October 4th, marks the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. This popular saint committed more than his fair share of sin, sought nobility, honor, and material wealth in his younger years, and took a fairly long time to repent and give his life to Christ. Yet, he was able to tune his heart so closely to God’s that he left a legacy of the Franciscan order and even had our current pope take his name!
Born in 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant, St. Francis was originally baptized Giovanni, after John the Baptist, but his father insisted on calling him Francesco. He sought honor by joining the military, and was even captured prisoner for one year, but turned away from that life when God spoke to him in a dream. He heard the voice of the Lord at a later time while he was praying in church, this time telling him to repair the church. He understood this to mean the physical building. St. Francis’s conversion of heart took time – it wasn’t until later he realized he was to “repair the Church” by encouraging souls to turn to Christ and His Church.
As St. Francis saw the emptiness of material wealth, and experienced family tension because of it, he eschewed money and began to trust God for his food, clothing, and shelter. Although he was never ordained a priest, he was made a deacon, and preached obedience to God and the Church. He saw the sinful lives of some clergy and admonished them, but always with kindness, obedience, and respect. Rather than reforming in rebellion, he called others on to live their lives more according to God’s will and the teachings of the Church.
The Franciscan Order was founded in 1209. Within a year he had gained followers, both men and women, seeking to live a life of true poverty and service. Today, there are over 30,000 Franciscan Brothers worldwide today serving as Religious. In addition to that, in the United States there are over 17,000 Franciscans who do not live in a Religious community (referred to as secular Franciscans).
- He and St. Dominic (Order of Preachers/ Dominicans) were at the same Fourth Lateran Council that affirmed transubstantiation and papal primacy.
- He once received the stigmata during a 40 day fast in preparation for Michaelmas.
- He was one of 7 children.
Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Peace Prayer of St. Francis, set to music.