and help us to know that it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, in giving that we receive and that in dying we are born to everlasting life, this we ask through our Saviour, Yeshuah haMoshiach who left his place in heaven to show us the way to you. (white)
Matthew 10:7-10, Psalm 141