Friday, October 4, 2013

Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 - 1226)

Today (Friday, October 4th) is the Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 - 1226).

(The following was taken from a Wikipedia article)  Saint Francis was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher.  He founded the men's religious Order of Friars Minor (OFM or the Franciscans), the women’s Order of St. Clare (the Poor Clares), and the Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance (the Third Order) for men and women not able to live the lives of itinerant preachers.  Though he was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.

Francis' father was a prosperous silk merchant.  Francis 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. 

In 1219, he went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the Sultan to put an end to the conflict of the Crusades.  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 Nativity Scene.

My thoughts:  
Saint Francis literally lived Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."; "Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth."; "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."  

We are not all called to live a life of poverty as Saint Francis was, but he is an excellent roll model for us to follow.  In a world that lives by a "profit at any price" attitude, it's grounding to keep in mind the example of Saint Francis that money can't buy lasting happiness. 

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