Monday, October 4, 2010

Memorial of St Francis of Assisi

"Francis was born at Assisi in Umbria.  From his early youth he followed the example of his father, and busied himself with merchandise.  It befell one day that, contrary to his usage, he had thrust from him a beggar, who cried for money for Christ's sake, when, being cut to the heart with regret, he gave him large alms, and promised to God from that day forth never to deny to any that asked of him.  He fell after this into a grievous sickness, and from the time that he was healed thereof, he gave himself more earnestly to works of love for his neighbour.  At length he became fain in this sort to be perfect, even as the Lord hath said in the Gospel, and gave to the poor whatsoever he had.  His father would not have it so, and brought him before the Bishop of Assisi, that he might renounce all right to his inheritance.  He cheerfully gave up all to his father, even to his clothes, telling them that now he should be able with more utter dependence to say: Our Father, who art in heaven.

He heard read the words of the Gospel: Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes.  Thereupon he determined that that should be his rule of living.  He took off his shoes, and contented himself with one coat.  When he had gathered twelve comrades, he founded the Order of Friars Minor.  He went to Rome in the same year, to get from the Apostolic See a confirmation of his Order.  When he came Pope Innocent III thrust him away.  Thereafter he dreamt that he saw the Church of the most Holy Saviour falling, and whom he had cast forth bearing it up with his shoulders.  He bade therefore that he should be sought for and brought again before him, welcomed him kindly, and approved all the Rule which he had established.  Francis therefore sent his Friars into all quarters of the world to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He himself was fain to find some occasion of martyrdom, and therefore made a voyage into Syria, but the Sultan treated him with the greatest kindness, offering him many gifts, and, since he could do no good, he returned again to Italy.

When there had already been built many houses of Friars of his Order, he withdrew himself into a most secret place upon Mount Alverno, and began to fast for forty days in honour of the holy Archangel Michael.  Upon the Feastday of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, he saw a vision of a crucified Seraph, which left in his hands and feet holes with nails therein, and in his side a great wound.  Holy Bonaventure hath left it in writing that he once heard Pope Alexander IV, when preaching, testify that he had himself seen these marks.  It was a sign of such love of Christ toward him as stirred up the great wonder of all men.  Two years thereafter he fell sick unto death, and was fain to be carried into the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, that he might give up the breath of life in the same place where God had breathed into him the breath of the life of grace.  Being there laid on the earth, sprinkled with ashes, and covered with an old habit, he exhorted the Friars to be poor and lowly, and to cleave to the faith of the Holy Church of Rome, after which he began to recite the 141st Psalm: I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and in uttering the words, The righteous wait for me, until thou reward me, he gave up the ghost, on the 4th day of October.  He was famous for miracles, and Pope Gregory IX added his name to the list of the Saints."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X 

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