Wednesday October 4 - Feast of St Francis of Assisi

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St. Francis of Assisi

Francis was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1181 or 1182. The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, he dressed himself in the finest clothes and spent money freely. He was popular and fun-loving, spending his time and money throwing parties for his friends. Seeking adventure and glory, Francis went to war in 1201. He was taken prisoner and became seriously ill. He was freed after a year and returned home. When he recovered from his sickness, he tried again to go into battle, hoping to become a knight. But on the way he heard the Lord telling him to go back to his home in Assisi, where he would learn what he was to do with his life.

Back home, Francis realized that he had been wasting precious time. He became aware that he should be serving Jesus. He began by praying more and making sacrifices to grow strong in spirit. He often gave money to the poor, and once he even traded his own clothes for a poor man’s rags so that he could experience the man’s extreme poverty. He took care of the lepers in the nearby hospital. Still, he felt he must do more.

It is not hard to imagine how his former rich friends must have looked at him now! His father was ashamed of his son’s strange new ways, and he brought Francis to the bishop of Assisi, hoping the bishop would be able to bring the young man to his senses. Instead, Francis returned to his father everything he had received from him and declared that he was no longer dependent on him. From that moment on, God in heaven became his Father, and Francis placed himself under the protection of the bishop.

Francis became a “knight” of the “Lady Poverty,” and he began to live as a beggar. His food was whatever kind people gave him. Everywhere he went, he urged people to stop sinning and to return to God. Soon many began to realize how close Francis was to God, and they became his disciples. That is how the great Franciscan family of priests and brothers, sisters, and lay people began. They helped the poor and sick and preached everywhere. Even after the Order had spread all over Italy, Francis insisted that they should not own anything. He wanted the friars to love poverty as he did.

St. Francis lived the Gospel as perfectly and as joyfully as he could. He tried to make his life a copy of the life of Jesus. As a reward for his great love, Jesus gave him his own wounds in his hands, feet, and side. This happened in 1224, two years before Francis died.

Toward the end of his life, he became very sick. With joy, he welcomed death as a sister. He asked to be laid on the ground and covered with an old habit. Then he urged his brothers to love God, to love being poor, and to live the Gospel. “I have done my part,” he said. “May Jesus teach you to do yours.” Francis died on October 3, 1226. On July 16, 1228, Pope Gregory IX procalimed him a saint.

St. Francis’ life of poverty was a sign that it’s not material things that make us satisfied and happy. True joy comes from loving God and patterning our lives on Christ. We can ask St. Francis to show us how to live a life of Gospel simplicity and joy.


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