Saint Francis was born in the small town of Assisi, Italy, in the year 1182, a town 90 miles north of Rome. The story of his life is both fascinating and inspiring, and who lived in simplicity and poverty; a passion for the Gospel and Jesus Christ. A story of holiness and love of God; Saint Francis gave up his own self to become a “Mirror of Christ.”
Saint Francis was often pictured amidst birds and animals in a time when animals were treated very cruelly with little value. Saint Frances understood that respect begins with the lowliest of all creatures. The genuine holiness of Saint Francis is shown in the respect and great love he had for all these creatures created by God. Saint Francis would be considered the first advocate for animals, a man before his time, about 700 years to be precise.
Saint Francis lived and preached a life of poverty and love of God to all men. Although, Francis did not, however, start his life that way; in fact, the life of Saint Francis of Assisi is a “riches to rags” sort of tale. Francis was neither poor nor saintly in his youth. A wealthy merchant’s son and a wild young bon vivant with refined tastes, especially one who enjoyed good food and drink. Francis was also a troubadour, composer and performer who loved to sing, and who also loved fine clothes.
Francis dreamed of an adventurous life of chivalry and knighthood, and at the age of 20 when the town of Assisi fought Perugia, Francis joined in the battle. But, he was wounded, captured and spent over a year in a Perugian prison dungeon where he got sick and contracted malaria.
Ransomed by his father, and released from the Perugian prison a more reflective Francis returned to Assisi. The languishing prison experience with the suffering and distress; the sickness finally overtook him and Francis felt the first stirrings of a vocation which were awakened; to peace and justice. Francis completely changed his life; starting by giving all he owned to the poor. He became poor because Jesus was poor. Francis helped the sick and the lepers, and preached a message of poverty, humility, and joy. Francis spent years wandering, preaching, and singing canticles, hymns from the Bible.
In Francis’s time, the Catholic Church embodied the strictest type of hierarchy; Francis preached a humble faith, much closer to the life of Christ. Francis set up a community to live by his ideals and to led a simple life with his simple message. “The love of God for us, through Jesus, and our response to love God through Jesus by loving others.” Saint Francis combined the contemplative life with an active one to bring the gospel to the people. Francis is a Saint of All Ages. His message to the world is a timeless one, as relevant today as it was back then. Saint Francis is second only to Jesus Christ, and no other individual has ever made such a positive influence on the Church and the world.
The Classic Prayer of Saint Francis:
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.
This simple prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi provides a path to follow in living, life’s conduct and character; in ones thoughts, speech and actions within ones day to day relationships with other fellow human beings and with all life on this earth and in this world.
Saint Francis was born in Assisi; he was a poet, singer, wild youth, and saint, and his tomb is in a crypt below Saint Francis Basilica, a popular pilgrimage and tourist site in the rolling hills of Umbria in Assisi.
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