Today, Sunday, October 4, 2020, is the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost and the Commemoration of Saint Francis of Assisi, whose own pure love of God brought out a genuine reform of the Church at the end of the Twelfth and beginning of the Thirteenth Centuries. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to state that Saint Francis's voluntary embrace of austere poverty and intense bodily mortifications and his assiduous practice of the interior prayer of the heart made possible the glory of the High Middle Ages in the Thirteenth Century. One of his own spiritual sons, Saint Bonaventure, became one of the leading exponents of Eucharistic piety.
The other leading Thirteenth Century exponent of Eucharistic adoration, Saint Thomas Aquinas, a spiritual son of Saint Francis's own contemporary and fellow founder of a religious community, Saint Dominic, owed the very fertile ground in which he worked to the laborious efforts by Saint Francis to dig deep under the top soil of a polluted era to make it possible for there to be a rich and penetrating renewal of the life of the Church. And that great exemplar of Christ the King in the Thirteenth Century, Saint Louis IX, King of France, was able to govern France with special solicitude for the poor and powerless precisely because of the work of the great saint of Assisi, Saint Francis, of whose Third Order he, Saint Louis, is the patron saint. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, one of the first members of the Third Order of Saint Francis who received a piece of Saint Francis's habit from the lover of Lady Poverty himself, has great solicitude for the poor of Thuringia who were the subjects of her husband, Louis the landgrieve. The legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi spread far and wide--and fast--even during his own lifetime.
Clerical corruption and heresy were rife when Saint Francis was born in 1181 A.D. Jacobus de Voragine's The Golden Legend explains how Our Lord told Saint Francis left his carefree life of wealth and adventures to respond to Our Lord's own call:
The ancient enemy tried to turn Francis aside from his virtuous intentions and forced the image of a hunchback woman upon his mind, warning him that if he did not give up the way of life he had undertaken, the devil would make him as ugly as she was. Then, however, he heard the Lord comforting him and saying: "Francis, take the bitter instead of the sweet, and despise yourself if you long to know me!" Then he found himself face to to face with a leper, the sort of man he utter abhorred; but, remembering the Lord's word to him, he ran and kiss the afflicted man. the leper instantly vanished. Francis then hastened to the place where people with leprosy lived, devoutly kissed their hands, and left them money.
He went into the church of Saint Damian to pray, and an image of Christ spoke to him miraculously: "Francis, go and repair my house, because, as you see, it has fallen into ruins!" From that moment on his soul melted within him, his compassion for Christ was marvelously fixed in his heart, and he devoted himself zealously to the rebuilding of the Church. He sold all he had and wanted to give the money to a certain priest, but the priest refused to accept it for fear of offending Francis's parents. Francis thereupon threw the money on the ground, treating it as worth no more than dust. His father therefore had him bound and held in custody, whereupon he gave all his money to his father, and with it the clothes off his back. Then he flew naked to the Lord and put on a hair shirt. The servant of God next called in a plain, simple man whom he took as a father, and asked him to bless him whenever his true father heaped curses on him.
His blood brother, seeing Francis at prayer clothed in rags and shivering with the wintry cold, said to a companion: "Tell Francis to give you a penny's worth of his sweat!" Francis heard this and quickly retorted: "In fact I sell it to my Lord!" Another day, hearing what Jesus said to his disciples as he sent them off to preach, Francis rose immediately to carry out to the letter what he had heard, took the shoes off his feet, put on a single cheap garment, and exchanged his leather belt for a length of rope. Then he was walking through the woods in winter when thieves laid hold of him and asked him who he was. He declared that he was the herald of God, so they threw him into the snow, saying: "Lie there, you peasant, herald of God!"
Many people of noble and humble birth, both clerical and lay, put away the world's vanities and followed his path. Like a father, this holy man taught them to strive for evangelical perfection, to embrace poverty, and to walk the way of holy simplicity. He also wrote a Rule, based on the Gospel, for himself and his present and future friars: this Rule was approved by the lord Pope Innocent. From then on Francis began with even greater fervor to sow the seeds of the word of God, going about from city to city and town to town. (Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine, O.P., The Golden Legend.)
Saint Francis eschewed a life of riches and carefree, frivolous pleasures to embrace a life of poverty, thereby teaching us that we must live as simply as possible, not to seek to acquire the luxuries and pleasures as the defining ends of our existence of this passing world. We must be attached to the things of Heaven and eschew all of the perquisites and privileges that the world might bestow upon us.
Saint Francis of Assisi was considered "mad" by many people, including his own father and brother, for seeking to embrace the life of the Gospel with such a pure love of God and a deep detestation of even his own bodily comforts. In other words, Saint Francis of Assisi made himself poor in the eyes of men in order to make himself rich unto eternity, hoping thereby to enrich others with the same inexhaustible treasure of riches that had been bestowed upon him so freely by Our Lord. It was because Saint Francis had so perfectly imitated the life of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man in Our Lady's virginal and immaculate womb that Our Lord's Stigmata was impressed upon him in 1224, just two years before he died at the age of forty-five, in 1226.
As was the case with another of his sons, one coming from the Capuchin branch of the Franciscans, Padre Pio, Saint Francis's embrace of the Cross of the Divine Redeemer and his deep devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament caused him to be tempted repeatedly by the devil. The adversary despised the fact that priests were reforming their lives because of the example of Saint Francis. He was angered by how many men and women, starting with Saint Clare of Assisi in the year 1212, left the world and all of its pleasures to embrace the Franciscan life of prayer, poverty, chastity, obedience, and severe bodily penances and mortifications.
The Golden Legend narrates one encounter between the devil and the Seraphic Saint of Assisi:
While Francis was at prayer, the devil called him three times by name. The saint responded, and the devil added: "In the whole world there is not a single sinner to whom the Lord will not grant pardon if he repents; but if someone kills himself with excessive penances, he will not obtain mercy forever." by a revelation, the saint instantly recognized the lie and the liar, and saw how the demon was trying to cool his ardor to lukewarmness. The ancient enemy, seeing that his effort was of no avail, aroused in Francis a violent temptation of the flesh, but the man of God, feeling this, took off his habit and scourged himself with a coarse rope, saying to his body. "See here, brother [donkey]! Either behave yourself or take a beating!" But the temptation persisted, so the saint went out and threw himself naked into the deep snow. Then he made seven snowballs, which he set in front of him, and spoke again to his body: "Look here," he said, "the biggest ball is your wife, the next four are two sons and two daughters, and the last two are a manservant and a maidservant. Hurry up and clothe them, they dying of cold! Or if it bothers you to give them so much attention, then serve the Lord with care!" Thereupon the devil went away in confusion, and the man of God returned to his cell glorifying God. (Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine, O.P., The Golden Legend.)
Saint Francis of Assisi knew that his life of poverty and penance and mortification would be misunderstood and reviled by many. Indeed, some converts to Catholicism in the past century or so, especially those from the many strands of Calvinism here in the United States, have made gargantuan efforts to reconcile their love of earthly riches and popularity as being perfectly compatible with the Faith of the One Who lived in complete poverty while He toiled at hard manual labor as a carpenter before He assumed His Public Ministry for three years prior to being affixed to the wood of the Cross to reshape our poor souls unto eternity. Such people labor in vain to find any compatibility between John Calvin and Adam Smith and their ilk with the true spirit of Our Lord exhibited by Saint Francis of Assisi, a man who was content to be held in contempt by all as he despised everything in the world, including the material riches that were his very birthright. Even some cradle Catholics do not understand that the world of Modernity is a world that rejects utterly and completely the Franciscan spirit of poverty and humility, which itself is an imitation and extension of the Holy Poverty of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Once again, a brief excerpt from The Golden Legend:
He preferred to hear himself reviled rather than praised, and when people extolled the merits of his sanctity, he ordered one of the friars to assail his ears with abusive epithets. The friar, all unwilling, called him a bumpkin, a money-lover, an ignoramus, and a worthless fellow, and Francis cheered and said: "Lord, bless you, brother! You have told the truth., and I need to hear such things!" The servant of God wished not so much to be in command as to be subject to authority, not so much to give orders as to carry them out. Therefore he gave up the office of general of his Order, and asked for a guardian, to whose will he would be subject in everything. To the friar with whom he was accustomed to go about he always promised obedience and always kept his promise. (Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine, O.P., The Golden Legend.)
This gentle saint, who loved all of God's creatures and even preached a sermon to a flock of birds, who listened attentively to him, showed his special solicitude for priests. Even though he knew that he had embraced the life of prayer and penance and mortification to help rebuild the Church Militant on earth during a period of clerical corruption quite similar to that in the counterfeit church of conciliarism, he had special reverence for priests and was ever humbly submissive to them. As Jacobus de Voragine points out in The Golden Legend:
He always manifested deep reverence for the hands of priests, hands empowered to produce the sacrament of Christ's Body. He often said: "If I happened to meet at the same time a saint coming down from heaven and soon poor little priest, I would hurry first to kiss the priest's hands and would say to the saint: "Wait for me, Saint Laurence, because the man's hands have handled the Word of life and possesses something beyond the human." (Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine, O.P., The Golden Legend.)
Saint Francis could not make Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ present under the appearances of bread and wine. He did, however, perform many miracles, especially with the instrument of our salvation, the Crucifix. A professor, whose name just happen to escape me at this time, who did not have have tenure and was dismissed after a year's worth of service, at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, remarked in November of 1985 on Saint Francis's miracles, many of them performed with a Crucifix, when addressing a student rally called to protest the administration's decision to suspend several liberal arts major fields in order to emphasize "career related" programs:
It is no accident that this college, named after the Saint who bore on his holy body the very brand marks of Christ Himself, has suffered a decline in enrollment since taking down the instrument, the Crucifix, by which he performed many miracles in order to obtain state and federal funding. How ironic it is that Saint Francis College in Brooklyn has done voluntarily what Communist authorities in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and Red China have had to do by brute force: tear down the Crucifix from the walls of Catholic schools and institutions of mercy. (Unnamed professor of political science, Saint Francis College, Brooklyn, New York, 1985.)
Saint Francis was ever devoted to the Mother of God. Consider this prayer of his own composition to Our Lady's Immaculate Conception, which would not be defined solemnly for over eight hundred more years:
Hail, holy Lady, Most holy Queen, Mary, Mother of God, Virgin made Church; Chosen by the most holy Father in heaven, consecrated by Him, with His most holy beloved Son and the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. On you descended and in you still remains all the fullness of grace and every good.
Hail, His Palace, His Tabernacle, Hail, His Robe. Hail, His Handmaid. Hail, is Mother. And Hail, all holy Virtues who, by the grace and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, are poured forth into the hearts of the faithful so that, faithless no longer, they may be made faithful servants of God through you. Amen.
Yes, uppermost in the seraphic soul of Saint Francis of Assisi was the desire to convert erring sinners within the Church, starting with priests and religious, and to pray for the conversion of those who had strayed from the Faith or who were entirely outside of the Catholic Church. Never presuming his own salvation (indeed, he said on his deathbed that he feared for his soul, which frightened the friars considerably; after all, if Francis was fearing his Particular Judgment after his austere life of penance and mortification, then what was to happen to them?), Saint Francis worked first on his own soul but never retreated from seeking the conversion of others, including a Mohammedan Caliph. He spent endless hours prostrate on the ground in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Portinucula in Assisi.
Frank M. Rega's book, Saint Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims, contains some very poignant episodes in Saint Francis's efforts to convert Sultan al-Kamil. Here is one such passage:
An early font presents the following account of the discourse of the Franciscans: "If you do not wish to believe," said the two friars, "we will commend your soul to God because we declare that if you die while holding to your law, you will be lost; God will not accept your soul. For this reason we have come to you." They added that they would demonstrate to the Sultan's wisest counselors the truth of Christianity, before which Mohammed's law counted for nothing. In answer to this challenge, and in order to confute the teaching of the two missionaries, the Sultan called in the religious advisers, the imams. However, they refused to dispute with the Christians and instead insisted that they be killed, in accordance with Islamic law.
But the Sultan, captivated by the speech of the two Franciscans, and by their sincere concern for his own salvation, ignored the demand of his courtiers. Instead, al-Kamil listened willingly to Francis, permitting him great liberty in his preaching. He told his imams that beheading the friars would be an unjust recompense for their efforts, since they had arrived with the praiseworthy intention of seeking his personal salvation. To Francis he said: "I am going to go counter to what my religious advisers demand and will not cut off your heads . . . you have risked you own lives in order to save my soul." (Frank M. Rega, St. Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims, TAN Books and Publishers, 2007, pp. 60-61.)
Saint Francis, a Catholic, spoke in a slightly different manner than the ecumenist, the retired Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, who spoke as follows: in Amman, Jordan, on May 8, 2009, and in a very different manner than the apostate and antipope who has dared to appropriate his own blessed name, Jorge Mario Bergoglio/Francis, who has distorted, misrepresented and corrupted everything to do with Saint Francis of Assisi, including Bergoglio's constant praise of Mohammedanism:
Places of worship, like this splendid Al-Hussein Bin Talal mosque named after the revered late King, stand out like jewels across the earth’s surface. From the ancient to the modern, the magnificent to the humble, they all point to the divine, to the Transcendent One, to the Almighty. And through the centuries these sanctuaries have drawn men and women into their sacred space to pause, to pray, to acknowledge the presence of the Almighty, and to recognize that we are all his creatures. (Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, Address to Muslim religious leaders, members of the Diplomatic Corps and Rectors of universities in Jordan in front of the mosque al-Hussein bin Talal in Amman)
To Muslims throughout the World
It gives me great pleasure to greet you as you celebrate ‘Id al-Fitr, so concluding the month of Ramadan, dedicated mainly to fasting, prayer and almsgiving.
It is a tradition by now that, on this occasion, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sends you a message of good wishes, together with a proposed theme for common reflection. This year, the first of my Pontificate, I have decided to sign this traditional message myself and to send it to you, dear friends, as an expression of esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders.
As you all know, when the Cardinals elected me as Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church, I chose the name of “Francis”, a very famous saint who loved God and every human being deeply, to the point of being called “universal brother”. He loved, helped and served the needy, the sick and the poor; he also cared greatly for creation.
I am aware that family and social dimensions enjoy a particular prominence for Muslims during this period, and it is worth noting that there are certain parallels in each of these areas with Christian faith and practice.
This year, the theme on which I would like to reflect with you and with all who will read this message is one that concerns both Muslims and Christians: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.
This year’s theme is intended to underline the importance of education in the way we understand each other, built upon the foundation of mutual respect. “Respect” means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. “Mutual” means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides.
What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal.
Turning to mutual respect in interreligious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!
It is clear that, when we show respect for the religion of our neighbours or when we offer them our good wishes on the occasion of a religious celebration, we simply seek to share their joy, without making reference to the content of their religious convictions.
Regarding the education of Muslim and Christian youth, we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices.
We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow.
When I received the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on 22 March 2013, I said: “It is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world.” With these words, I wished to emphasize once more the great importance of dialogue and cooperation among believers, in particular Christians and Muslims, and the need for it to be enhanced.
With these sentiments, I reiterate my hope that all Christians and Muslims may be true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education.
Finally, I send you my prayerful good wishes, that your lives may glorify the Almighty and give joy to those around you. Happy Feast to you all! (Francis the Self-Caricaturist to Muslims for end of Ramadan: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.)
I am moreover particularly pleased with the cordial relations enjoyed by the Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox and Jewish communities. It is my hope that the signs of friendship and cooperation may continue to increase. These good relations assume great significance for peaceful coexistence and for peace in the world, and they demonstrate that among the followers of different religious confessions cordial relations, respect and cooperation for the good of all are possible. (Jorge Praises Azeris for good interfaith and ecumenical relations.)
As Mr. Rega noted in his fine book, Saint Francis of Assisi made no compromises whatsoever with the Holy Integrity of the Catholic Faith:
St. Francis was bold yet gentle. His gentleness and Christian meekness were not timid or cowardly and did not cause him to draw back and shrink before the threatening situation, especially during his initial encounters with the [Muslim] sentries and the hostile imams. His confidence and fearlessness reflected the action of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit inspired his zeal and emboldened him to overcome human weakness. Pope Gregory IX, in the Bull of Canonization of the Saint, wrote that Francis conquered "by his simple preaching, unadorned with the persuasive words of human wisdom and made forceful by the power of God, who chooses the weak of this world to confound the strong."
What then was the specific content of his preaching that caused it to make such an impact on the Sultan? The Franciscan Rule is the key that reveals the substance of Francis' preaching. Chapter XVI of the Rule of 1221, regarding the mission to the unbelievers, was in all likelihood written soon after his return from Egypt, as noted previously (Chapter 13). In it he declares that the friars, when they have seen that it is pleasing to the Lord, are to "announce the word of God." This is the very first teaching precept that he mentions. And to what purpose is the word of God announced? That the infidels and Saracens may believe in the Triune God and in Jesus the Redeemer, in order to be baptized and become Christians. Essentially, Francis was presenting Jesus as a Divine Person and the Saviour of mankind, rather than as just another prophet who was no different from the prophets who had come before Him, as the Koran teaches. (Koran 2: 136). (Frank Rega, Saint Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims, TAN Books and Publishers, 2007, pp. 128-129.)
Pope Pius XI, writing in Rite Expiatis, April 13, 1926, warned anyone who would try to paint Saint Francis of Assisi as one who was indifferent to the doctrines of the Catholic Church is sadly mistaken and do a profound disservice to the Seraphic Saint and to the good of souls:
What evil they do and how far from a true appreciation of the Man of Assisi are they who, in order to bolster up their fantastic and erroneous ideas about him, imagine such an incredible thing as that Francis was an opponent of the discipline of the Church, that he did not accept the dogmas of the Faith, that he was the precursor and prophet of that false liberty which began to manifest itself at the beginning of modern times and which has caused so many disturbances both in the Church and in civil society! That he was in a special manner obedient and faithful in all things to the hierarchy of the Church, to this Apostolic See, and to the teachings of Christ, the Herald of the Great King proved both to Catholics and nonCatholics by the admirable example of obedience which he always gave. It is a fact proven by contemporary documents, which are worthy of all credence, "that he held in veneration the clergy, and loved with a great affection all who were in holy orders." (Thomas of Celano, Legenda, Chap. I, No. 62) "As a man who was truly Catholic and apostolic, he insisted above all things in his sermons that the faith of the Holy Roman Church should always be preserved and inviolably, and that the priests who by their ministry bring into being the sublime Sacrament of the Lord, should therefore be held in the highest reverence. He also taught that the doctors of the law of God and all the orders of clergy should be shown the utmost respect at all times." (Julian a Spira, Life of St. Francis, No. 28) That which he taught to the people from the pulpit he insisted on much more strongly among his friars. We may read of this in his famous last testament and, again, at the very point of death he admonished them about this with great insistence, namely, that in the exercise of the sacred ministry they should always obey the bishops and the clergy and should live together with them as it behooves children of peace. (Pius XI, Rite expiatis)
Pope Leo XIII, writing in Auspicato Concessum, September 17, 1882, explained, quite contrary to the spirit of effeminacy that is extant in the counterfeit church in general and in many of the provinces of the Franciscan friars attached to its nefarious structures, the Holy Founder of the Order of Friars Minor was a Catholic man who bravely embraced the the folly of the Cross no matter what anyone thought of him, bearing within his own body the very brand marks of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, namely, the stigmata:
And even as at that period the blessed Father Dominic Guzman was occupied in defending the integrity of heaven sent doctrine and in dissipating the perverse errors of heretics by the light of Christian wisdom, so was the grace granted to St. Francis, whom God was guiding to the execution of great works, of inciting Christians to virtue, and of bringing back to the imitation of Christ those men who had strayed both long and far. It was certainly no mere chance that brought to the ears of the youth these counsels of the gospel: "Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses; nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats. nor shoes. nor a staff." And again, "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor . . . and come, follow Me." Considering these words as directed personally to himself, he at once deprives himself of all, changes his clothing, adopts poverty as his associate and companion during the remainder of his life, and resolves to make those great maxims of virtue, which he had embraced in a lofty and sublime frame of mind, the fundamental rules of his Order.
Thenceforth, amidst the effeminacy and over-fastidiousness of the time, he is seen to go about careless and roughly clad, begging his food from door to door, not only enduring what is generally deemed most hard to bear, the senseless ridicule of the crowd, but even to welcome it with a wondrous readiness and pleasure. And this because he had embraced the folly of the cross of Jesus Christ, and because he deemed it the highest wisdom. Having penetrated and understood its awful mysteries, he plainly saw that nowhere else could his glory be better placed.
With the love of the cross, an ardent charity penetrated the heart of St. Francis, and urged him to propagate zealously the Christian faith, and to devote himself to that work, though at the risk of this life and with a certainty of peril. This charity he extended to all men; but the poorest and most repulsive were the special objects of his predilection; so that those seemed to afford him the greatest pleasure whom others are wont to avoid or over-proudly to despise.
Therefore has he deserved well of that brotherhood established and perfected by Jesus Christ, which has made of all mankind one only family, under the authority of God, the common Father of all.
By his numerous virtues, then, and above all by his austerity of life, this irreproachable man endeavored to reproduce in himself the image of Christ Jesus. But the finger of Providence was again visible in granting to him a likeness to the Divine Redeemer, even in externals.
Thus, like Jesus Christ, it so happened that St. Francis was born in a stable; a little child as he was, his couch was of straw on the ground. And it is also related that, at that moment, the presence of angelic choirs, and melodies wafted through the air, completed this resemblance. Again, like Christ and His Apostles, Francis united with himself some chosen disciples, whom he sent to traverse the earth as messengers of Christian peace and eternal salvation. Bereft of all, mocked, cast off by his own, he had again this great point in common with Jesus Christ, -- he would not have a corner wherein he might lay his head. As a last mark of resemblance, he received on his Calvary, Mt. Alvernus (by a miracle till then unheard of) the sacred stigmata, and was thus, so to speak, crucified.
We here recall a fact no less striking as a miracle than considered famous by the voice of hundreds of years. One day St. Francis was absorbed in ardent contemplation of the wounds of Jesus crucified, and was seeking to take to himself and drink in their exceeding bitterness, when an angel from heaven appeared before him, from whom some mysterious virtue emanated: at once St. Francis feels his hands and feet transfixed, as it were, with nails, and his side pierced by a sharp spear. Thenceforth was begotten an immense charity in his soul; on his body he bore the living tokens of the wounds of Jesus Christ. (Pope Leo XIII, Auspicato Concessum, September 17, 1882.)
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., spared nothing in praising the virtues of Saint Francis of Assisi:
Avarice was the crying sin of the age; the hearts of men, too preoccupied with earthly affairs to have a desire of heaven, must be delivered from a slavery which crushed out all noble thoughts, all love, all devotedness. Holy Poverty, the mother of that true liberty which disarms hell and laughs at tyrants, could alone achieve such a deliverance. Francis was taken with the beauty of poverty, in spite of the jeers and insults of the vulgar, and of his rejection by his own family; but his sublime folly was the salvation of his people, and he was blessed by our heavenly Father, as a true brother of his eternal Son.
As by nature the consubstantial Word receives his unbeginning Being from him who begets him eternally; so within the Holy Trinity, he has nothing appropriated to himself but the title of Son, to the glory of the Father, in the Holy Spirit who is their love. Such is God’s destitution of all things, whereof nothing created could give an idea, but which is reflected in the Incarnate Word’s sublime disappropriation in presence of that Father form whom he derived his all. Would it, then, be far wrong to consider the Poverty chosen by St. Francis as no other than Eternal Wisdom, offering herself, even under the old Law, to the human race, as bride, and as sister? Once espoused in Mary’s womb at the Incarnation, how great has been her fidelity! But whoever loves her must become in Jesus like unto her.
“Lord Jesus,” said Francis, “show me the paths of thy well-beloved Poverty. ‘Tis she that accompanied thee from thy Mother’s womb to the crib in the stable, and, on the waysides of the world, took care thou shouldst not have where to lay thy head. In the combat which concluded the war of our Redemption, Poverty, adorned with all the privations which form her bridal attire, mounted with thee upon the Cross, which even Mary could not ascend. She followed thee to thy borrowed tomb; and, as thou didst yield up thy soul in her embrace, so in her arms thou didst take it again in the glorious nakedness of the Resurrection; and together with her didst enter heaven, leaving to the earth all that was earthly. Oh! who would not love this queen of the world which she tramples under her feet, my lady and my love? Most poor Jesus, my sweet Master, have pity on me; without her I can taste no peace, and I die of desire.” (Franc. Opusc. t. i. Oratio B. Patris pro obtinen da paupertate)
God cannot turn a deaf ear to such entreaties. If he contends, it is in order to add fresh wounds of love, until the old man being destroyed, the new rises form the ruins, in all things conformed to the image of the heavenly Adam. Eighteen years later, after the prodigy on Mount Alvernia, Francis, impressed with the divine seal of Christ’s wounds, sang in heavenly language (In foco l’amor mi mise) the sublime combat which had made up his life:
“Love has cast me into a furnace, love has cast me into a furnace, I am cast into a furnace of love.
“My new Bridegroom, the loving Lamb, gave me the nuptial ring; then having cast me into prison, he cleft my heart, and my body fell to the ground.
“Those arrows, propelled by love, struck me and set me on fire. From peace he made war, and I am dying of sweetness.
“The darts rained so thick and fast, that I was all in an agony. Then I took a buckler, but the shafts were so swift that it shielded me no more; they mangled my whole body, so strong was the arm that shot them.
“He shot them so powerfully, that I despaired of parrying them; and to escape death, I cried with all my might: ‘Thou transgressest the laws of the camp.’ But he only set up a new instrument of war, which overwhelmed me with fresh blows.
“So true was his aim, that he never missed. I was lying on the ground, unable to move my limbs. My whole body was broken, and I had no more sense than a man deceased;
“Deceased, not by a true death, but through excess of joy. Then regaining possession of my body, I felt so strong, that I could follow the guides who led me to the court of heaven.
“Returning to myself, I took up arms, and I made war upon Christ; I rode into his territory, and meeting him, I engaged him at once, and took my revenge on him
“Having had my revenge, I made a treaty with him; for from the beginning Christ had loved me with a true love. And now my heart has become capable of the consolations of Christ.”
Around the standard-bearer of Christ were already gathered those whom he called his knights of the Round Table. However captivating he may have been when his fellow-citizens proclaimed him the flower of their youth, and he presided at their feasts and games; Francis was much more attractive now in his life of self-renunciation. Scarcely ten years after his espousals with holy Poverty, he had so well avenged her for having been so long despised, that she held full court in the midst of five thousand Friars Minor encamped under the walls of Assisi; while Clare and her companions formed for her such a suite of honor as no empress could ever boast of. The enthusiasm soon became so general that Francis, in order to satisfy it without depopulating the State and the Church, gave to the world his Third Order, into which, led by Louis IX of France and Elizabeth of Hungary, entered countless multitudes of every nation and tribe and tongue. Thanks to the three Seraphic Orders, as well as to the triple militia founded at the same time by Dominic de Gusman, devotedness to the Roman Church, and the spirit of penance and prayer, everywhere triumphed for a time over the anticipated rationalism, the luxury, and all the other evils which had been threatening the speedy ruin of the world.
The influence of the Saints springs from their sanctity, as rays from the focus. No rich man ever possessed the earth to such a degree as this poor man who, seeking God and depending absolutely upon his Providence, had regained the condition of Adam in Eden. Thus, as he passed along, the flocks would welcome him; the fishes would follow his boat in the water; the birds would gather round him and joyfully obey him. And why? Francis drew all things to himself because all things drew him to God.
With him there was no such thing as analyzing love, and making distinctions among those things which come from God and lead to God. To raise himself up to God, to compassionate with Christ, to be of service to his neighbor, to be in harmony with the whole universe like Adam when innocent, was for the seraphic father, says St. Bonaventure, one and the same impulse of that true piety which ruled his whole being. The divine fire within him found fuel in everything. No touch of the Holy Spirit, whencesoever it came, did Francis let pass; so much he feared to frustrate the effect of a single grace. He did not despise the stream for not being the ocean; and it was with an unheard of tenderness of devotion, says his son and historian Bonaventure, that Francis relished God’s goodness in creation, contemplated his supreme beauty in every created beauty, and heard the echo of heaven’s harmonies in the concert of beings sprung like man himself from the only source of existence. Hence it was by the sweet name of brothers and sisters that he invited all creatures to praise with him that well-beloved Lord, whose every trace on earth was the dear object of his love and contemplation.
Neither the progress nor the consummation of his holiness alteres, in this respect, what would now be called his method of prayer. On hearing that his death was approaching, and again a few minutes before he passed away, he sang, and would have others sing to him, his favorite canticle: “Praised be God my Lord, for all creatures, and especially for our brother the sun, which gives us light, and is an image of thee, my God! Praised be my Lord for our sister the moon; and for all the stars which he has created bright and beautiful in the heavens! Praised be my Lord for our brother the wind; and for the air, and the clouds, and the fine weather, and all the seasons; for our sister the water, which is very useful, humble, precious and pure; for our brother the fire, which is bright and strong; for our mother the earth, which bears us, and produces the fruits and the flowers! Be thou praised, O my God, for those who pardon and who suffer for love of thee! Be thou praised for our sister the death of the body, which no living man can escape; unhappy is he who dies in mortal sin; but happy is he whom death finds conformed to thy holy will! Praise and bless my Lord, give him thanks, and serve him in great humility.”
After having received the stigmata, Francis’ life was an unspeakable martyrdom; in spite of which he continued to travel through towns and villages, riding, like Jesus of whom he was so touching an image, upon a poor little ass; and everywhere he preached the Cross, working miracles and wonders of grace. Assisi cherishes the memory of the blessing bequeathed to it by its glorious son, when, gazing upon it for the last time from the beautiful plain that stretches at its feet, he exclaimed with tears: “Be thou blessed of the Lord, O city faithful to God, for in thee and by thee shall many souls be saved!”
The humble Portiuncula, the cradle of the Order, where Clare too had exchanged the vain ornaments of the world for the poverty of the Cross: St. Mary of the Angels, which awakens in the pilgrim a feeling of the nearness of heaven; and where the Great Pardon of the 2nd of August proves the pleasure our Lord still takes in it: this was the appointed place of Francis’ death. He passed away on the 3rd of October, towards eight o’clock in the evening; and although darkness had already set in, a flight of larks descended, singing and rising in heaven of the new sun, which was mounting towards the Seraphim.
Francis had chosen to be buried in the place of public execution, called the Colle d’Inferno, near the West wall of his native city. But within two years, Gregory IX enrolled him among the Saints, and changed the name of the hill into Colle del Paradiso. James the German built over the bare rock, where lies the Poor Man of Assisi, a two-storied church, which the genius of Giotto has made to outshine in glory all the princely palaces on earth. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)
Dom Prosper Gueranger’s prayer in honor of the Seraphic Saint of Assisi speaks to us of the spirit of humility and fidelity that must govern every aspect of our lives:
Mayst thou be blessed by every living soul, O thou whom our Savior associated so closely with himself in the work of Redemption. The world, created by God for himself, subsists through the Saints; for it is in them he finds his glory. At the time of thy birth, the Saints were few; the enemy of God and man was daily extending his darksome reign; and when society has entirely lost faith and charity, light and heat, the human race must perish. Thou didst come to bring warmth to the wintry world, till the thirteenth century became like a spring time, rich in beautiful flowers; but alas! no summer was to follow in its wake. By thee the Cross was forced upon men’s notice; not indeed, as heretofore, to be exalted in a permanent triumph, but to rally the elect in face of the enemy, who would too soon afterwards regain the advantage. The Church lays aside the robe of glory, which beseemed her in the days of our Lord’s undisputed royalty; together with thee, she treads barefoot the path of trials, which liken her to her divine Spouse suffering and dying for his Father’s honor. Do thou thyself, and by thy sons, ever hold aloft before her the sacred ensign.
It is by identifying ourselves with Christ on the Cross that we shall find him again in the splendors of his glory; for men, and God in man, cannot be separated; and both, thou didst say, must be contemplated by every soul. Yet no otherwise than by effective compassion with our suffering Head can we find the way of divine union and the sweet fruits of love. If the soul suffers herself to be led by the good pleasure of the Holy Ghost, this Master of masters will conduct her by no other way than that set forth by our Lord in the books of his humility, patience, and suffering.
O Francis, cause the lessons of thy amiable and heroic simplicity to fructify in us. May thy children, to the great profit of the Church, increase in number and still more in sanctity; and never spare themselves in teaching both by word and example, knowing, however, that the latter is of greater avail than the former. Raise them up again, with their former popularity in that country of France, which thou didst love on account of its generous aspirations, now stifled by the sordid vulgarity of money-makers. The whole Religious state looks upon thee as one of its most illustrious Fathers; come to its assistance in the trials of the present time. Friend of Dominic, and his companion under our Lady’s mantle, keep up between your two families the fraternal love which delights the Angels. May the Benedictine Order never lose the affection which causes it to rejoice always on this day; and by thy benefits to it, strengthen the bonds knit once for all by the gift of the Portiuncula! (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)
Inspired by the simplicity and poverty and holiness of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, may we in this age of clerical corruption and lack of fidelity to the perennial teaching Our Lord has deposited in His true Church embrace the Cross that shaped Saint Francis and pierced his very flesh so that we may be detached from the things of this passing world and attached solely on the pursuit of personal sanctity, principally by profound daily Eucharistic piety, which is possible only in a few places today, of course, and Total Marian Consecration, as befits redeemed creatures.
Although Jorge Mario Bergoglio dared to name his ecocyclical Laudato Si after Saint Francis of Assisis’ Canticle of the Sun, it is interesting that the Argentine Apostate omitted some verses that explained the fate of those who died in states of Mortal Sin, a truth that runs contrary to the false "pontiff's" fale concept of mercy and his desire to "accompany" hardened sinners in their lives of wanton, illicit pleasures until their deaths:
O most high, almighty God, to Thee belong praise,
Glory, honor, and all blessing!
By thou alone, Most High, were all things made and no man
is worthy to speak Thy name.
Praised be my Lord with all his creatures, especially Messer
Brother Sun, who brings us the day brings us the light;
Fair is he and shining with a very great splendor;
Most High, he signifies to us Thee!
Praised be my Lord for Sister Moon, and for the stars, the
Which He has set in heaven clear and precious and lovely.
Praised be my Lord for Brother Wind, and for air and cloud,
calms and all weather, by the which Thou upholdest life
in Thy creatures.
Praised be my Lord for Sister Water, who is very serviceable
unto us, and humble, and precious, and clean.
Praised be my Lord for Brother Fire, through whom Thou
givest us light in the night; and he is beautiful and joyous,
and very mighty, and strong.
Praised be my Lord for our Sister, Mother Earth, who doth
sustain us and keep us, and bring forth divers fruits, and’
flowers of many colors and grass.
Praised be my Lord for those who pardon one another for His
love’s sake, and who endure weakness and tribulation;
blessed are they who peaceably endure, for by Thee,
Most Highest, shall they be crowned.
Praised be my Lord for our sister the death of the body, from
whom no man living can escape. Woe unto them who die
in mortal sin. Blessed are they who are found walking by
Thy most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praised ye and bless my Lord, and give thanks unto Him and
Serve Him with great humility.
(As found in The Lives of the Saints: With Excerpts from Their Writings, edited by Father Joseph Van with an introduction by Father Thomas Plassman, O.F.M., J. J. Crawley and Sons in 1954, pp. 247-248.)
Saint Francis hated Mortal Sin.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio enables those who commit Mortal Sins in the name of “love” and “mercy,” referring to them as those who are living on “the existential peripheries.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is every bit as much an Anti-Francis as Anti-Christ.
Why is this so very difficult for most Catholics to understand and to accept?
Dom Prosper Gueranger's prayer, found in his The Liturgical Year, to Saint Francis is one that we should take for our own, especially the reference to money-making in Nineteenth Century France, which is, obviously, just as much a curse in our own country today:
Mayest thou be blessed by every living soul, O thou whom Our Saviour associated so closely with Himself in the work of Redemption. The world, created by God for Himself, subsists through the saints; for it is in them He finds His glory. At the time of they birth the saints were few; the enemy of God and and man were daily extending his darksome reign; and when society has entirely lost faith and charity, light and heat, the human race must perish. Thou didst come to bring warmth to the wintry world, till the thirteenth century became like a spring time, rich in beautiful flowers; but alas! no summer was to follow in its wake. By thee the cross was forced upon men's notice; not indeed, as heretofore, to be exalted in a permanent triumph, but to rally the elect in the face of the enemy, who would too son afterwards regain the advantage. The Church lays aside the robe of glory, which beseemed her in the days of our Lord's undisputed royalty; together with these, she treads barefoot the path of trials, which liken her to her divine Spouse suffering and dying for His Father's honour. Do thou thyself, and by thy sons, ever hold aloft before her the sacred ensign.
It is by identifying ourselves with Christ on the cross, that we shall find Him again in the splendours of His glory; for man, and God in man, cannot be separated; and both, thou didst say, must be contemplated by every soul. Yet no otherwise than by effective compassion with our suffering Head can we find the way of divine union and the sweet fruits of love. If the soul suffers herself to be led by the good pleasure of the Holy Ghost, this Master of masters will conduct her by no other way, than that set forth by our Lord in the books of His humility, patience, and suffering.
O Francis, cause the lessons of thy amiable and heroic simplicity to fructify in us. May thy children, to the great profit of the Church, increase in number and still more in sanctity; and never spare themselves in teaching both by word and example, knowing, however, that the latter is of greater avail than the former. Raise up again, with their former popularity, in that country of France which thou didst love on account of its generous aspirations, now stifled by the sordid vulgarity of money-makers. The whole religious state looks upon thee as one of its most illustrious fathers; come to its assistance in the trials of the present time. Friend of Dominic, and his companion under our Lady's mantle, keep up between your two families the fraternal love which delights the angels. May the Benedictine Order never lose the affection which causes it to rejoice always on this day; and by thy benefits to it, strengthen the bonds knit once for all by the gift of the Portiuncula!" (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)
Saint Francis of Assisi went from a life of riches to a life of poverty and ridicule, earning eternal treasures in the process as he gave to Holy Mother Church a new community that gave us such defenders of the Faith as Saints Anthony and Saint Bonaventure and untold numbers of missionaries, including, of course Father Francis Solano, who evangelized Indians in parts of Peru and Argentina and Paraguay, and Father Junipero Serra, who was responsible for the Catholicization of much of what is now the State of California, establishing the California mission system.
Franciscan martyrs gave up their lives for the Faith in Nagasaki, Japan, on February 6, 1597. Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a Capuchin Franciscan, gave up his life for the Faith on April 24, 1622, as he was killed by the hateful, insidious, blood-thirsty heretics known as Calvinists in Switzerland. Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Conventual Franciscan who founded the Knights of the Immaculata and who opposed all forms of naturalism as he sought to establish the City of Mary Immaculate, was hated by the Nazis and the Communists and the Zionists, among other naturalists.
Yes, it was joy that Saint Francis exhibited while in prison during the Assisian-Perugian war in 1202 as he went "clink, clink, clink" and "clang, clang, clang" with the chains that shackled his legs and arms in order to up a grumpy fellow prisoner. It took a while. However, Saint Francis of Assisi won over his fellow prisoner, who could not resist the twenty-year old Saint Francis's joy. We must remain joyful at all times, remembering that everything that happens to us is within the Providence of God, Who gives us the graces through the loving hands of Our Lady, she who is the Mediatrix of All Graces, to bear with perfect equanimity and joy the crosses that He has fashioned for us from all eternity to carry so that we can give Him glory through the Immaculate Heart of Mary as we try to make reparation for our sins and those of the whole world.
How can we not be joyful in knowing that we are loved by the Infinite love of Love Himself? Saint Francis of Assisi knew that we had to be joyful in the knowledge that we are loved by the Infinite love of Love Himself. True Catholics continue to find the joy of Saint Francis of Assisi as irresistible today as it was when he inspired the likes of Bernard of Quintavalle Saint Clare of Assisi and her sister Agnes in the immediate aftermath of his embrace of Lady Poverty in the early-Thirteenth Century.
It was the joy and austere penances and deep Eucharistic piety and tender devotion to the Mother of God of Saint Francis of Assisi and his followers that planted the seeds for the glories of the apogee of the Catholic Middle Ages, the Thirteenth Century, aided, of course, by his fellow reformer, Saint Dominic de Guzman, and the gift that the founder of the Order of Preachers was given by Our Lady herself, her Most Holy Rosary. May the intercession of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic help us to plant seeds in our own day that will bear fruit in the restoration of the Church Militant on earth and of Christendom in the world.
As Saint Francis was wont to say, "Deo gratias!"
Vivat Christus Rex! Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of the Order of Friars Minor, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, lover of Poverty, pray for us.
Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us.
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us.
Saint Anthony of Padua, pray for us.
Saint Bonaventure, pray for us.
Saint Dominic, friend of Saint Francis, pray for us.
Saint Francis Solano, pray for us.
Saint Fidelis Sigmaringen, O.F.M., Cap., pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Padre Pio, O.F.M., Cap., pray for us.
Father Junipero Serra, pray for us.