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Disarming simplicity and voluntary radical poverty for the love of Christ characterize Saint Francis of Assisi. Moreover, he worked tirelessly for the good of the Church and the spread of the Gospel to the non Christian world.
A great figure among the Saints of the Church, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that what is most important is to live according to the call of God Who has His plan personally for each one of us.
He discovered his call only after a long time dedicated to insistent prayer, asking the Lord to help him discern His will for him.
He lived by the end of the 12th century, (1182-1226), the time of the Crusades, a troubled period when many Italian cities were at arms against each other, the heresy of the Cathars was misleading people in Spain and the South of France and the Church was in crisis from within and from without.
One day as he was deep in prayer at the feet of the Crucifix in the dilapidated chapel of Saint Damian, near Assisi -Italy, an interior voice was addressed to him: “Francis, go and rebuild my house that is falling to ruins”. Francis, initially, took the command to the letter and attempted to repair the small chapel; his efforts, however, led him to finally found three orders, namely the Order of Friars Minor, o.f.m. (the Order of the Little Brothers), the Order of the Poor Dames (Poor Claires) and a Third Order for lay people engaged in the world, men and / or women, married or not.
His influence was great. Through his example, his words and his work Saint Francis and his brothers praised God’s love and the holy way of life. They were preaching everywhere: on the streets, at the squares, on the castles’ walls, in the churches.
His love for Christ made him travel as far as the Holy Land and Egypt where he tried to convert the Sultan of Damietta. To Saint Francis we owe the founding of the Custody of the Holy Land which started in Saint John of Accra in 1218.
In September 1224 and while he was deep in prayer he received the stigmata (the five wounds of Christ on the Cross).
Saint Francis of Assisi was canonized (declared a saint) on 16 July 1228 by Pope Gregory IX. His feast day is on October 4th.
His love for spontaneous hymns praising God mark the beginning of Italian verse and, justly, he is considered the precursor of Dante. His is the Canticle of the Sun a hymn praising God for the beauty and unity in nature and the joy of man who is aware of it and thanks the Creator through it.
To Saint Francis we owe, also, the so much-loved custom of the the Nativity creche for Christmas .
The Canticle of the Sun
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.
(English translation, source: Wikipedia)
The Poverello of God
Love and piety and admiration for the hero and great martyr possessed me as I was writing this tale, more true than reality; big tear drops often smudged the manuscripts, as if a hand with a renewed wound caused by being nailed, eternally nailed was passing in front of me in the breeze; as I was writing I was feeling its invisible presence all around me. Because to me Saint Francis is the prototype of man militant, who with incessant and most cruel strife he manages to bring about the highest duty of man, higher than morality and truth and beauty, namely to alter the substance of the matter with which God entrusted him into spirit.
(From the prologue of “The Poverello of God” by the Greek writer N. Kazantzakis, 1953)
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