ST. FRANCIS: HIS LIFE, STIGMATA AND CONTRIBITIONS TO CHRISTIANITY

ST. FRANCIS

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St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was one of the greatest figures of Christianity and founder of the Franciscan order of monks. He lived an ascetic life of poverty, was famous for his love of all creatures and preached compassion and love for the poor, dispossessed and outcasts.

Canonized in 1228, only two years after his death, St. Francis kissed lepers, gave away all his possessions and preached poverty was holy. He once said, "Your God is of your flesh. He lives in your nearest neighbor, in every man." He and the Franciscans had a lot a to do with making Christianity palatable for the mainstream. His name was attached to many churches and the city of San Francisco.

St. Francis is honored in his hometown of Assisi with the superb Byzantine basilica of San Francesco, the home of a famous series of frescoes by Giotto that depict 28 different episodes of St. Francis’s life. St. Francis was not handsome. He had a long face, eyebrows that went clear across his forehead and large ears. But his eyes were sparkling and he had a sweet voice and gentle manner, if paintings and descriptions of him are to be believed.

David Burr a translator of St Francis texts, wrote: “Francesco Bernardone was born in Assisi in 1181. His father Pietro was a successful merchant and hoped his son would succeed him in that role. Things turned out differently. Francis seems to have been a winsome and somewhat feckless young man who threw himself into the social life of his city as enthusiastically as he engaged in its military projects. While taking part in the latter he was captured by the Perugians in 1202 and spent a year in prison.

““Of the various sources dealing with Francis' life, the earliest biography is the First Life of Saint Francis written by Thomas of Celano. It was commissioned by pope Gregory IX and was completed by 1230, just four years after Francis' death and two years after his canonization. Later, in 1244, the minister general of the Franciscan order asked all the brothers to submit any additional information about Francis they might have. Using this material, Celano produced another work which, although usually called his Second Life of Saint Francis. is really more of a supplement to the first. It was completed by the middle of 1247.

“Celano's work has the advantage of having been written by an early member of the Franciscan order who could rely on personal experience and the testimony of Francis' dose companions. Its major disadvantage is that it is the official biography of a saint. Thus much of what it says, although not necessarily false, is probably something less than the whole truth.

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity britannica.com//Christianity ; History of Christianity history-world.org/jesus_christ ; BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/christ.htm ; Christian Answers christiananswers.net ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ; Early Christianity: Elaine Pagels website elaine-pagels.com ; Sacred Texts website sacred-texts.com ; Gnostic Society Library gnosis.org ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ, The First Christians pbs.org ; Guide to Early Church Documents iclnet.org; Early Christian Writing earlychristianwritings.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Early Christian Art oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth212/Early_Christian_art ; Early Christian Images jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images belmont.edu/honors/byzart2001/byzindex ; Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Saints and Their Lives Today's Saints on the Calendar catholicsaints.info ; Saints' Books Library saintsbooks.net ; Saints and Their Legends: A Selection of Saints libmma.contentdm ; Saints engravings. Old Masters from the De Verda collection colecciondeverda.blogspot.com ; Lives of the Saints - Orthodox Church in America oca.org/saints/lives ; Lives of the Saints: Catholic.org catholicism.org

St. Francis's Contributions to Christianity

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St. Francis was called “little brother Francis.” He was never ordained as a priest or took a monastic vow but rather sought an individual relationship with God. Francis preached naked as a demonstration of humility, wrote poetry and devoted his life to helping the oppressed. Some regard Francis as the first communist. Lenin once said if there were ten St. Francis’s there would have been no need for a revolution.

St. Francis was active at a time when the Catholic church was accused of being too consumed with riches and status and had grown out of touch with ordinary people. He and the Franciscans had a lot a to do with making Christianity appealing to the poor masses. The Church was not happy with Francis's message and undermined his cult by offering his successors wealth and power.

St. Francis is credited with creating the first re-enactment of the Nativity Scene. In 1223, he placed a manger scene in a church in Greccio near Terni in the Lazio region of Italy. On Christmas Eve in 1224 he is said to have set up a stable in a corner of a village church near Assisi with real people and animals. It wasn't until the 15th century however that the construction of life-size figures representing the birth of Jesus became popular.

St. Francis's Early Life

St. Francis of Assisi. was born Francesco di Bernardone in Assisi, Italy in 1182. His father was a wealthy merchant, who made a fortune trading cloth between France and Italy. His mother was a deeply religious woman. Both may have been French.

Francis had a fairly ordinary childhood. He was trained as a clothier and received little education. As a young man he was known as a fun-loving dandy, who wooed women with troubadour songs, and often dressed in finer clothes that his master's clients. When he was in his late teens he was a prisoner of war and endured a serious illness.

Francis’s life changed while praying during a trip to San Damaiano, a small hermitage near Assini, where he was blinded by a bright light and addressed by a voice from a crucifix that said, "Francis, do you not see how my house is falling into ruin? Go and repair it for me!" Francis took the words literally and stole some cloth and a horse and sold them to help for reconstruction of the church. When his father his found out about the stolen cloth he was enraged and Francis ran away and sought refuge in a cave.

St. Francis as a Crazy, Ascetic Holy Man

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When Francis returned to Assini, he was no longer a dandy rogue but an acetic monk who had made a vow of chastity and wore a sackcloth tunic held in place with a three-knot chord. His former friends called him a madman and God's fool. Townspeople threw stones at him and his father beat and chained him, only to be set free by his deeply religious mother.

Francis's father caught up with him again and dragged off to the local bishop and renounced him. Francis responded by renouncing his father. "Our father who art in heaven...I am the son of God not of man." He took off all of his clothes, stuffed the money he owed his father in the pockets and presented them to his father and reportedly stood naked in the middle of the central piazza in Assisi until a bishop took the cloak off his back to cover him. Francis then took refuge in a poor church. He begged for food and earned his keep by working as a handyman at the church. Most of the people in his town mocked him but a few admired his piety and sincerity and became his followers.

St. Francis renounced his family and friends and set out on his journey to Gubbio that was to define his way of life and his concept of religion. He was guided by the verse from Luke 9:3: "Take nothing for you journey, no staff, no bag, nor bread, nor money."

Not long after beginning his journey, he was attacked by bandits but he had nothing to give them but his poverty. Disgusting, the bandits threw him in a snowy ditch, from which he merged singing. Penniless, sick and often exhausted, he continued his journey and survived on handouts from people who encountered him. When St. Francis finally entered the town of Gubio, he was told that a wolf had been attacking and eating people. He was able to get the wolf to bow at his feet and wag his tail. After St. Francis left people were able to feed the wolf with their hands.

St. Francis’s Conversion


Around the age of 23, Francis underwent a gradual conversion which finally led him to reject his former life and his father's wealth. In the year is 1205, after his failure to achieve military glory in southern Italy, Francis was becoming increasingly aware that something important was happening inside him. Thomas of Celano wrote in the “First and Second Lives of Saint Francis”: “Now perfectly changed in heart and soon to be changed in body, Francis was strolling one day near the old church of St. Damian, which was nearly destroyed and abandoned by all. The spirit led him to enter the church and pray. Devoutly lying prostrate before the crucifix, stirred by unusual visitations, he found he was different than when he had entered. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“While he was in this affected state, something absolutely unheard-of occurred. The crucifix moved its lips and began to speak. "Francis," it said, calling him by name, "go and repair my house, which, as you see, is completely destroyed." Francis was stupefied and nearly deranged by this speech. He prepared to obey, surrendering himself completely to the project. But since he considered the change in him to be beyond description, it is best for us to be silent about what he himself could not describe. From then on compassion for the crucified one was imprinted in his holy soul and, one may devoutly suspect, the stigmata of the holy passion were deeply imprinted in his heart, though not yet in his flesh.

“Shortly thereafter, Francis took the fateful step that led to a break with his father. Behold, the blessed servant of the most high was so disposed and strengthened by the holy spirit that the time had corn e for him to follow the blessed impulse of his soul, progressing to higher things and trampling worldly interests underfoot. It was unwise to delay any longer, for a deadly illness was spreading everywhere. It seized the joints and, if the physician delayed even for a bit, it shut off the vital spirit and snatched away life.”

St. Francis Gives Away His Money and Sheds His Clothes

Thomas of Celano wrote in the “First and Second Lives of Saint Francis”: “Francis rose, fortifying himself with the sign of the cross, and when his horse was ready he mounted. Taking some fine cloth with him, he rode to the city of Foligno. There, being a successful merchant, he sold all his cloth as usual and even left behind the horse he was riding, having received a good price for it. Then, having left all his baggage behind. he started back, wondering as he traveled what he should do with the money. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]


“Soon, converted to God's work in a marvelous way, he felt it would be burdensome to carry the money for even an hour and, treating it as if it were sand, he decided to get rid of it as fast as possible. As he approached the city of Assisi, he passed the church built in honor of St. Damian long ago, but now about to collapse with age.

“When the new soldier of Christ arrived at the church, he was stirred with pity for its condition and entered with fear and reverence. Finding a poor priest inside, Francis kissed his sacred hands and offered him the money he was carrying, telling the priest what he intended to do. The priest was stunned. Astonished by such an incredibly sudden conversion, he refused to believe what he heard. Since he thought he was being deceived, he refused to keep the money that had been offered him. He had seen Francis just the other day, so to speak, living riotously among his relations and acquaintances, acting even more stupidly than the rest.

“Francis, stubbornly insistent, tried to prove he was sincere. He begged the priest to let him stay there for the sake of the lord. Finally the priest agreed that he could stay but, fearing Francis' parents, he would not accept the money. Francis, genuinely contemptuous of money, threw it on a window sill, treating it as if it were dust. He wanted to possess wisdom, which is better than gold, and prudence, which is more precious than silver.

“Francis' father reacted predictably. He locked his son up at home, but Francis' mother let him out while Pietro was away on a business trip. Finally, despairing of private solutions, early in 1206 Pietro brought his son before the bishop of Assisi. Francis again proved equal to the occasion.

“When he had been led before the bishop, Francis neither delayed nor explained himself, but simply stripped off his clothes and threw them aside, giving them back to his father. He did not even keep his trousers, but stood there in front of everyone completely naked. The bishop, sensing his intention and admiring his constancy, rose and wrapped his arms around Francis, covering him with his own robe. He saw clearly that Francis was divinely inspired and that his action contained a mystery. Thus he became Francis' helper, cherishing and comforting him.”

St. Francis Begins His Travels


Celano then describes Francis’s travels around Umbria, where he lived among lepers and rebuilt the church of St. Damian. Thomas of Celano wrote: “Meanwhile this holy man, having changed his attire and repaired the aforesaid church, went to another place near Assisi and began to rebuild a certain dilapidated and nearly ruined church, ceasing only when the task was finished. Then he went to still another place called the Portiuncula, the site of a church dedicated to the blessed virgin, the mother of God. This church, built long ago, was now deserted and cared for by no one. When the holy man of God saw how destroyed the church was, he was moved with pity and began to spend a great deal of time there, for he burned with devotion toward the mother of all good. It was in the third year of his conversion that he began to repair this church. At that time he wore a sort of hermit's attire, a leather belt around his waist and a staff in his hands, and he went about wearing shoes. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“One day, however, when the gospel story of Christ sending his disciples to preach was read in the church, the holy man of God was present and more or less understood the words of the gospel. After mass he humbly asked the priest to explain the gospel to him. He heard that Christ's disciples were supposed to possess neither gold, nor silver, nor money; were to have neither bread nor staff; were to have neither shoes nor two tunics; but were to preach the kingdom of God and penance.

“When the priest had finished, Francis, rejoicing in the spirit of God, said, "This is what I want! This is what I'm looking for! This is what I want to do from the bottom of my heart!" Thus the holy father, overflowing with joy, hurried to fulfill those healing words, nor did he suffer any delay in carrying out what he had heard. He took off his shoes, tossed away his staff, was satisfied with a single tunic, and exchanged his leather belt for a cord. He made himself a tunic that looked like the cross so that he could beat off the temptations of the devil. It was rough in order to crucify the vices and sins of the flesh. It was poor and mean so that the world would not covet it. With the greatest diligence and reverence he tried to do everything else that he had heard, for he was not a deaf hearer of the gospel but, laudably committing all that he had heard to memory, he diligent 1y attempted to fulfill them to the letter.”

St. Francis and the Franciscans


Not surprisingly St. Francis’s actions won him some notoriety. Soon he began to attract a large number of followers, including “begging brothers” who dressed in gray robes and went barefoot and without money as St. Francis did. Within a few years he had roughly 5,000 brothers following him (by comparisons the Dominicans which began at roughly the same time attracted only 50 followers in about the same time). St. Francis formally founded the Franciscans with these followers in 1209. When an 18-year-old girl named Claire left here home to be with the Franciscans, St. Francis formed a new order women called the Franciscan Nuns or the Poor Clares.

St. Francis’s expected a lot from his followers. They were not allowed to read and they were expected to be ascetic as their leader. They aimed to live without possessions and beg for food. It was only after some time that they even rented a house for they did not want to think ahead even to the next day. But St. Francis was not without compassion. One of his followers once woke up in the middle of the night crying of hunger. Instead of scolding him. St. Francis woke up the others and prepared a feast that lasted the rest of the night.

St. Francis once dreamed he was fighting under the flag of the risen Christ and interpreting that as a sign to assemble a spiritual army. In twos and threes the Franciscans went out into the world to spread the word of Christian asceticism and to help the poor. They went to France, Germany, Hungary, Spain and England. Along the way they preached repentance, begged for food and offered their help to anyone who asked. Every year the friars met during the feast of the Pentecost and organized their activities and addressed problems.

St. Francis made other journeys. He went to Rome, where visited the Pope and sought his approval of his religious community. On a journey East he preached to the sultan and was asked to prove his faith. He reportedly walked through a blazing fire and took some of the sultans’ men with him to make the point, according to the story one of the sultan’s men fled before entering the fire.

St. Francis and His Early Followers in Rome

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Francis's habit
Gradually a small group of followers joined Francis. In 1209, when it numbered twelve including Francis, the Franciscan order was born. Thomas of Celano wrote: “Seeing that the Lord God daily increased their number, Francis wrote simply and in a few words a form of life and rule for himself and his brothers bath present and to come. It mainly used the words of the gospel, for the perfection of which alone he yearned. Nevertheless, he did insert a few other things necessary for the pursuit of a holy life. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“He came to Rome with all his brothers, hoping that Pope Innocent I II would confirm what he had writ ten. At that time the venerable bishop of Assisi, Guido, who honored Francis and the brothers and prized them with a special love, also happened to be in Rome. When he saw Francis and his brothers there and did not know the cause, he was very upset, since he feared they were planning to desert their native city, in which God was now doing great things through his servants. He was pleased to have such men in his diocese and relied greatly on their life and manners. Having heard the cause of their visit and understood their plan, he was relieved and promised to give them advice and aid.

“Saint Francis also went to the bishop of Sabina, John of Saint Paul, one of the great members of the Roman court who seemed to despise earthly things and love heavenly ones. Receiving Francis with kindness and love, the bishop praised him highly for his request and intention. Since he was a prudent and discreet man, the bishop began to question Francis about many things and tried to convince him that he should try the life of a monk or hermit. Saint Francis humbly refused his advice as well as he could, not because he despised what the bishop suggested but because, impelled by a higher desire, he devoutly wished for something else. The lord bishop marveled at his fervor and, fearing that he might eventually slip back from such high intentions, tried to show him a path that would be easier to follow . Finally, won over by Francis' constancy, the bishop agreed to his petition and attempted to further his plan before the pope.

“At that time the church was led by Innocent III, who was famous, very learned, gifted in speech, and burning with zeal for what ever would further the cause of the Christian faith. When he had discovered what these men of God wanted and thought the matter over, he assented to their request and did what had to be done. Exhorting and admonishing them about m any things, he blessed Saint Francis and his brothers, saying to them, "Go with the Lord, brothers, and preach penance to all as the Lord will inspire you. Then, when the Lord increases you in number and in grace, return joyously to me. At that time I will concede more to you and commit greater things to you more confidently."


“Like other holy men of the time, Francis and his followers practiced mortification of the flesh, not because the body was considered evil -it, too, was created by God - but because in a fallen world it could distract one from higher pursuits. In Francis' case, such mortification was related not only to the cultivation of spiritual experience, or what was known as the contemplative life, but also to the Franciscan emphasis on humility and the equally Franciscan desire to imitate Christ

“The virtue of patience so enfolded them that they sought to be where they could suffer bodily persecution rather than where, their sanctity being known and praised, they might be exalted by the world. Many times when they were insulted, ridiculed, stripped naked, beaten, bound or imprisoned, they trusted in no one's patronage but rather bore all so manfully that only praise and thanksgiving echoed in their mouths. Scarcely or never did they cease their prayers and praise of God. Instead, continually discussing what they had done, they thanked God for what they had done well and shed tears over what they had neglected to do or done carelessly. They thought themselves abandoned by God if in their worship they did not find themselves constantly visited by their accustomed fervor. When they wanted to throw themselves into prayer, they developed certain techniques to keep from being snatched off by sleep. Some held themselves up by suspended ropes in order to make sure their worship would not be disturbed by sleep creeping up on them. Others encased their bodies in iron instrument s. Still others encased themselves in wooden girdles. If, as usually occurs, their sobriety was disturbed by abundance of food or drink, or if they exceeded the limits of necessity by even a little because they were tired from a journey, they harshly tormented themselves by abstinence for many days. They tried to repress the promptings of the flesh by such great mortification that they did not hesitate to strip naked in the coldest ice or inundate their bodies with a flow of blood by piercing themselves all over with thorns.”

St. Francis Joins the Crusades in Syria

Francis sought martyrdom at the hands of Muslims. He attempted a voyage to Morocco, but became ill in Spain and had to turn back. In 1219 he went to Syria where a crusade was in progress and had the following experience.


Thomas of Celano wrote: “In the thirteenth year of his conversion, Francis proceeded to Syria, for great and deadly bat ties between Christians and pagans were going on there every day. Francis, who was traveling with a companion, was not afraid to present himself before the sultan of the Saracens. But who can say with what constancy of mind he stood before him, with what strength of spirit he spoke, with what eloquence and assurance he answered those who insulted the Christian law? [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“Before he was brought before the sultan he was captured by soldiers, insulted, and beaten with a lash; yet he was not afraid, was not terrified by the threats of torture, and did not grow pale when threatened with death. And though he was reproached by many who were opposed in mind and hostile in spirit, he was very honorably received by the sultan. Trying to bend Francis' spirit toward the wealth of this w arid, he honored him as much as he could and gave him many presents; yet when he saw that Francis despised such thing s as if they were dung, he was filled with the greatest admiration and regarded Francis as different from all others. He was moved by Francis' words and listened to him willingly. In all these things the Lord did not fulfill Francis' desire for martyrdom, since he was reserving for him the prerogative of a singular grace.”

St. Francis’s Rapport with Animals

St. Francis had a great love of animals and believed one of his missions was to restore the Garden of Eden. He viewed animals as God’s creatures and treated them with the same love he showed human beings. According to the St. Francis legend animals sought out his company: pheasants followed him like dogs; sparrows landed on his arms; and wild rabbits ran to him for protection. There is a famous story how he preached to little birds, telling them to thankful to God, their creator. His relationship with nature was equally fused with miracles. Followers said flowers bloomed at his request and clouds lifted him over mountains and described how Francis refused to knock off icicles that clung to him in the winter.

Francis's remarkable rapport with animals is one the best-known and most-loved aspect of his legend, prompting one pope call him the patron saint of the ecological movement. Thomas of Celano wrote: “Meanwhile, at a time when many were joining the brothers, most blessed father Francis was passing through the valley of Spoleto. He came to a certain place near Bevagna, in which a great many birds of various types had congregated, including doves, crows and some others commonly called daws. When he saw them Francis, that most blessed servant of God, being a man of great fervor and very sympathetic toward the lower, irrational creatures, quickly left 8 his companions on the road and ran over to them. When he got there, he saw that they were waiting expectantly and saluted them. Surprised that the birds had not flow n away as they normally do, he was filled with joy and humbly begged them to listen to the word of God. Among the things he told them, he said the following: "My brothers the birds, you should love your creator deeply and praise him always. He has given you feathers to w ear, wings to fly with, and w hat ever else you need. He has made you noble among his creatures and given you a dwelling in the pure air. You neither sow nor reap, yet he nevertheless protects and governs you without any anxiety on your part." [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“Both Francis and his companions agree in reporting that, when he had spoken thus, the birds exulted marvelously in their own fashion, stretching their necks, extending their wings, opening their mouths, and gazing at him. Francis walked into their midst, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic. Finally he blessed them and, making the sign of the cross, gave them permission to fly off to some other place.


Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio

“Rejoicing, the blessed father went off with his companions, giving thanks to God whom all creatures worship. Since he had now been made simple by grace and not by nature, he began to accuse himself of negligence for not having preached to the birds before, since they listened to the word of God with such reverence. And thus it came about that, from that day on, he exhorted all birds, all animals, all reptiles, and even nonexistent creatures to praise and love the creator, for every day, when the name of the savior was announced, he himself saw their obedience.

“One day he came to a town called Alviano to preach the word of God. Ascending to w here he could be seen by all, he asked for silence. The people became quiet and waited reverently, but a flock of swallows building nests in that place continued to chatter away, making it impossible for the people to hear. Francis spoke to them, "My sisters the swallows, it's my turn to speak now, because you've already said enough. Listen to the word of God. Stay still and be quiet until it 's over." To the people's amazement, the little birds immediately stopped chattering and did not move until Francis had finished preaching. Those who witnessed this sign were filled with wonder and said, "truly this man is holy and a friend of the Most High." Praising and blessing God, they devoutly hurried at least to touch his clothing. And it is marvelous how those irrational creatures recognized his affection for them and sensed his love.”

St. Francis Helps Hares, Fish and Birds

Thomas of Celano wrote: “Once, when he was staying in the town of Greccio, a hare was caught in a trap and brought live to Francis by a brother. Seeing the hare, the blessed m an was moved to pity and said, "Brother hare, come here. Why did you let yourself be fooled in this w ay?" As soon as the hare was released by the brother. he dashed over to Francis and, without being forced to do so, set tied into his lap as the safest place available. When he had rested there a while, the holy father, stroking him with maternal affection, let him go so that he could return to the wild. Each time he was placed on the ground, the hare ran back to Francis' lap. Finally Francis asked that the brothers carry him to a nearby forest. Something similar occurred with a rabbit, a very undomesticated creature, on an island in the lake of Perugia. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“Francis was moved by similar pity toward fish. When they had been caught and he had the chance, he threw them back into the water warning them to be careful not to get caught again. Once, as he was sitting in a boat near a harbor on the lake of Rieti, a certain fisherman caught a big fish commonly called a tench and brought it to Francis. He received it joyfully and kindly, took to calling it "brother," and, having placed it in the water next to his boat, began to bless the name of the Lord. For some time, while Francis tended to his prayer, the fish played in the water near the boat, nor did he leave the area until the holy man of God, his prayer completed, gave him permission to go. For glorious father Francis, walking the path of obedience and donning perfectly the yoke of obedience, received from God the great honor of having creatures obey him. For even water was turned into wine for him when he was seriously ill at the hermitage of Saint Urban. When he tasted it he became w ell so quickly that all believed it to be a miracle, as indeed it was. And he w ham creatures obey in this way, at whose nod the elements change themselves to other uses, is certainly a holy man.


“During the time when, as we have seen, the venerable father Francis preached to the birds, he went about through cities and towns scattering the seeds of his blessing everywhere. Coming to the city of Ascoli, he preached the word of God fervently as usual. Through a change wrought by the right hand of the Most high, the people were filled with so much love and devotion that they trampled one another hurrying to see and hear him. And thirty men, clerics and laymen, received the habit at that time. recognized his affection for them and sensed his love.

“Once, when he was staying in the town of Greccio, a hare was caught in a trap and brought live to Francis by a brother. Seeing the hare, the blessed man was moved to pity and said, "Brother hare, come here. Why did you let yourself be fooled in this way?" As soon as the hare was released by the brother. he dashed over to Francis and, without being forced to do so, set tied into his lap as the safest place available. When he had rested there a while, the holy father, stroking him with maternal affection, let him go so that he could return to the wild. Each time he was placed on the ground, the hare ran back to Francis' lap. Finally Francis asked that the brothers carry him to a nearby forest. Something similar occurred with a rabbit, a very undomesticated creature, on an island in the lake of Perugia.

“Francis was moved by similar pity toward fish. When they had been caught and he had the chance, he threw them back into the water warning them to be careful not to get caught again. Once, as he was sitting in a boat near a harbor on the lake of Riet i, a certain fisherman caught a big fish commonly called a tench and brought it to Francis. He received it joyfully and kindly, took to calling it "brother," and, having placed it in the water next to his boat, began to bless the name of the Lord. For some time, while Francis tended to his prayer, the fish played in the water near the boat, nor did he leave the area until the holy man of God, his prayer completed, gave him permission to go. For glorious father Francis, walking the path of obedience and donning perfectly the yoke of obedience, received from God the great honor of having creatures obey him. For even water was turned into wine for him when he was seriously ill at the hermitage of Saint Urban. When he tasted it he became w ell so quickly that all believed it to be a miracle, as indeed it was. And he whom creatures obey in this way, at whose nod the elements change themselves to other uses, is certainly a holy man.”

St. Francis Becomes a Jesus-Like Figure

Thomas of Celano wrote: “During the time when, as w e have seen, the venerable father Francis preached to the birds, he went about through cities and towns scattering the seeds of his blessing everywhere. Coming to the city of Ascoli, he preached the word of God fervently as usual. Through a change wrought by the right hand of the Most high, the people were filled with so much love and devotion that they trampled one another hurrying to see and hear him. And thirty men, clerics and laymen, received the habit at that time. So great was the faith of men and w omen, and so great was their devotion to the holy man of God, that they considered fortunate anyone who could at least touch his clothes. When he entered a city, the clergy rejoiced, the bells rang, men exulted, w omen cheered, children applauded, and often, taking branches from the trees, they went to meet him singing. Heretical depravity was confounded, the faith of the church was extolled, and while the faithful engaged in jubilation heretics went into hiding. For so many signs of sanctity appeared in him that no one dared to oppose his words. Indeed, the attention of the crowd was directed at him alone. He felt that the faith of the Holy Roman Church should be observed, honored and imitated above all things, since in it alone lies the salvation of those who are to be saved. He felt great affection for priests and every ecclesiastical order. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]


“The people offered him bread to bless, stored it away for a long time, then were cured of various illnesses when they ate it. In their overwhelming faith they often cut off parts of his clothes, so much that he was often left nearly naked. And w hat is even more marvelous, if the holy father touched some object, it in turn became the m cans by which health was restored to others.

“Thus a certain woman from a little town near Arezzo was pregnant, and when it was time for her to deliver she remained in labor for several days in incredible pain, hanging between life and death. Her neighbors and family heard that Saint Francis was to pass that way as he journeyed to a certain hermitage. They waited, but he went by another route.

“He had gone on horseback because he was ill. When he arrived at his destination, he entrusted the horse to a brother named Peter, who was to bring it back to the man who had loaned it. On his way, Peter passed through the village w here the woman lay suffering. When the men of the village saw him, they hurried up to him thinking he was Francis, but they soon learned the truth and were deeply disappoint ed.

“Finally they began to ask one another if same thing might be found which Francis had touched with his hand. After searching for a long time, they came upon the reigns of the bridle, which he had held while riding. Removing the bridle from the horse's mouth, they placed the reigns on the w oman. Immediately the danger passed. She bore the child safely and joyfully.”

St. Francis Honors Christ with the First Nativity Scene

Thomas of Celano wrote: “His highest intention, greatest desire, and supreme purpose was to observe the holy gospel in and through all things. He wanted to follow the doctrine and walk in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to do so perfectly, with all vigilance, all zeal, complete desire of the mind, complete fervor of the heart. He remembered Christ's words through constant meditation and recalled his actions through wise consideration. The humility of the incarnation and the love of the passion so occupied his memory that he scarcely wished to think of anything else. Hence what he did in the third year before the day of his glorious death, in the town called Greccio, on the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, should be reverently remembered. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“There was in that place a certain man named John, of good reputation and even better life, w ham the blessed Francis particularly loved. Noble and honorable in his own land, he had trodden on nobility of the flesh and pursued that of the mind. Around fifteen days before the birthday of Christ Francis sent for this man, as he often did, and said to him, "If you wish to celebrate the approaching feast of the Lord at Greccio, hurry and do w hat I tell you. I w ant to do something that w ill recall the memory of that child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and ass stood by." Upon hearing this, the good and faithful man hurried to prepare all that the holy man had request ed.

“The day of joy drew near, the time of exult at ion approached. The brothers were called from their various places. With glad hearts, the men and w omen of that place prepared, according to their means, candles and torches to light up that night which has illuminated all the days and years with its glittering star. Finally the holy man of God arrived and, finding everything prepared, saw it and rejoiced.

“The manger is ready, hay is brought, the ox and ass are led in. Simplicity is honored there, poverty is exalted, humility is commended and a new Bethlehem, as it were, is made from Greccio. Night is illuminated like the day, delighting men and beasts. The people come and joyfully celebrate the new mystery. The forest resounds with voices and the rocks respond to their rejoicing. The brothers sing, discharging their debt of praise to the Lord, and the whole night echoes with jubilation. The holy man of God stands before the m anger 12 full of sighs, consumed by devotion and filled with a marvelous joy. The solemnities of the mass are performed over the manger and the priest experiences a new consolation.


Francis and the Nativity


“The holy man of God wears a deacon's vestments, for he was indeed a deacon, and he sings the holy gospel with a sonorous voice. And his voice, a sweet voice, a vehement voice, a clear voice, a sonorous voice, invites all to the highest rewards. Then he preaches mellifluously to the people standing about, telling them about the birth of the poor king and the little city of Bethlehem. Often, too, when he wished to mention Jesus Christ, burning with love he called him "the child of Bethlehem," and speaking the word "Bethlehem" or "Jesus," he licked his lips with his tongue, seeming to taste the sweetness of these words.

“The gifts of the Almighty are multiplied here and a marvelous vision is seen by a certain virtuous man. For he saw a little child lying lifeless in the manger, and he saw the holy man of God approach and arouse the child as if from a deep sleep. Nor was this an unfitting vision, for in the hearts of many the child Jesus really had been forgotten, but now, by his grace and through his servant Francis, he had been brought back to life and impressed here by loving recollect ion. Finally the celebration ended and each returned joyfully home.

“The hay placed in the manger was kept so that the Lord, multiplying his holy mercy, might bring health to the beasts of burden and other animals. And indeed it happened that many animals throughout the surrounding area were cured of their illnesses by eating this hay. Moreover, w omen undergoing a long and difficult labor gave birth safely when some of this hay was placed upon them. And a large number of people, male and female alike, with various illnesses, all received the health they desired there. At last a temple of the Lord was consecrated w here the manger stood, and over the manger an altar was constructed and a church dedicated in honor of the blessed father Francis, so that, w here animals once had eaten hay, henceforth men could gain health in soul and body by eating the flesh of the Lamb without spot or blemish, Jesus Christ our Lord, who through great and indescribable love gave him self to us, living and reigning with the Father and Holy Spirit, God eternally glorious forever and ever, Amen. Alleluia! Alleluia!”

St. Francis, the Stigmata and Death

In 1224, two years before his death, St. Francis went on a 40-day fast. While he was praying his Bible fell open to the story of Jesus’s passion. St. Francis had a vision in which he saw a flaming angel with six wings carrying a crucified man near Mount Alverno in the Apennines. After going into an state of ecstacy stigmata appeared in the form of wounds on his hands and feet and side. On September 17, 1224, the Franciscan, Brother Leo, reported a ray of light was cast on St. Francis and after that he bore stigmata marks on his hands and feet. Two popes---Gregory IX and Alexander IV--- confirmed the reports. Today, some see the stigmata as a culmination of a career devoted to faith, and a bond with the crucified Christ.


Francis is "stigmatized"

Thomas of Celano wrote: “Two years before Francis gave his soul back to heaven, while he was staying in a hermitage called "Alverna" after the place where it was located, he saw in a vision from God a man with six wings like a seraph, standing above him with hands extended and feet together, affixed to a cross. Two wings were raised over his head, two were extended in flight, and two hid his entire body. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, sourcebooks.fordham.edu]

“When the blessed servant of God saw these things he was filled with wonder, but he did not know w hat the vision meant. He rejoiced greatly in the benign and gracious expression with which he saw himself regarded by the seraph, whose beauty was indescribable; yet he was alarmed by the fact that the seraph was affixed to the cross and was suffering terribly. Thus Francis rose, one might say, sad and happy, joy and grief alternating in him. He wondered anxiously w hat this vision could mean, and his soul was uneasy as it searched for understanding. And as his understanding sought in vain for an explanation and his heart was filled with perplex it y at the great novelty of this vision, the marks of nails began to appear in his hands and feet, just as he had seen them slightly earlier in the crucified man above him.

“His hands and feet seemed to be pierced by nails, with the heads of the nails appearing in the palms of his hands and on the upper sides of his feet, the points appearing on the other side. The marks were round on the palm of each hand but elongated on the other side, and small pieces of flesh jutting out from the rest took on the appearance of the nail-ends, bent and driven back. In the same way the marks of nails were impressed on his feet and projected beyond the rest of the flesh. Moreover, his right side had a large wound as if it had been pierced with a spear, and it often bled so that his tunic and trousers were soaked with his sacred blood.

“Alas, how few were worthy of viewing the wound I n the side of this crucified servant of the crucified Lord I How fortunate was Elias, who was worthy of seeing it while the holy man lived, but no less fortunate was Rufinus, who touched the wound with his own hands. For once, when the aforesaid brother Rufinus put his hand on the holy man's chest in order to rub him, his hand fell to his right side, as often occurs, and he happened to touch that precious wound.

20120508-stigmata St Francis Assisi stigmata.jpg
stigmata of St. Francis
"The holy man of God suffered great anguish from that touch and, pushing the hand away, he cried out to the Lord to forgive him. He carefully hid the wound from outsiders and cautiously concealed it from those near him, so that even his most devoted followers and those who were constantly at his side knew nothing of it for a long time. And although the servant and friend of the most high saw himself adorned with many costly pearls as if with precious gems, and marvelously decked out beyond the glory and honor of other men, he did not become vain or seek to please anyone through desire for personal glory, but, lest human favor should steal away the grace given to him, he attempted to hide it in every way possible.

“During this period Francis' body began to be beset by more serious illnesses than previously. He suffered frequent illnesses because for many years he had castigated his body perfectly, reducing it to servitude. For during the preceding eighteen years his flesh had scarcely or never found rest, but traveled constantly throughout various wide areas so that the prompt, devout and fervent spirit within him could scatter God's word everywhere.”

St. Francis died on October 3, 1226 in Assisi. Witnesses say light emanated from his body and bells rang spontaneously at the moment of his death. Many people came to see the his body and check out if stigmata marks were for real. His body now lies in a famous church in Assisi. Within 20 years after his death the Franciscan order had grown so large 9,000 religious houses had been built. <

Testament of St. Francis

David Burr a translator of St Francis texts, wrote: ““Francis died on October 3, 1226. Just before, he dictated what came to be known as his "Testament." It is the work of a man who, in his final days, was anxious about the future of his order and wanted to state his position one more time as forcefully as possible. It was, in fact, a bit too forceful. By 1226 the order was growing rapidly both in size and in popularity. As its membership climbed, its bureaucratic network expanded; and as its duties to the church multiplied, the order found Francis' testament an embarrassment because of the limitations it imposed. How could Franciscans carry out their preaching and teaching mission without papal protection? How could they interpret the rule to an army of new recruits unless learned theologians were allowed to determine what the rule meant? In 1230 the leaders of the order asked Pope Gregory IX whether the testament was binding and were told it was not. Many Franciscans were less sure of the matter, however, and the testament became an important document for those who later wanted to reform the order according to Francis' original intention.


Francis by Rubens

The Testament of St. Francis reads: “This is how the Lord gave me, brother Francis, the power to do penance. When I was in sin the sight of lepers was too bitter for me. And the Lord himself led me among them, and I pitied and helped them. And when I left them I discovered that what had seemed bitter to m e was changed into sweetness in my soul and body. And shortly afterward I rose and left the world. [Source: Translation by David Burr olivi@mail.vt.edu, An out of copyright version also exists - in The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, Paschal Robinson, trans, (Philadelphia: Dolphin Press, 1906)]

“And the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I prayed simply, saying, "I adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, with all your churches throughout the world, and we bless you because you redeemed the world through your holy cross. Later God gave me and still gives me such faith in priests who live according to the form of the Holy Roman Church that even if they persecuted me I would still run back to them, because of their posit ion. And if I had all the wisdom of Solomon and came upon some poor little priests in their parishes, I would preach there only if they wished me to do so. And I want to fear, love and honor these and all others as my lords. And I do not even want to think about there being any sin in them, because I see the son of God in them and they are my lords. And I do this because in this world I physically see the most high Son of God only in his most holy body and blood, which they receive and they alone administer to others. And I want this holy mystery to be honored above all things, venerated, and kept in costly containers. Whenever I find his holy names or words in improper places I pick them up and ask that they be collected and stored in a proper place. And we ought to honor and venerate all theologians and those who administer the holy divine word, for they administer to us spirit and life.

“And when God gave me brothers, no one showed me what I should do, but the Most high revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the holy gospel. I had it written in few words and simply, and the lord pope confirmed it for me. And those who came to receive life gave all that they had to the poor and were content with one tunic patched inside and out, with a cord and trousers. And we did not wish to have more.


Saint Francis in Ecstacy by Caravaggio

“We who were clerics said the office life other clerics, and the laymen said the "Our Father," and we gladly stayed in churches. And we were ignorant and subject to all. And I worked with my hands, and want to do so still. And I definitely want all the other brothers to work at some honest job. Those who don't know how should learn, not because they want to receive wages but as an example and to avoid idleness. And when our wages are withheld from us, let us return to the Lord's table, begging alms from door to door. The Lord revealed what greeting we should use: "The Lord give you peace."

“The brothers must be careful not to accept any churches, poor dwellings, or anything else constructed for them unless these buildings reflect the holy poverty promised by us in the rule. We should always live in these places as strangers and pilgrims. I firmly command all the brothers, by the obedience they owe me, that wherever they are they should not dare to ask either directly or through an intermediary for any letter from the Roman court to secure a church or any other place, to protect their preaching, or to prevent persecution of their bodies; but wherever they are not received, they should flee into another land and do penance with God's blessing.

“And I firmly wish to obey the minister general of this brotherhood, and any other guardian the minister should want to give me. And I want to be such a captive in his hands that I cannot go anywhere or do anything without his desire and command, because he is my lord. And although I am simple and ill, I always want to have a cleric who can perform the office for me, as the rule states. And all the other brothers are thus bound to obey their guardians and perform the office according to the rule. And whenever some are found who do not wish to perform the office according to the rule and want to change it, or who are not Catholic in their beliefs, then all the brothers wherever they may be are bound by obedience to turn such people over to the custodian nearest the place where they found them. The custodian in turn is bound by obedience to guard him strongly life a man in chains, day and night, so that he cannot possibly escape from his hands until he personally places him in the hands of his minister. And the minister is bound by obedience to place him in the care of brothers who will guard him night and day like a man in chains until they turn him over to our lord bishop of Ostia, who is the lord protector and corrector of the whole brotherhood.


“And the brothers must not say, "This is another rule," for it is a recollection, admonition, exhortation and my testament which I, poor brother Francis, make for you my brothers, so that we may observe the rule we have promised to God in a more Catholic manner. And the general minister and all other ministers and custodians are bound by obedience not to add or subtract from these words. And they must always have this writing with them in addition to the rule. And in all chapter meetings held by them, when they read the rule, they must also read these words.

“And I firmly forbid my brothers, both clerics and laymen, to place glasses on the rule or say, "This is what it means." But just as the Lord gave me the power to compose and write both the rule and these words simply and purely, so you must understand them simply and without gloss and observe them by holy act ion until the end.

<

p> “And whoever observes them will be filled in heaven with a blessing of the most high Father and on earth he will be filled with the blessing of his beloved Son, with the Holy . Spirit the Comforter and all the powers of heaven and all the saints. And, I brother Francis, your servant insofar as I can be, internally and externally confirm for you this holy blessing.

/p>

St. Francis’s Canticle of the Sun

“ Most high, all-powerful, all good, Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor
And all blessing.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy
To pronounce your name.


Life of Saint Francis

All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,
And first my lord Brother Sun,
Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright
And precious and fair.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all the weather's moods,
By which you cherish all that you have made.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly, precious, and pure.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom you brighten up the night.
How beautiful he is, how gayl Full of power and strength.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother,
Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
Various fruits and colored flowers and herbs.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon
For love of you; through those who endure
Sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
By you, Most High, they will be crowned.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sinl
Happy those She finds doing your will!
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility. — St. Francis of Assisi

Bull Canonizing St. Francis of Assisi

“The Bull canonizing St. Francis of Assisi (Bull Mira Circa Nos, July 16, 1228) by Pope Gregory IX reads: “1. How wondrously considerate of us is God's pity! How priceless a love of charity which would sacrifice a Son to redeem a slave! God neither neglected the gifts of his mercy nor failed to protect uninterruptedly the vineyard planted by his hand. He sent laborers into it at the eleventh hour to cultivate it, and with their hoes and plowshares to uproot the thorns and thistles, as did Samgar when he killed 600 Philistines (Judges 3: 31). After the copious branches were pruned and the sucker roots with the briars were pulled out, this vineyard will produce a luscious, appetizing fruit, one capable of storage in the wine cellar of eternity, once purified in the wine-press of patience. Wickedness had indeed blazed like fire, and the human heart had grown cold, so as to destroy the wall surrounding this vineyard, just as the attacking Philistines were destroyed by the poison of worldly pleasures. [Source: EWTN]


Death of Saint Francis

“2. Behold how the Lord, when he destroyed the earth by water, saved the just man with a contemptible piece of wood (Wis. 10:4), did not allow the scepter of the ungodly to fall upon the lot of the just (Ps 124:3). Now, at the eleventh hour, he has called forth his servant, Blessed Francis, a man after his own heart (I Sam 13: 14). This man was a light, despised by the rich, nonetheless prepared for the appointed moment. Him the Lord sent into his vineyard to uproot the thorns and thistles. God cast down this lamp before the attacking Philistines, thus illumining his own land and with earnest exhortation warning it to be reconciled with God.

“3. On hearing within his soul his friend's voice of invitation Francis without hesitation arose, and as another Samson strengthened by God's grace, shattered the fetters of a flattering world. Filled with the zeal of the Spirit and seizing the jawbone of an ass, he conquered not only a thousand, but many thousands of Philistines (Judges 15: 15-16) by his simple preaching, unadorned with the persuasive words of human wisdom (I Cor 1:17), and made forceful by the power of God, who chooses the weak of this world to confound the strong (I Cor 1:17). With the help of God he accomplished this: God who touches mountains and they smoke (Ps 103:32), so bringing to spiritual service those who were once slaves to the allurements of the flesh. For those who died to sin and live only for God and not for themselves (namely, whose worse part has died), there flowed from this jawbone an abundant stream of water: refreshing, cleansing, rendering fruitful the fallen, downtrodden and thirsty. This river of water reaching unto eternal life (Jn 7: 38), might be purchased without silver and without cost (Is 55:1), and like branches far and wide its rivulets watered the vineyard whose branches extended unto the sea and its boughs unto the river (Ps 79:12).

“4. After the example of our father Abraham, this man forgot not only his country and acquaintances, but also his father's house, to go to a land which the Lord had shown him by divine inspiration (Gen 12). Pushing aside any obstacle he pressed on to win the prize of his heavenly call (Phil. 3:14). Conforming himself to Him (Rom 8:29) who, though rich, for our sake became poor (II Cor 8:9), he unburdened himself of a heavy load of material possessions so as to pass easily through the narrow gate (Mt 7:13). He disbursed his wealth to the poor, so that his justice might endure forever (Ps 111:9).

“Nearing the land of vision he offered his own body as a holocaust to the Lord upon one of the mountains indicated to him (Gen 22:2), the mountain which is the excellence of faith. His flesh, which now and then had tricked him, he sacrificed as Jephte his only daughter (Judges 11:34), lighting under it the fire of love, punishing it with hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness and with many fasts and vigils. When it had been crucified with its vices and concupiscences (Gal 5:24), he could say with the Apostle: "I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). For he really did not live for himself any longer, but rather for Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification (Rom 4:25), that we might no longer be slaves to sin (Rom 6:6).


Canonization of Saint Francis

“Uprooting his vices and like Jacob arising at the Lord's command (Gen 35:1-11) he renounced wife and farm and oxen and all which might distract those invited to the great feast (Lk 14:15-20), and took up the battle with the world, the flesh and the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. And as he had received the sevenfold grace of the Spirit and the help of the eight beatitudes of the Gospel, he journeyed to Bethel, the house of God, on a path which he had traced in the fifteen steps of the virtues mystically represented in the Psalter (gradual Psalms). After he had made of his heart an altar for the Lord, he offered upon it the incense of devout prayers to be taken up to the Lord at the hands of angels whose company he would soon join.

“5. But that he might not be the only one to enjoy the blessings of the mountain, clinging exclusively to the embraces of Rachel, as it were to a life of contemplation lovely but sterile, he descended to the forbidden house of Leah to lead into the desert the flock fertile with twins (Cant 4:2) and seeking pastures of life Gen 29). There, where the manna of heavenly sweetness restores all who have been separated from the noisy world, he would be seated with the princes of his people and crowned with the crown of justice. Sowing his seed in tears, he would come back rejoicing carrying his sheaves to the storehouse of eternity (Ps 125:5-6).

“Surely he sought not his own interests (Phil 2:21), but those of Christ, serving Him zealously like the proverbial bee. As the morning star in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon at the full (Eccles. 50,6), he took in his hands a lamp with which to draw the humble by the example of his glorious deeds, and a trumpet wherewith to recall the shameless with stern and fearsome warnings from their wicked abandon.

“Thus strengthened by charity he courageously took possession of the Midianite camp (Judges 7:16-22), that is, the camp of those who contemptuously disregard the teaching of the Church, with the support of Him who encompassed the whole world by His authority, even while still cloistered in the Virgin's womb. He captured the weapons on which the well-armed man trusted while guarding his house and parceling out his spoils (Lk 11:21-22), and he led captivity captive in submission to Jesus Christ (Eph 4:8).

“6. After defeating the threefold earthly enemy, he did violence to the kingdom of heaven and seized it by force (Mt 11:12). After many glorious battles in this life he triumphed over the world, and he who was knowingly unlettered and wisely foolish, happily returned to the Lord to take the first place before many others more learned.


“7. Plainly a life such as his, so holy, so passionate, so brilliant, was enough to win him a place in the Church Triumphant. Yet, because the Church Militant, which can only observe the outer appearances, does not presume to judge on its own authority those not sharing its actual state, it proposes for veneration as Saints only those whose lives on earth merited such, especially because an angel of Satan sometimes transforms himself into an angel of light (II Cor 11:14). In his generosity the omnipotent and merciful God has provided that the aforementioned Servant of Christ did come and serve Him worthily and commendably. Not permitting so great a light to remain hidden under a bushel, but wishing to put it on a lampstand to console those dwelling in the house of light (Mt 5:15), God declared through many brilliant miracles that his life has been acceptable to God and his memory should be honored by the Church Militant.

“8. Therefore, since the wondrous events of his glorious life are quite well known to us because of the great familiarity he had with us while we still occupied a lower rank, and since we are fully convinced by reliable witnesses of the many brilliant miracles, we and the flock entrusted to us, by the mercy of God, are confident of being assisted at his intercession and of having in heaven a patron whose friendship we enjoyed on earth. With the consultation and approval of our Brothers, we have decreed that he be enrolled in the catalogue of saints worthy of veneration.

“9. We decree that his birth be celebrated worthily and solemnly by the universal Church on the fourth of October, the day on which he entered the kingdom of heaven, freed from the prison of the flesh.

“10. Hence, in the Lord we beg, admonish and exhort all of you, we command you by this apostolic letter, that on this day reserved to honor his memory, you dedicate yourselves more intensely to the divine praises, and humbly to implore his patronage, so that through his intercession and merits you might be found worthy of joining his company with the help of Him who is blessed forever. Amen.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” users.ox.ac.uk ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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