A Garner of Saints – Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi by El GrecoArticle

Born at Assisi in Umbria in 1182, his father Peter Bernardone, being a wealthy merchant. After a slight education his father put him into business, when he entered upon the life of amusement and enjoyment of people of his station, though he never refused an alms to any poor beggar. After recovering from a severe illness he was riding out in new clothes, when he met a poor gentleman wretchedly clothed, and at once insisted upon an exchange of garments. That night he dreamt he saw a palace filled with arms marked with the sign of the cross, and heard a voice saying that the arms were for him and his soldiers if he would wear the cross and fight under its standard. This vision led him to reflect, and the first result was that on meeting a leper he overcame his repugnance and went and embraced him. While praying in the church of Saint Damian, the image of the crucifix miraculously addressed him, saying, “Go to thy house which is falling in ruins.” From that moment he could never regard a crucifix unmoved. He believed that he had a mission to repair the church, and returning home he took several pieces of cloth and carried the price to the priest at Saint Damian, and asked. to be allowed to remain with him. The priest refused the money but agreed to receive him. Some days after Francis appeared in the streets of Assisi so ill clothed that the people thought him mad. His father took him, home and shut him up, but he was released by his mother and returned to Saint Damian. His father pursued him thither and he there renounced his inheritance, throwing off his very clothes, the bishop covering, him with his robes and taking Francis under his protection. For some time after, this he wandered about begging from place to place, exposed to insults and injuries, all of which he cheerfully bore, and finally established himself a mile from Assisi near a church of the Benedictines called the Portiuncule. Many persons of every condition came to join him at this spot, to whom.h§e» taught the gospel and inculcated the virtue of poverty; He applied to Pope Innocent III for the approval of his order; and at first the pope was ill. disposed to grant it, but dreaming that night that he saw the Lateran church falling and propped up by Saint Francis, he was convinced that the demand was just and confirmed the rule in, 1210. One night Francis had gone apart from his brethren to pray, some of them were awakened and saw a fiery chariot enter the door and drive round the court; a daizling circle of fire rested upon it, which they. recognised as being the spirit of Saint Francis, present with ‘them but parted from his body. A friar who travelled with him had a vision, and in his ecstacy saw Heaven and a shining throne there, while a voice told him that it was destined for Francis. There was a friar who had a great reputation for sanctity but who never confessed with words but only by nods. Saint Francis came and admonished the man to confess once or twice a week, but he putting his finger on his mouth and shaking his head refused to confess. After a few days he was taken with vomiting and perished miserably, thus showing that his pretended piety was of the evil one. Civil commotions having arisen in Arezzo, Francis perceived devils descending on the city. Calling brother Silvester to him, he directed him to go to the gate of the city and command the devils in God’s name to depart. When he had done this the devils immediately fled and the citizens were at peace and unity. Francis greatly desired to convert the Moslems and to eam the crown of martyrdom. Proceeding to the east, he appeared before the Soldan at Damietta and ofl’ered to pass through the fire to prove the truth of his mission. When the Soldan refused, he ofi’ered to cast himself on the fire if the Soldan and all his subjects would embrace Christianity. This the Soldan also declined, but ordered that Francis should be conducted back to Italy in safety. From this time his sanctity was redoubled. He was lifted from earth in an ecstacy and communed with God. For the instruction of his followers, he performed in a miracle play representing the nativity. At another time when Francis and his companions were journeying over a desert mountain in the heat of summer they were exhausted by heat and thirst, and the saint by his prayers caused a fountain to spring from the rock. As he was passing through the Venetian marshes he arrived at a place where many birds were gathered together, and when he saw this he ran towards them and began to preach to them as if they had been reasonable creatures, exhorting them to praise their Creator; and as he was speaking, the birds listened with every mark of attention, and though he passed through their midst and touched many with his robe yet not one flew away before he had given them his blessing and dismissed them with the sign of the cross. Being the guest of the young count of Celano he took the opportunity to exhort him to confess his sins, as he would soon be in another place. His host acquiesced, ordered his household, and received absolution. Soon after they had sat down to the table he suddenly expired. On one occasion he preached before Pope Honorius III and his court. But the most signal favour accorded to Saint Francis took place when he was on the Mount Averno. One morning as he was engaged in praying he saw a seraph with six shining wings, which descended towards him, and between the wings appeared a vision of the crucified Saviour, and he fell into an ecstacy and received the five holy wounds or stigmata as visible marks in his own body. In the year 1224 when Anthony of Padua was preaching to a general chapter of the Franciscans at Arles, Saint Francis appeared in the midst of them with his arms extended in the form of a cross. As he approached his end he did not relax his severities, and though his sickness endured a long. time he caused himself to be laid on the bare ground. Summoning the brethren to him he divided the sacrament with them, and thus with a joyful spirit he ‘departed in 1226 at the age of forty-four. His soul was perceived by a friar, a moon in size and a sun in splendour. A servant of the monks named Augustine who was near death and had long lost the power of speech suddenly cried out, “Wait for me, father, for I am coming with thee.” When the bystanders asked what it was, he said, “Did you not see our father Francis ascending to Heaven,” and immediately expired. A woman who had been devoted to Francis had recently died, and the priests were celebrating her obsequies, when she suddenly arose on the bed and said to one of the priests, “Father, I wish to confess, for I was dead and was to be sent to captivity, as I had not confessed a certain sin, but by the intercession of Saint Francis I am permitted to return to the flesh and relieve my soul of this burden.” And after she had confessed and received absolution, she slept in the Lord. After the death of Saint Francis his body was laid on a bier, and the people of Assisi flocked to see it. One of the friars named Jerome being sceptical about the stigmata, came to see and to feel them. The funeral convoy stopped before the church of Saint Damian, where Saint Clare and her nuns were established. They came out to kiss the stigmata, and Clare endeavoured to draw out one of the nails, but could not succeed, and dipped a handkerchief in the blood which flowed. The canonisation took place in 1228. Gregory IX had expressed some doubts with regard to the stigmata, but in the night Saint Francis appeared to him and reproved him for his unbelief, and exposing his side filled a cup with the blood which flowed from the wound there, and the pope on waking found this vessel in his hand. Three other posthumous miracles of Saint Francis have been commemorated in art. A man who had been mortally wounded by robbers, and who was given up by his physicians, invoked Saint Francis, who appeared attended by two angels, and healed him. A child of the Spini family fell from the window of the Palazzo Spini and was killed. As he was being carried to burial his parents invoked Saint Francis, who appeared and restored him to life. A bishop falsely accused of heresy invoked the aid of Saint Francis who appeared in the sky and vindicated his innocence. 4th October.

Attributes

  • The stigmata and the Franciscan habit.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Francis of Assisi”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 19 April 2017. Web. 21 October 2017. <>