Saint Francis of Assisi
the fourteenth apostle:
Dr. John WorldPeace JD
St Francis of Assisi by Dr. John WorldPeace JD
Oil on Canvas Painting 50" x 50" in Progress
About Saint Francis
Communication with Birds, Fish and Animals
I have organized
this biography differently from the others I have read because
in those biographies I could not get a feel for who St. Francis
was due to all the legends, stories, mythical background,
history of times, and author commentary mixed together. So
I began with the story of St. Francis without interlineating
the bios of his closest disciples, then continued with his
wisdom, his miracles, his prayers, his relationship with animals
and my commentary. I have written the St. Francis story from
birth to death and then added the rest by categorizes at the
end of the story.
is not a scholarly treatise. Many sources disagree on the
actual fact and timing of certain events. Almost immediately
after Francis’ death, his story was recorded then later
rewritten. The official story was written by St. Bonaventure
who was healed by Francis as a child. It was foretold by Francis
that Bonaventure would be a great friar minor.
When St. Bonaventure
finished his official biography of Francis, he sent out word
to the Franciscan order to destroy everything not included
in the official biography. This is the same thing the Christians
did after the official Bible was canonized in 400 C.E. fortunately,
Bonaventure’s order was ignored.
of this bibliography should be able to get his or her bearing
for further reading into St. Francis if so desired. St. Francis
is much more than the Patron Saint of bird baths.
I refer to St. Francis as the 14th apostle, St. Paul. was
the 13th disciple. No one has actually tried to follow the
gospel of Jesus in regards to the disciples spreading the
good news of Jesus, except Francis. The original/initial Franciscan
Order successfully followed the instructions of Jesus, proving
it could be done.
Christians have come to support billion dollar Jesus shows
where televangelists wear suits and charge $400 for front
row seats in their entertainment centers. St. Francis would
not have even entered such a circus where humans make millions
talking about Jesus who had nothing. The hypocrisy, of these
men of God is just too overwhelming.
Church has definitely honored Francis but it has not admitted
just how important Francis was to rebuilding the Church of
the 1200’s that had become power mad, materialistic,
degenerate, and disconnected from its members who were overwhelmingly
poor. The Franciscans healed the church. Significant numbers
of friars have become Pope.
that Francis performed were too well documented to be written
off as myth. They gave us a glimpse of the reality of the
greater miracles and healings of Jesus.
It is not
important to me whether Jesus walked on water or not, what
is important is that I believe he could. It is not important
to me whether Francis actually had the five wound stigmata
of Jesus’ crucifixion on his hands, feet and side. It
is only important that I believe Francis loved Jesus enough
to be worthy of them.
of Jesus are 2000 years old and hard to believe for today’s
rational scientific technical minds. Especially since those
miracles were not written down untilthirty-five years after
his death. Yet Francis performed almost all the same miracles
over a period of eighteen years as Jesus did in the two years
of his ministry. We know almost everything about Francis from
birth to death whereas with Jesus we are missing all but one
incident between his birth and the start of his ministry thirty-four
Like the gospels
of Jesus, the actual literal Twenty-Firstst century factual
history is not critical. What is important is the general
agreement about Francis. The stories and legends are believable
even if they did not happen exactly how or when the many biographers
For me, Francis
is critical in this age of reason and science in understanding
Jesus. rancis life is an eight hundred year bridge back to
the 2000 old ministry of Jesus.
For me, the
reality of Francis who is only eight hundred years in the
past, bolsters and certifies the reality of Jesus who is 2000
years in the past. Francis lived the life advocated by Jesus.
Nothing gives more credence to Jesus than Francis living his
in obscurity and taught in parables, paradoxes and riddles
expecting that after his death others would understand his
presence. We still have not figured if out but thanks to Francis
we have received the core message of love and peace loud and
more than ever, needs the peace and love gospel of Jesus.
And the world human society needs Francis as a wide corridor
for some to embrace the real Jesus.
ABOUT ST. FRANCIS
fell in love with Jesus. He was a troubadour and would be
knight and Jesus was his king.
When St. Francis
heard the voice of Jesus in San Damiano Church in 12-C.E.,
he desired never to lose that communication. He deeply regretted
his youth as an unrestrained hedonist and found he could not
punish himself enough or repent enough to atone for those
years. It may be that no one ever inflicted as much pain and
suffering on himself as pennance for his sins.
to feel what Jesus felt being scoured and crucified, alone
and abandoned on Calvary. He wanted to understand the source
of Jesus’ love.
poverty, became an itinerant preacher, prayed and meditated
constantly, worked miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead,
foretold the future and like Jesus went around doing good.
In 1200 the
Catholic Church had lost respect of the people; the church
was about money, power, and decadence. Nonetheless, unlike
other preachers of that day, Francis completely supported
the church. He supported the clergy absolutely; an incredible
commitment considering the reputation of the church at that
Order was no doubt responsible for the rejuvenation of the
Catholic Church from the 13th to the 14th centuries.
joy came from being ridiculed, abused, criticized, and literally
humiliated as punishment for his sins. He took the charge
of Jesus to go forth in poverty with only the clothes on his
back and preach the gospel. That was his life after San Damiano.
by one of his disciples why he had been chosen by God, Francis
said, because he was the world’s most detestable sinners!
was not a scholar, intellectual or theologian. He was a simple
man who lived and preached the gospel. He taught first by
He was not
an administrator and in time his vision of poverty was diluted
as was his Rule, which was based on the gospel as the order
covered the world and swelled to tens of thousands of friars.
He said he
never did anything but what God told him to. In the end, he
was received by royalty and nobility, popes and clergy, rich
The following is his story.
SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI THE FOURTEENTH APOSTLE
“May the Lord give you peace”.
Mariconi, who chose to be known as Peter Bernadone, son of
a successful cloth merchant and his wife Pica were expecting
their first child in 1182. Pica was French from Provence and
had been married before. She had a son named Angelo from her
greatly expanded his father’s cloth business and was
rich and on his way to becoming very rich. At the time of
the expected arrival of his child, he was away on business
in French Provence.
It was said
that a poor man walked the streets of Assisi calling out “Pax
et Bonum, Sitx et Bonum (Peace and all good, )” prior
to the expected birth of the Bernardone child.
Pica was having
trouble delivering her baby until a stranger, a prophet, an
angel, appeared and told her that she would not deliver until
she went to a stable and laid down on a bed of straw. When
she did this, her son was born.
At the baptism,
another stranger appeared and stood in as the childs godfather.
The child was christened Giovani (John) Mariconi. The stranger
disappeared after the baptism leaving an impression of his
knees in the marble step of the altar.
returned home, yet another stranger appeared and asked to
hold the baby. He was given permission; he took the child,
made the sign of the cross on the child’s right shoulder
and told the nurse to be cautious or devils who would make
war on the child all his life.
returned from his business trip, he was irritated with the
name John. He had thoughts of the crude and rough “John
the Baptist”. He considered himself a successful man
of the world and was very conscious of his and his family’s
image. He admired the demeanor of the French so he decided
to call his son Francisco (Italian) instead of John. In time,
he was called Francis (English) “Frenchy” by all
because he was fluent in French.
Such are the
legends surrounding the birth and naming of John Bernardone
who the world has come to know as St. Francis of Assisi, founder
of the Franciscan Order of friar’s minor, poor Clares
and order of penitents.
a severe famine in Italy from 1182-7; the first 5 years of
Francis’ life. The wealth of his Peter meant there was
little effect on his family.
Church had begun to set up schools about this time and Francis
was enrolled in St. Georges for about three years from age
8-11. It seems, Francis learned enough to function as a cloth
merchant. He had a good facility with Latin but was not perfect.
From his mother
Francis learned French. Provence her home was officially German
but it was French speaking. She brought with her to Italy
many French poems and songs. This was the age of troubadours,
knights, chivalry and courtly love.
At 12, Francis’
father began to teach him the cloth business. He was taken
out of school and traveled and worked with his father. At
age 13, he was admitted to the cloth guild which made Peter
proud. In his travels, Francis saw many kinds of people.
in addition to selling cloth in bulk, his father also made
clothing and had a shop for that purpose. This was also a
time when fashion developed in the clothing business. Francis
was probably one of the best dressed citizens of Assisi. This
was in line with is father’s desire to show his wealth
as well as, I am sure, to advertise his clothing business.
For the next
eight years, Francis worked with his father but it seems he
never felt attached to his vocation. He was not motivated
by money and greed. He lacked enthusiasm for the business.
more than his wages on endless partying and revelry. His father
indulged him. Francis was a total hedonist living a life after
work of wine, woman and song with is friends. Sex was more
open and free than now.
the time could almost be viewed as degenerate by contemporary
standards. There was no indoor plumbing and few public facilities
so it was common to see people relieve themselves in public.
Saturnalia was an old annual pagan public orgy which was finally
outlawed by Innocent III in 1207, when Francis was 25.
the extreme penance that Francis imposed in himself during
the second half of his life, it seems that his sins of debauchery
and unrestrained sex were extreme in his mind.
5’3” and had black eyes. He was always good natured,
courteous and generous. He was always compassionate in regards
to the poor. He practiced poverty to extreme of true love
later in life.
himself as a troubadour and potentially a chivalrous knight.
He looked for the opportunity to achieve renown as such.
Yet life in
his late teens felt empty maybe he had partied to the extreme
accumulating 12 years of unlimited merry making.
an idealist. He was not an intellectual scholar or theologian.
He was a down to earth people person. He could size up a person
quickly; convince them to buy his cloth, lead them to revelry,
be compassionate to the poor and sick and he refrained from
judging pretty much everyone. He was a likeable fellow and
One day Francis
was selling cloth in the market. He was speaking with a customer
when a poor man came up begging alms. It was against the law
to interrupt a sale. Francis refused the man. After the customer
left Francis left his booth and ran to find the beggar. He
felt ashamed that he had refused him. He found the man, gave
him some money, and returned to his booth. Obviously Francis
In 1202, Francis
was 20 and bored. In November 1202, the nobles who had been
exiled from Rocca Maggiore, a fort above Assisi, attacked
Assisi from Perugia. Francis rode out to do battle and was
captured. Most of the men and boys of Assisi who fought were
imprisoned in the worst of conditions and contracted malaria.
It was a year before he was able to be ransomed by his father.
Francis continued to act with compassion and friendship and
good cheer to his fellow prisoners. He made no distinction
between them. Even one who allegedly was an outcast was treated
equally by Francis. It seems that Francis always had a preference
for those who were shunned, ignored or looked down upon.
returned home, he was extremely weak. So much so that it took
him a year to recover. The truth is that he never fully recovered
during the rest of his life. The malaria continued to reoccur
concerning that time, he said, “I was very frail.”
and visions, hallucinations appear to those who are very sick.
I believe that in prison Francis had his first experience
with these altered states of consciousness. In addition, I
believe this is when his conversion began up until the time
of his imprisonment. Francis had led a pretty good life, money,
friends and freedom to do as he pleased, and he had indulgent
recovery, Francis drifted back into his old habits of revelry
and hedonism but not with the same degree of enthusiasm.
In 1205 he
decided to attempt to gain some knightly glory and overcome
his defeat and imprisonment by joining the crusades. He had
some expensive clothes made for the endeavor and prepared
he encountered a true knight of noble birth who seemed to
have only one set of ragged clothes. Francis gave the knight
all the clothes he had made for himself. The compassion and
generosity that characterized Francis life as a penitent,
was obviously already a part of his character going back as
far as when he spent his money on his friends in their endless
time, Francis had a dream that a man called his name and then
led him into an enormous room filled with weapons and shields
and military gear each with a sign of a cross on it. He asked
who all these things were for and was told the palace and
contents were for him and his knights.
great enthusiasm, Francis left for Puglia to join the crusade.
He only rode 22 miles to Spoleto when he experienced a reoccurrence
of malaria. He was very ill with fever, nausea, cold spells
and shaking. It was obvious that he could not continue his
journey to knighthood and the crusades.
During this sickness he heard a voice asking where he was
He said, “To
asked whom he should serve, the master or servant.
why are you abandoning the master to follow the servant?”
asked the voice.
it was Jesus who was speaking to him and he asked, “Lord
what do you want me to do?”
said, “Return home. You will be told what to do. You
must understand your vision in a different way”.
home disillusioned, ridiculed, humiliated and confused. His
friends encouraged him to rejoin them which he understood
to mean pay for their revelry. Out of courtesy he did but
his desire was gone. That life was now behind him fast.
As he exited
a party early one morning and entered the street as usual
with his mindlessly drunken friends, he experienced an ecstasy
of sweetness that paralyzed him and held him fast.
asked him what he was doing. He replied “ I am thinking
about taking a wife; one more noble and beautiful than any
other in the world.”
in their drunkenness. Later that wife turned out to be lady
of poverty. Poverty became his spiritual spouse.
referred to his youth as a time when he was “in sin”.
It seems he was now on a new path. Francis began to spend
all of his time after work praying in order to continue the
celestial conversation that he had been experiencing.
One day while
praying, Francis was addressed.
said “Francis all the things that you in the past loved
and desired, you must reject if you wish to know my will.
When you begin to do this all the things that horrified and
repulsed you, you will find gives you an overwhelming sense
of sweetness and peace.”
home on his horse, he felt the horse stall. When he looked
up the road he saw a leper, a person he and all people feared
and avoided. A fear to some even greater that the battlefield.
He understood immediately that this was a test.
his horse and rushed towards the leper. He gave him a hug
and some money. He had changed as the voice promised. He mounted
his horse but as he turned around the leper had disappeared.
He understood it was an angel.
Francis’ ministry to the lepers, one he never abandoned
if not personally, in time through the brothers of his order.
He cared for them.
made a pilgrimage to St. Peters Basilica in Rome. At St. Peters,
he was amazed at how meager the offerings were. He donated
a significant sum.
In the square,
he noticed the poor begging for alms. He solicited one to
trade clothes with him and then he began to beg himself. His
conversation was preceding. The ties of money and wealth were
breaking. He had begun to reach out to his Lady Poverty.
One day Francis
was passing in front of a small church in Assisi, San Domiano,
which was in a much need of repairs. Francis was inspired
to go inside which he did. He began to pray before a large
painting of Jesus on the cross.
God and my lord Jesus, I pray you to enlighten me and to dispel
the darkness in my mind. Give me faith, hope and charity.
Make yourself known to me so that I may be guided by your
light and act in accordance to your will.”
to the painting of Christ crucified above the altar and three
times he heard these words, “Francis do you not see
my church falling into ruin? Rebuild me house.”
not one to philosophize or delay when inspired. He left immediately.
He went to his fathers shop, gathered some bolts of material
and rode to Foligno and sold them along with his horse. He
returned to Saint Damiano and gave the old priest the money
and begged him to allow him to stay with him.
knew Francis’ father and was not disposed to anger him
by taking the money but he told Francis he could stay with
him. Francis took the money and threw it on one of the window
sills of the church.
father returned home and discovered what had happened he gathered
some friends and family to make a call on the priest. When
they arrived, the priest pointed to the money on the window
sill which was retrieved. Peter searched the priest’s
quarters but did not see Francis behind the door. He took
his money and left.
into a cavern in the woods and prayed for a month before deciding
one day to return to town. He looked terrible. People thought
he’d gone mad.
found him, beat him and locked him under the stairs in their
house. He gave the keys to his wife but as soon as Peter left
on another business trip, Pica set Francis free and he returned
to his cavern.
returned from his business trip, he was livid and decided
to take Francis to the magistrates to recoup the rest of his
money. The magistrates summoned Francis who said he was now
a servant of God and not subject to their jurisdiction. The
magistrates told Peter he needed to take the matter to Guido,
the bishop of Assisi.
Peter were summoned to the bishops court. They both appeared.
informed Francis that the way he acquired the money would
not allow it to be used to repair St. Damiono and that Francis
must return the money to his father.
off his clothes, but not his hair shirt, and put them in front
of his father along with his purse. He then said, “
Peter Bernardene, up until now I have called you my father,
but from now on I will say ‘Our father who art in heaven.’”
the courtroom was moved. The bishop gave Francis a hermit’s
habit and Francis left married to his Lady Poverty. This was
1206 when Francis was 25.
that there was ever a reconciliation between Francis and his
parents. No one knows what eventually happened to them.
time Peter saw Francis in his rags, Peter cursed him. This
hurt Francis so he found a poor old man to act as his earthly
father and bless him every time Peter would curse him.
to St. Damiano and rebuilt it.
One day, Francis
met a band of robbers. He was singing. They asked him who
he was. “I am the herald of the great king” he
him and threw him into a ditch with snow and said “Rest
there great herald of God.”
passed, Francis got out of the ditch and was happy that he
had been abused due to Christ.
solicited stones instead of money for St. Damiano. He would
say, “One reward for one stone, two rewards for two
stones, three for three.” He carried the stones to the
that one day St. Damiano would be a home for nuns. The poor
Clares, the Franciscan second order did move there in time.
half brother came by St. Damiano with some friends and Angelo
told one of them to see if Francis would sell him some sweat.
he sold all his sweat to God for a higher price.
greet everyone with “May the Lord grant you peace.”
One day Francis
heard a priest giving a sermon on Jesus instructions to his
disciples. “Do not posses gold, nor silver nor money
in your purse. Nor script for your journey nor two coats,
nor shoes, nor staff.” Francis asked the priest to verify
what he had heard. The priest confirmed it.
said “That is what I want” He threw away his purse,
shoes, leather girdle and staff. He traded his tunic for a
coarser one and tied at the waist with a piece of rope.
In this new
attire he began to preach in addition to repairing St. Damiano
and nursing the lepers.
at the St. Damiano was fixing supper for Francis. Francis
decided if he was truly poor he should beg for food per the
He took a
bowl and went door to door begging. He received alms and sat
on the sidewalk to eat. The food was disgusting but he ate
told the priest he no longer needed the priest to cook for
him, because he had found a wonderful place to eat.
the repairs on St. Damiano and also on St Peters and began
to work on St. Mary De Angelis. The Virgin Mary became the
protector of his order and St. Mary’s his favorite church.
is where he began to attract disciples. It was called Porziuncula,
a little portion of land belonging to the Benedictine monks
of Mt. Subasio.
One day while
preaching, Francis caught the attention of Bernard De Quintualle,
a rich merchant. Bernard and Francis talked and Bernard invited
Francis to stay with him, during the night. Bernard pretended
to be a sleep, Francis got up and went to pray.
his knees, eyes full of tears, arms crossed prayed “Deus
meve et omnia - My God My All.” the rest of the night.
Bernard was convinced he was in the presence of a truly holy
The next morning
Bernard asked Francis what a man should do with things he
had received from his master but no longer had any use for
them. Francis said he should return them to his master.
“Then I will return everything I posses to the Lord
by giving in to the poor.”
as he said he would and liquidated his estate. He and Francis
gave it away. Bernard thereby became Francis’ first
In order to
determine God’s plan, Francis determined to go to church
and open the Bible three times. (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
randomly, looking for guidance. Bernard sent for Peter Catanio,
a canon of the church to meet them.
On the first
opening they read “If you will be perfect, go sell what
you have, and give it to the poor.” On the second opening
they read “Take nothing for your journey.” On
the third opening they read “If any man will come after
me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow
is the Rule we will follow” announced Francis. “This
is God’s will. Let us go and put it into practice.”
Peter De Catanio,
canon of the church of St. Ruffinus joined Francis and Bernard
and received the habit the same day. The three then moved
into a simple hut at Rivo Torto. This was April 16, 1208.
The foundation of the Franciscan Order was laid. It would
in time spread around the world.
As usual with anything new, people object to it, criticize
it, and condemn it. People tend to fear things new and non
There was no
class distinction between the brothers. They had a high sense
of fraternity. Their common denominator was poverty and the
love of Jesus. The clergy were hostile. Most had degenerated
into drunks and fornicators.
The church’s image at that time was low. In time, Francis
understood “rebuild my house” meant to reform
and overcome the disrepute of the clergy. It seems that many
of the good clergy men wanted to separate themselves from
the church’s bad reputation and so they joined Francis’
band of brothers who were living the gospel.
The next to
join was Giles. He joined on April 23, 1209, in the feast
of St. George. HE was considered one of the most distinguished
no material with which to make Giles a habit so Francis took
him to the town to obtain some. On their way, a woman begged
alms from them. Giles said he had nothing to give. Francis
suggested he give her his tunic which he did and proceeded
to town in his under clothes.
returned, Sabbatin was waiting and became the forth disciple.
For many years only Francis could approve someone for membership
in the fraternity. Eventually the missions were too spread
out and the number of applicants was too great. So Francis
had to delegate that responsibility to others.
sick and abandoned by the doctors at the hospital of St. Savor
of Assisi. He asked Francis to pray for him which he did.
Francis also mixed some bread with oil from the lamp before
the altar of St. Mary’s and sent it to Morique by two
brothers. He ate the offering and fully recovered. He joined
the brotherhood and lived a long life of austerity.
disciple was John De Capella, Capella because he refused to
part with his hat and wore it with his habit. In time be became
lax and was reprimanded by Francis. Eventually he was told
by Francis that he would suffer a severe illness and miserable
death if he did not observe his vows. He did not change. He
contracted leprosy and chose to hang himself instead of living
with the disease.
applicants arrived and were accepted by Francis, Phillip the
Tall, John of St. Constantine, Barbarus, and Bernard of Viridant.
was working on San Damiano, he purchases some stones from
a priest named Sylvester. Later when Francis and Bernard were
distributing Bernard’s estate to the poor, Sylvester
saw them and confronted Francis saying he had sold the stones
to Francis to cheap. Francis gave him a bag of money which
conscience began to bother him. He then had a dream three
nights in a row. In the dream, the town of Assisi was surrounded
by a dragon and threatened it. Francis came forth and from
his mouth there came a golden cross which reached to heaven
and its arms extended to the ends of the Earth. Its splendor
put the dragon to flight.
relayed the dream to Francis. He joined the order at the end
of 1209 after he gave away his possessions. He became an example
in his sincere attempt to follow Jesus and spent almost all
his time in prayer. He talked to the Lord like a friend.
He was the
first priest to join and was a boon to Francis brothers because
he could give Holy Communion. Francis respected all priests
and overlooked their short comings. His reverence for Holy
Communion was total and with it his respect for those who
his companions were on their way to Rome when Francis spotted
a knight he had never met. “Angelo” (Tancred)
He said. “You have been a solider long enough. It is
time you traded your belt for a cord. Trade your sword for
the cross of Christ and trade you spurs for mud and dust.
Follow me and I will make you a solider of Christ.”
responded and became the twelfth brother. Christ had twelve
disciples but after Angelo, Francis added thousands more brothers
to what became the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.
Bishop of Assisi summoned Francis to discuss his lifestyle.
“It seems your lifestyle is very hard especially since
you do not posses anything.” he said.
we had possessions, we would need arms to protect them and
we would be involved in law suits. Our love for God and neighbor
would be impeded. Possessions would interfere with our work
for Jesus so we don’t want any.” Francis replied.
truth of Francis’ words, the bishop had no reply.
One day after
many hours in prayer, Francis called his brothers together
and said “Take heart my brothers, be thankful to God.
Though our numbers are small and our life simple, God has
shown me that he will spread our family through out the world.
I have seen a great multitude coming to us and receiving our
habit. I have seen roads filled with the sound of footsteps
going here and there. Our mission is the salvation of souls.
We shall teach by example and our savior will speak through
us. Some will revile us but many will embrace our message.
Be patient in tribulation, frequent in prayer and laborious
in work. Our fraternity will last until judgment day.”
this Francis sent his brothers to preach outside Assisi. They
were told to identify themselves as “poor penitents
every church they came to and prayed, “We adore thee
O Lord Jesus Christ here in all thy churches which are in
all the earth. And we bless thee because by thy holy cross
you have redeemed the world.”
it was time to create a rule for his group and then go to
the Pope to get it approved. A rule would prevent them from
being accused of heresy. So he and the brothers started out
for Rome. Francis appointed Bernard to conduct the trip. Francis
did not like to take charge of trips. Actually, he never liked
leading and being above others.
It so happened
that Guido, the Bishop of Assisi was also in Rome and was
alarmed at first when he saw Francis thinking he was going
to leave his diocese. When Guido understood their real purpose,
he introduced them to John De Colonna (St. Paul) who was devoted
to the poor and could relate to Francis and his brethren.
John De Colonna
invited Francis and his companions to stay with him out of
charity as well as his desire to observe them.
Prior to Francis
meeting with the Pope, John De Colonna met with Francis and
was impressed with his simplicity and his humility. He suggested
that he and his brothers join a monastery or hermitage. Francis
was tenacious and asserted that he did not want his order
living apart from the people. He had an apostolic mandate
not a monastic mandate.
John De Colonna
also introduced Francis to Cardinal Ugolino, nephew of the
pope, and who would someday be Pope Gregory IX, as well as
the protector of the Franciscan Order.
was pacing on the terrace of the Lateran Palace when Francis
came up to him asking permission to establish a new religious
order. The pope not knowing him sent him away without comment.
the Pope had a dream in which a palm tree sprang up at his
feet. At first it was a little shoot but it grew into a stately
tree. In the morning he came to understand that the tree symbolized
Francis who he had dismissed the day before. He sent for Francis.
The Pope told
Francis that his way of life seemed very difficult and hard.
He said he had faith in Francis but he questioned whether
his successors would have his same determination and faith.
He thought others may find his way to austere.
John De Colonna
then spoke up and said, “If you reject the poor man’s
prayer based on the thought that his Rule is novel and too
austere, we have to be careful not to reject the Gospel itself
since the Rule is in strict conformity with what the Gospel
teaches. If we say a vow to practice it or that the Gospel
contains anything unreasonable or impossible, it would be
a blaspheme against Jesus Christ the author of the Gospel.”
The Pope was
influenced by the argument and asked Francis to pray to Jesus
to make his will known in this matter. Francis did as he was
told and returned with the following parable from Jesus.
6263 (Woman in Dessert)
behold, while Francis was praying with all his soul, Christ
spoke to him: “Francis, here is what you are to say
to the Pope. There was once, in the dessert a very poor but
very beautiful woman. Captivated by her beauty, a king wanted
to marry her, hoping that she would give him handsome children.
The marriage took place, and from that union were born many
sons. When they were grown and well educated, the mother said
to them, ‘My dear children, be not ashamed of your poverty,
because you are all the sons of a great king. Go, then, to
the court and ask him for what you need.’ When they
arrived in court, they presented themselves confidently to
the king, whose features they reproduced. And the king, recognizing
in them his own image asked them, filled with astonishment,
whose sons they were. They then stated hat they were the sons
of a poor women who lived in the desert. The king, filled
with gladness, embraced them, saying, ‘You are my sons
and heirs; fear not. I feed strangers at my table; all the
more reason that I will take care of you, who are my own children.’
At once the king sent message to that woman, telling her to
send to his court all the sons that she had had by him, so
as to provide their needs.”
had finished speaking, Francis was radiant with joy.”
The Pope was
pleased with the parable and believed it came from Jesus.
He also considered the dream he himself had a few days earlier.
In the dream,
“The Lateran Basilica and St Peters Cathedral in Rome
were shaking on their foundations. Suddenly it tilted as if
to collapse. But a puny and little poor man ran up and put
his shoulder to the building to keep it from falling. The
pope understood the little man to be Francis.”
approved the order verbally and directed Francis to preach
penance everywhere and labor to extend the Catholic faith.
He was not allowed to preach doctrine and dogma. He and his
brethren were to receive tonsure (shaving the crown of the
head). Francis was appointed superior general of The Order
of Friars Minor.
John De Colonna,
Cardinal of Sabina became the protector and advocate of the
set out on a pilgrimage to the great Roman basilicas and tombs
of the apostles. They were ready to begin preaching the Gospel
as members of their new order.
It was much
easier to get alms with tonsure. A few of them could collect
enough food for all.
They went to
Rivo Torto and slept in a small shed there. Francis wrote
their areas on the beams because it was so small and so they
would not disturb each other coming and going.
The new recruits
came streaming in. There was not enough room for them all.
One day a
peasant and his donkey forced their way into the shed. Francis
then decided to move to Portuincula. (St. Mary’s Da
monks gave Portiuncula to the friars in exchange for a basket
of fish each year and the understanding that if the Franciscan
Order increased Portiuncula would be “the mother house”.
are of interest about St Mary’s; 1) The chapel was poor
and, 2) dedicated to the Virgin Mary the protector of the
order. Also concerts by the angels were heard and lights sometimes
came from the windows.
a simple message of love and forgiveness and a tolerant God.
He did not preach the old Christian message of judgment and
damnation. He did not try to encourage non friars to embrace
their lifestyle but moderation and penance as fit their normal
lives. They were not expected to live like professional religious.
As the friary
increased in numbers, the citizens of Assisi determined to
build a large convent. When Francis saw it, he was irritated
because it was contrary to poverty. He climbed on the roof
to begin to tear it down. The communal council reminded him
it was their building and he had no right to destroy it. Francis
allowed it to stand since it was built by the citizens of
Assisi and was on loan to the order.
determined to honor poverty and not allow his order to fall
into the pattern of the established monasteries and their
display of wealth and leisure monks.
one of the brothers started hollering “I am dying, I
am dying.” Francis asked the friar what he meant; he
replied “He was dying of hunger.” Francis awaked
the whole community and everyone ate. Then Francis gave a
lecture telling his friars that each person’s body is
different and some require more food than others. So he told
each brother to eat what he needed and for the other brothers
to not be critical. Francis told them that he did not expect
anyone to practice the degree of austerity that he practiced.
time Francis required all the friars who were using mortification
devices to cause themselves pain to put them in a pile at
his feet. He collected over 500 devices from hair shirts to
iron waistbands that cut into the flesh and made for discomfort.
poverty, infliction of pain had taken the place of martyrdom
since 313 when Christianity became the official religion of
the holy empire.
several brothers who were more in harmony and more attached
to Francis than others. Several were saints in there own right.
of St. Francis created a second order for women, Clare De
Scifi was the one designated by Francis to initiate and govern
Prior to giving
birth to Clare, Ortolana Scifi heard a voice saying “Fear
not, for you will give birth to a light which shall illuminate
the world.” Born in 1193, Ortolana named her daughter
Clare (Luminus Bright).
never a child. She was devoted to the poor; giving them her
food from an early age. She wore a hair shirt under her rich
dresses and was continuously found in prayer.
tried to arrange her marriage but she refused. She was beautiful
and of noble birth and many sought her hand in marriage. But
Clare had already determined to become a nun. In 1212 she
was 18 and an embarrassment because she was by custom to wed
before her sisters Agnes and Beatrice.
the cousin of Rufino, one of the first of Francis disciples.
Her father died when she was twelve and her uncle Manaldo
became her guardian.
of 1212 when Clare was 18, she heard Francis preach at the
church of St. George. He talked about holy poverty and the
suffering of Christ. She met and talked with Francis in her
companion’s, Bona’s, presence.
the feast of the palms accompanied by her mother and sister
Agnes. When others went up to receive a palm branch from the
bishop, Clare remained seated deep in thought. The bishop
left his place at the altar and presented Clare with a palm
she and her companion Pacifica, Bona’s sister, left
the family castle and preceded to St. Mary’s to meet
Francis as planned. Francis clothed her with a poor habit
and cord, cut off her long hair and placed a veil on her head.
She said her vows at the altar of St Mary’s.
then escorted Clare to a temporary refuge with a group of
Benedictine nuns at San Paulo at Bastia who agreed to take
The next morning
when Clare’s family learned what had taken place, her
uncle, Manaldo, led a party to the convent to bring her home.
They broke into the convent and said they had found the perfect
husband for her. Clare removed her veil, showed her shorn
head and announced her true spouse was Jesus Christ. She clung
to the altar and claimed sanctuary. Manuldo and his party
were afraid to commit sacrilege and touch the altar and so
they left without Clare.
The nuns of
San Paulo did not want anymore excitement and therefore asked
Francis to take Clare and Pacifica elsewhere. Francis took
them to the nunnery at St. Angelo Di Panzo on the slopes of
Monte Subasio. Her uncle made another attempt to bring her
home to no avail. He considered her mad and abandoned her.
after Clare left home, her sister Agnes, who was four years
younger, joined Clare at St. Angelo Di Panzo. Her uncle Manaldo
pursued Agnes and forcibly removed her from the convent. Agnes
begged Clare for help.
with the result that Agnes became so heavy that kidnappers
could no longer carry her or lift her from the ground. In
frustration, Manaldo raised his iron club as if to strike
Agnes. His arm froze above his head and the whole side of
his body was wracked with pain. They left and Clare escorted
Agnes, whose body had returned to normal, back to the convent.
removed Clare, Pacifica and Agnes to San Damiano to some rooms
he had designated for a convent. Francis cut Agnes’
hair and gave her a veil and habit.
Clare abbess of the rapidly growing community. She accepted
reluctantly but out of obedience to Francis. In time her mother
and youngest sister Beatrice joined her.
Agness to Florance where she founded the convent of Monticelli.
Thirty years later she was summoned to the death bed of her
of the Poor Clares was approved by Innocent III in 1215, a
few days after Clare’s death. Innocent III signed the
bull that adapted the Franciscan Rule to the poor clothes.
One has to
wonder what the poor Clares would have accomplished had they
been allowed the freedom to move about outside their convent
and as Francis “Go around doing good” preaching
the peace and love gospel of Jesus.
While in Rome
seeking permission to preach to the Muslims, Francis was introduced
to Jacoba Settisoli a twenty-two year old beautiful intelligent
devout woman. She was Francis’ other spiritual sister.
Their meeting was intense and left her more devoted to prayer
and the poor. Francis was astounded by her abilities and nicknamed
her Brother Jacoba.
to be martyred for Christ. He felt the Crusade may be a vehicle
for that goal so he decided to attempt to proclaim the Gospel
to the Muslims. He asked Peter Catanio to assume his duties
in his absence and proceeded to Ancona to travel to Syria
to join the Crusade. His ship was blown off course and landed
in Slavonia, on the Dalmation coast, only 95 miles from Italy.
God had other plans for Francis.
no money for return passage so he determined to stow away
on a ship for Italy. A good man offered him food and wine,
which he bartered for fare for the return trip.
his second order for woman and returning from his attempt
to take the gospel to the Muslims, Francis was in doubt about
what he should do with his life. He loved contemplation, prayer
and meditation. But he also believed God wanted him to preach.
this matter, he assigned Masseo to go and pose this question
to Sylvester and Clare. Sylvester was in hermitage when asked
the question. He immediately prayed and then said that God
did not call Francis for himself but that he may return many
souls to God.
Clare took some time to pray and returned the same answer
as Sylvester: that France should preach.
returned, Francis knelt down and crossed his arms over his
chest and asked Masseo to give him their answer.
will”, said Masseo, “is for you to preach for
the salvation of others not just for yourself.”
In early 1213,
Francis spent the six weeks of lent at Isola Maggiore, an
island in Lake Trasimeno. He frequently prayed and meditated
and subsisted on one loaf of bread and water. The isolation
and fast renewed him.
On his way
back to Assisi through Romagna with Leo, he came to a great
celebration in honor of a knight. It was the castle of Orlando
De Chiusi one of the wealthiest landowning families in central
to the celebration, mounted a wall and began to sing and entertain
the guests. He then followed with one of his inspiring sermons
about discomforts of this life leading to rewards in heaven;
basic teachings of Jesus. The guests were spellbound as per
usual when Francis preached.
The count had
heard of Francis but had never met him. He began to speak
with him when Francis suggested that the count entertain his
guests and then they could speak later.
When the count
and Francis resumed their conversation, the count told Francis
that he had a mountain that would be good for a solitary life
and he would give it to Francis if he wanted it. Francis agreed
to send two of his brothers to inspect it and if suitable
he would accept it. The mountain was called Mt. Laverno and
Francis did later accept it.
It was there,
two years before his death, that Francis experienced his most
significant revelation from his Lord Jesus.
had retreated from Spain to Morocco and Francis was determined
to go to Morocco by way of Spain because of the shorter distance
by water. He was intent on achieving martyrdom by preaching
to the Muslims which was a capital offense carried out by
Bernard with him and traveled barefoot from Assisi to Spain.
At Terni, the bishop was present while Francis spoke. When
Francis finished his sermon, the bishop rose and commented
“Brothers and sisters, the man you heard preach today
is poor and illiterate and obsessive. Consider how God uses
the most feeble and common instuments for his glorious purposes.”
overjoyed at the humiliation; he went to his knees and prayed.
“My Lord, no one has done me as much honor as you today.
People call me a saint without giving you glory. But you Lord
know the difference between a sinner and your divine mercy.”
Due to the
hardship of the journey Francis had another bout of malaria.
He had to again abandon his plans to preach to the Muslims.
He instead spent three years establishing his order all over
the Iberian Peninsula. He has returned to St. Mary’s
but from 1213-17 he was very ill.
receive medicines but give them to the poor. He continued
to fast whether he was sick or well. He severely abused his
sickened body. One has to wonder what more he could have done
had he been gentler with himself. He might have lived longer
but it may be that his visions were as intense and as frequent
as they were because of his severe illnesses.
In 1216, Francis
was so gravely ill he had to accept an invitation by Bishop
Guido to stay with him at his residence. Even there, Francis
did not rest. His order had grown to over three thousand brothers
and there were many challenging the austerities of the order
and wanting a more formal Rule. Poverty was the primary issue
11, 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council was convened. St. Dominic
was there seeking permission to establish his new order. The
council forbid any new orders to be founded except on an established
Rule. Dominic’s order was poor and was known as the
Friars preachers. They were not in the beginning settled in
a monastery but moved around the country. Their chief purpose
was to testify against heresy for the inquisition.
order had already been verbally approved years before by Innocent
III and so Francis was allowed to establish a new Rule.
On May 30,
1216, The first general chapter of the Friars Minor was held
at St. Mary’s. At this chapter the new Rule was drafted,
this was the modification of the original gospel rule which
Francis did not want to change but acknowledged would not
govern three thousand brothers.
On July 15,
1216, Innocent III suddenly died and Cencio Savelli succeed
him as Pope Honorus III on July 18, 1216.
wrote that before Innocent’s funeral, thieves stripped
Innocent’s body of all the vestments and left it naked
and decaying. Vitry remarked on how fleeting is earthly glory.
returned to Rome after his chapter in May and was there when
Innocent died. At that time he met St. Dominic and they formed
an immediate friendship.
had a vision while praying in which Jesus was angry with the
world his mother brought him two men to cool his anger. One
was Dominic and the other was a stranger. The next day Dominic
recognized Francis and said “You are my companion. We
should work together in union and no one will be able to master
Both men considered
the mother of Jesus as their patron. Both were devoted to
poverty, humility and prayer. They appeared to some as Peter
and Paul preaching the gospel and converting the world.
Francis for his cord and after much insistence Francis gave
it to Dominic. Francis did not like to be honored in any way.
Dominic wore the cord under his habit for the rest of his
At the chapter
of May 1217, it was decided to send brothers on missions all
over Europe and the east. For the most part these missions
failed because the brothers were not prepared for such missions.
Primarily they did not speak the languages of the other countries.
In Germany, they unknowingly admitted to being heretics and
were seriously abused.
he would take the mission to France. The order was divided
into two provinces and a hierarchy or leadership was set up.
Francis still accepted anyone into the order and there was
no probationary period required to assure the brothers were
cut out for Francis’ order.
the 1217 Chapter was over walked to Florance to visit Ugolino,
Innocent III’s nephew and future Pope Gregory IX. Ugolino
was the unofficial protector of the order. Francis told him
he wanted to go on a mission to France.
the order was too weak to survive without Francis’ presence.
Ugolino told Francis that he had many supporters in Rome but
he also had many detractors. His supporters needed him to
stay in Italy. Francis agreed and sent Pacificus and Albert
of Pisa in his Place.
a dream about a little hen who was trying to protect her many
chicks from a hawk. She was not doing a very good job. Then
a much larger bird appeared who was much more powerful and
protected the brood.
awaking understood he was the hen and he would need a protector
in Rome for his order. Francis immediately left for Rome and
met with Cardinal Ugolino.
surprised that Francis would be asking for a protector of
his order. It was a very unusual request. Ugolino told Francis
that he should prepare to present his request to the Pope.
Francis said he was not worthy to make the argument. Ugolino
said he would do fine and ordered him to prepare his plea.
prepared his petition and memorized it but when he was in
front of the Pope he could remember none if it. As usual he
then allowed the Holy Spirit to give him the words. When he
finished, he asked Pope Honorus to appoint Cardinal Ugolino
The Pope felt
the request was unusual but he had been persuaded by Francis’
plea and so he approved Ugolino as the official protector
of the order.
Francis had a mutual respect for each other. Francis provided
the energy of a charismatic reformer and Ugolino was schooled
and experienced in the reality of the church’s bureaucratic
hierarchy. Together they made an effective team.
At the Chapter
of 1218, Ugolino on his way into camp took off his official
vestments to reveal a Franciscan habit underneath. He presided
over the chapter as official protector.
time Francis wrote the clergy admonishing them regarding the
mistreatment the eucharistic elements. He felt that the chalices
and linens should be clean and the wine and bread should be
protected. Francis had a profound reverence for the Holy Communion
and respect for the clergy who had administered it.
Also in 1218,
Al-Malik Al-Kamil, nephew of Saladin had become sultan of
Egypt. Francis made it known that he would seek martyrdom
with the Muslims by going to Egypt to convert them.
In the Chapter
of May 1219 those who wanted a more formal traditional order
became more vocal. There was no doubt that a more formal order
was needed. The missions outside Italy had essentially failed.
The needs of the world required a more dynamic order with
scholars, less rigorous poverty, and more structure and a
more distinctive rule.
persuaded to talk to Francis to make him understand. Francis
was rigid. He repeated that God had always directed him. (“No
one showed me what to do but God.”) He had no desire
to put his faith elsewhere or to conform to the desires of
men. He told them they were as God wanted them and that God
would confound and punish them if they persisted in their
determination to make their order like the others.
There was silence.
Everyone was shocked and shaken.
did not adopt an existing Rule of one or the other orders
but it was obvious that change was coming. It was just a matter
In 1219, the
Middle East and western society was in a state of chaos and
agitation due to the Fifth Crusades. Honorius had followed
through with Innocent’s call for a Fifth Crusade before
letters of introduction to the order to make it easier for
the them to expand their mission.
On June 24,
1219, Francis and Illuminatuo, who could speak Arabic, boarded
a ship bound for Damietia. The journey took about six weeks.
There were a thousand on board his ship including criminals,
clergy, poor, knights and commoners.
had defended Damietia for a year. There were ten thousand
Christian troops present. Disease killed one fifth. Others
sailed home. Class hatred permeated the whole enterprise.
generous settlement terms, which were rejected by the commander
Cardinal Pelagio Galvani. The Italian merchants did not want
to give up trade with Egypt.
were not prepared or equipped to win the engagement.
the encampment a den of iniquity; drunkenness, greed, whores,
fights, and murder were all in play.
the Christians were going to lose the war but he did not want
to say this yet. His conscience could not let him be quiet.
He asked for advice. One of his companions said he on many
occasions spoken his mind and his situation was no different
Francis spoke to deaf ears.
attacked and the Muslims retreated into the dessert. When
the Christians were deep enough into the desert, and without
water, the Muslims attacked killing six thousand.
offered to negotiate and again was rebuffed. Francis demanded
permission to go see the sultan. Cardinal Pelagio gave his
permission to what he considered a suicide mission.
The two armies
were in sight of each other when Francis and Illuminatus started
for the Muslim lines. Two sheep appeared and Francis quoted
the scriptures “I send you forth as sheep among wolves.”
Shortly they were captured, beaten and bound. Francis demanded
to he taken to the sultan.
dressed like a Muslim sufi and so they were taken to the sultan
who asked who sent them. Francis said that God sent then to
preach salvation by pointing out the truth of the gospels.
Francis began to preach and the sultan who was a pious man
listened for several days. The sultan invited him to stay
he would stay if the Muslims converted and he suggested to
the sultan that if he was not sure to build a large fire and
Francis would walk into it with the sultan’s priests
in order to know which religion to follow.
said “I don’t believe any of our priests would
walk into the fire or suffer torments.”
said he would go into the fire by himself. If he was burned
it would be due to his sins. If he was not burned, then the
sultan would have to acknowledge Christ as the true savior
offered Francis riches which could be distributed to the poor.
Francis who had an aversion toward money, refused and decided
he had failed in his mission to convert the Muslims or suffer
a martyr’s death or bring peace.
had Francis and Illuminatus escorted back to the Christian
lines. He asked Francis to pray for him so he would know which
religion to embrace.
told by a messenger that there was a serious dissent in the
order led in part by brother Elias. Francis insistence on
poverty, simplicity of teaching and life and a lay organization
were rejected by almost everyone. The order was too big now
and needed a more traditional Rule. Many wanted the opportunity
to become integrated into the Catholic bureaucracy.
Francis realized that he was not an administrator and did
not want to be one. Francis seemed to have a love hate relationship
with Brother Elias who loved Francis. Brother Elias was a
good but deceitful administrator. Under his direction the
order grew but it evolved away from Francis original vision
over time. Francis was more and more out of sync with the
brothers of the order he founded.
In 1220, Francis
began to draft a new Rule. He resigned from leadership of
the order and became in action a humble friar. He removed
Elias and appointed Peter Catanio as minister general. Peter
died in 1221 and Elias again became minister general.
that for him to continue the order would polarize and maybe
create a permanent split. He said a prayer returning the ministry
back to Jesus. He continued to guide the order but from an
In 1221, Francis
established the third order – The Order of Penitents.
The first order consisted of the friars. The second order
consisted if the poor Clares. The third order was for lay
people who lived regular lives but wanted to be associated
with St. Francis and his order.
and old friend of Francis, Luchesio and his wife Bonadonna
were his first members. Luchesio had been very much in love
with money but had a change of heart and began to distribute
his wealth as Francis advocated.
One day Bonadonna
complained that there was no bread in the house because Luchesio
had given it all away. Luchesio reminded her of Jesus’
miracle of the feeding of five thousand. He directed her to
go to the bread cabinet where she found a larger supply of
bread than was there before Luchesio gave it all to the poor.
arrived, she venerated him and begged directions as to how
she could follow his way.
them a gray habit and the Franciscan cord.
The Rule Francis
set out on the third order was simple 1) Restoring any ill
gotten gains 2) Reconcile with anyone they were in conflict
with 3) Obey commandments of God, the Church and the Pope
4) Consent of the husband was necessary before a married woman
there was a rule to aviod the theater and dancing and liberal
partying and to make a will in order to avoid conflict over
money at death. They were forbidden to carry arms except soldiers.
They were called
penitents of St. Francis or tertiaries. The order was confirmed
also set up a third order about the same time. All classes
of people flocked to organizations where they committed to
Dominic or Franciscan values without vows or ordination. Some
lived in monasteries and some in secular society.
In truth, this
was a WorldPeace movement and it caused concern among those
in power. It was an across the board challenge to their authority
and essentially a revolution within the social fabric that
had unlimited potential and possible repercussions.
One night at
Portiuncula while praying for enlightenment of sinners, Francis
was directed by an angel to go to church where he would find
Jesus and his mother accompanied by a host of celestial beings.
himself before the savor who said “Francis, the zeal
you have for the salvation of souls entitles you to solicit
something for their favor for the glory of my name.”
“O Jesus, my savior, I am a sinner, but I ask you to
grant to all who shall visit this church a free indulgence
for their sins after having confessed them to a priest and
I request the blessed virgin, the advocate of human beings
to intercede that may obtain my request.”
virgin did intercede and Jesus said, “Francis what you
ask is great but you will receive greater favors. I grant
you this one. Go to my vicar who has power on earth and ask
him for the indulgence.”
in their cells heard all this and saw a great light fill the
church but they did not approach out of respect and fear.
to Pope Honorius and asked him to grant the free indulgence.
The Pope said
he could not reasonably grant it because indulgence requires
an act of charity (money). The pope then asked for how many
years Francis and Francis replied, “Not year but souls”
The Pope asked
what he meant.
“To whoever enters St. Mary’s, who are contrite,
have confessed their sins, have received absolution, may receive
remission of their sins in this world and the next,from baptism
until they entered the church, without paying an indulgence
The pope said
such a request has never been granted.
“I do not ask for me but for Jesus who sent me.”
The pope then
said three times in public, “It is my desire that it
be granted to you.”
informed the Pope that he was subverting the Holy law and
the sepulcher of the apostles.
The pope said
that he made the concession and would not revoke it but would
The Pope recalled
Francis and told him that the concession would be in perpetuity
but only on one day each year (August 23).
and began to leave.
The Pope asked
him where he was going; that had not been given documentation.
that the Pope’s word was sufficient for him. That if
it’s the work of God, it will manifest. Jesus is the
notary, the blessed mother, the parchment and the angels the
the day of proclamation for October first at St. Mary’s.
Several bishops were in attendance.
first. As per usual his opening sermon held people in awe.
Then he said, “I want everyone to go to heaven. I have
obtained an indulgence from God and confirmed by the Pope
Honorius. Everyone here can obtain a free indulgence if your
hearts are converted and the same will be true on the same
day every year. I wanted it to be for 8 days but I was unable
to obtain that.”
each rose to speak and had by agreement among themselves decided
to say the indulgence would only be good for a period of 10
years but none could get the words out of their mouth and
where forced to say “in perpetuity.”
The first Role
was approved at the Pentecost Chapter in 1221. It was really
a modification of the original gospel rule approved by Innocent
III. Even though the Rule was approved; there was a lot of
discontent because the Rule did not move in the direction
of the traditional rules of the St. Augustine and St. Benedict
finally insisted that Francis produce another modification.
Francis obeyed and he and Bonizo of Bologna and Leo retired
to Fonte Columbo to write a new Rule.
the Rule to Elias and intended to present it to the chief
ministers of Italy. When the time came to review the Rule,
Elias said he had lost it; an obvious lie.
depressed but returned to Fonte Columbo and quickly rewrote
concerned that the new rule would be too strict, persuaded
Elias to talk to Francis. Elias only agreed to go when the
ministers agreed to accompany him.
When they arrived,
Francis asked who they were. Elias said they were ministers
who thought he was writing too strict a rule.
to heaven and said, “Lord I told you they would not
believe it is your rule.”
They then heard
the voice of Christ, “Francis this is not your rule.
All within is of me. I want this Rule observed exactly and
dictating the Rule and decided to take it straight to the
Pope without consulting the ministers who he said would take
it apart line by line. He went to Rome and consulted with
Cardinal Ugolino. A rule was produced that was very polished.
the Rule on November 20, 1223. This is known as the Second
Rule on the “Definitive Rule”.
by the new direction of the order, Francis considered abandoning
everything. At these times he thought of marrying and having
a family; a fantasy. However he did have strong temptations
he went into the snow and made seven figures, a friar asked
what he was doing. Francis said he was preaching to himself.
He said one of the figures was his wife, two were his sons,
two were his daughters, one a servant and the other a maid.
I need to hurry and feed and clothe them.
It seemed Francis
convinced himself that celibacy was not such a bad option
1223, Francis was staying at a hermitage in Greccio. Francis
decided to bring the nativity into the thirteenth century
by putting real humans in contemporary dress in a live nativity
with donkeys, oxen, sheep, Shepard’s and Magi.
was to bring the presence of Christ into the present time.
not the first to create a live nativity but he was the first
to place people in contemporary dress in it. This contemporary
nativity has been repeated countless times in the last 800
years. It reminds people of the continued presence of Jesus.
In the summer
of 1224, Francis decided to go to Mt. Laverna in August. He
took four of his closest brothers; Leo, Angelo, Rufino and
At the base
of the mountain it was necessary to find a donkey to carry
Francis up a steep path. A peasant was found who insisted
on guiding the donkey once he knew it was Francis who was
going up the mountain. When he saw Francis, he admonished
him to try to live up to his reputation because many placed
their trust in him. Francis kissed his feet, thanking him.
Francis always liked to be talked down to. Too many people
revered him while he considered himself a sinner.
way up the mountain, the peasant complained loudly of his
thirst. Francis directed him to a fresh spring, which was
not known before. The peasant drank his fill.
For meditation, Francis chose a grotto in one of the fissures
of Mt. Laverna. A log had to be placed over the chasm so that
Leo could cross and bring Francis food and tend to him. Mt.
Laverna has a very unique landscape. The legend is that when
Christ died on the cross, a shock wave hit it.
about his personal temptation wanted a blessing from Francis
but did not want to ask. Francis as per usual knew his thoughts
and asked him to bring pen and paper. Francis wrote:
May the Lord
bless you and keep you.
May he show his face to you and be merciful to you
May he turn his countenance to you and give you peace
May the Lord bless you Brother Leo
Leo was asked
to call out to Francis before he crossed the log and to come
over only if Francis responded. On several occasions Leo crossed
over without a response from Francis. He would see Francis
levitating and if Francis was low enough, Leo would kiss his
feet and cry knowing Francis in ecstasy would not be aware
One night Leo
saw a light from heaven descend on Francis’ head and
heard a voice he could not make out. Leo made a noise and
Francis asked who was there. Francis’ eyes were so bad
he could see very little. Leo, crying, begged for forgiveness.
Francis knowing that God had permitted Leo to see the miracle
One the eve
of the festival of the Holy Cross, an angel appeared to Francis
and told him to prepare for a gift from God.
Francis asked for two things; 1) that he would experience
all the pain and suffering that Jesus experienced during crucifixion,
and 2) that he would feel the love that induced Christ to
suffer for all sinners.
In his vision
a serapath angel descended from the sky and approached Francis.
It had three pairs of wings. One pair over the head, one pair
for flight and one pair covered the rest of the body. Then
appeared the figure of the crucified savior in the form of
was marveling in bliss at the magnificence of his vision,
the meaning of the vision was reveled to him. The vision had
been placed before him to teach him that it was not by the
martyrdom of the flesh but by the burning all consuming love
of the spirit that he should be transformed into a perfect
image of the savior crucified.
hands and feet appeared the nails of the crucified Christ
and into his right side the spear wound received on the cross.
All were bleeding. These wounds Francis bore until his death
two years later.
the stigmata, Francis said, “Brothers let us begin to
serve God for up to this time was have done nothing.”
had appeared to be on fire by all those who looked at it.
Prior to Francis
there had been no record of anyone having received the stigmata.
St. Paul says in Galatians that he had received the marks
of Christ and in Corinthians he says the Lord gave him a thorn
in the side which he prayed the lord to remove and the Lord
refused. Until Francis no one considered Paul’s comments
to mean the actual stigmata of the crucified Christ.
Church has never certified the stigmata on Francis or the
300 subsequent cases reported since Francis. It is possible
that in the 1200 years between St. Paul and Francis that they
ignored any such reports. But Francis was too important a
saint for the church to ignore such a miracle.
the marks hidden as best he could by wrapping his hands with
cloth and wearing special shoes made by Clare which allowed
him to walk with the protruding nails from him feet.
Only Leo who
took care of Francis and bathed him was actually allowed to
see and touch the stigmata. At his death many saw them.
moved to a hut in San Damiano near Clare but there is no indication
that they talked. Clare was cloistered in the convent. In
the spring each year the field mice and rats invaded the hut
and the crawled all over Francis and danced on his face. He
In his agony
one night he composed his famous “Canticle to Creation”.
It was the first poem composed in the vernacular Italian.
Francis, the troubadour had composed his song reflecting his
love of God. At first it was referred to at the “Canticle
of the Sun”
all-powerful God, yours are the praises, the glory, and the
honor, and all blessing.
To you alone, most high, do they belong and no human is worthy
to mention your name.
Praised be you, my lord, with all your creations, especially
sir brother sun who is the day, and through whom you give
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor and bears
a likeness of you, most high one.
Praised be you, my Lord, through sister moon and the stars,
in heaven you formed them, clear, precious and beautiful.
Praised be you, my Lord, through brother wind and through
the air cloudy and serene and every kind of weather through
whom you give sustenance to you creators.
Praised be you, my Lord, through sister water, who is very
useful and humble, precious and pure.
Praise be you, my Lord, through brother fire, through whom,
you light the light and he is beautiful and playful, robust
Praised be you, my Lord, through our sister, mother earth,
who sustains and govern us, and who produces various fruits
with colored flowers and herbs.
for Pacificus, the king of verses, and together they sang
the words, Francis had transcended Jesus to the oneness of
God in all things, both animate and inanimate.
Later the Mayor
of Assisi, Oportulo Bernardo and Guido the Bishop of Assisi,
entered into a political conflict that was based on pure hatred.
Francis summoned them to the bishop’s palace.
of the creation was well known and popular. Francis wrote
an additional verse.
Praise be you,
my Lord, through those who grant pardons, for your love and
infirmity and tribulation blessed are those who endure in
peace. For you most high shall they be crowned
were reduced between the bishop and the mayor – they
could not ignore a venerated man like Francis.
Then when Francis’
doctor told him that he only had a few months to live he composed
the last verse to his canticle.
you, my Lord, through our sister bodily death
For whom no one living can escape
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are those whom death shall do them no harm
Praise and bless me Lord and give him thanks and leave him
with great humility.
In the spring on 1225, Francis agreed to be moved to Fonte
Columbo near Reiti where a physician was found who treated
The cure was
to cauterize with a hot iron from his eye brows to his cheeks
to drain away the poison. Francis’ eyes exploded with
pus and he refused to stop the flow of tears which accompanied
his prayers. The treatment was gruesome and his brothers fled
the room in horror before it was performed.
Prior to the
operation Francis said a prayer, “Brother fire, you
are noble and useful among all things created by God. Be friendly
to me. I have loved you. I pray you temper your heat so I
can bear it.”
After the doctor
finished, Francis said he did not feel anything and the doctor
could do it again if necessary.
did not help and six months later another doctor performed
a similar operation in Siena. Again it did not help. It just
increased the agony of a very sick and dying man.
to Assisi. Francis doctor told Francis that he was dying and
only had six weeks to live. The magistrates put a guard around
Francis so that no one would steal his body. Assisi wanted
to keep Francis’ body in Assisi.
Clare who was
sick was grieved because she could not see Francis but he
sent word to her that she and her sisters would see him before
she died. He honored his promise but it was his dead body
she saw when it was brought to her convent eight months later.
As soon as
Francis was carried back to St Mary’s he dictated a
letter to Jacoba telling her that if she wanted to see him
alive she should come immediately. He asked her to bring the
material for a tunic and some almond cake.
As the friar
left to send the letter, he ran into Jacoba. She had a dream
telling her immediately to go see Francis. And she had brought
the material and the ingredient, for the cake.
The friar returned
to Francis’ cell and told him that Jacoba was outside.
Francis told him to let her in. The friar asked about the
restrictions of women entering cells and Francis said that
it did not apply to Brother Jacoba.
the cell she fell to his feet and bathed them with her tears.
The disciples were reminded of Jesus and Mary Magdalene who
had done the same.
his brothers in and blessed them. He gave Bernard his tunic.
He dictated his testament, which was in essence the Rule.
all that came to him individually.
his last three requests, “May the brothers always love
one another as I have loved them. And as I love them, may
they always love and revere lady poverty. May they always
prove loyal to the bishops and the priest of the holy mother
with Francis’ instructions, when he was near death,
his tunic was removed and he was laid on his back on the floor
of his cell. His tunic was removed. His arms outstretched.
He began his journey naked after returning his clothes and
money to his father and he ended his journey naked on the
floor of his cell. After about an hour his tunic was put back
on his dying body and he was returned to his bed.
He was asked
where he wanted to be buried. He said on Inferno Hill on the
spot where they used to execute criminals.
Like St. Paul
in the end he could say “I am not ashamed. I know who
I have trusted.”
done what is mine.” said Francis
and larks flew over his roof circling and singing.
of Assisi, Provencial of Terra De Lavoro, was in the last
stages of his illness and had ceased to speak. He exclaimed
“Wait for me father, I will go with you.” His
brother asked who he was speaking to. He said “Don’t
you see Father Francis going to heaven?” after saying
this he died.
at St. Mary’s De Angelis on October 4, 1226. His body
was clothed in the new tunic Jacoba made for him. His remains
were placed on a bier covered with a rich tapestry. The procession
passed by St. Damiano where the body was placed in the church
to fulfill Francis’ promise that they would see him
again. Clare and her sisters emerged from their cloister and
surrounded the body.
then moved to St. George’s where his body was to be
interred until his basilica was completed and his canonization
declared. The mourners carried olive branches.
In 1228, the
Pope gave the eulogium of sainthood, Honorous III had died
and Ugolino had been elected Pope and he chose the name Gregory
read aloud the miracles that had been examined and endorsed.
Cardinal Rainerio Capoccio who had been appointed protector
of the order gave a eulogy in which he and those in attendance
At the time
of the canonization, the Pope made Inferno Hill (the former
execution place of Assisi) a fief of the Pope and its name
was changed to Hill of Paradise. On this same day, Pope Gregory
IX inspected the sight on the basilica and laid the foundation
In 1230, the
basilica that was erected on Inferno Hill for St. Francis
received Francis’ body from St. George’s.
The bier was
placed on a chariot drawn by oxen covered with a crimson tapestry,
with birds and flowers embroidered in gold, a gift of a German
As the body
approached its place of final interment, a group of men took
charge of the body and locked themselves in the church for
the purpose of hiding the body to prevent theft. When they
were finished, the public was allowed to enter.
In 1824, Pope
Leo XII, at the request of the minister general of the Franciscan
order authorized a search for the remains of Francis. The
search went on for 54 nights in secret. Then the coffin was
moved to where it could be venerated by pilgrims.
By 1257, the
order had grown to 40,000 friars.
the Lord give you peace.”
Pacificus was a court poet in Germany and was called the “king
of verse”. He would take contemporary songs and improvise
to hear Francis speak and like many was in awe. He saw a vision
of two swords in front of Francis; one going from head to
foot and one going from his extended right hand to his left
forming a cross.
himself with one of his songs. Francis said he had a fine
voice but could make better use of it. He borrowed Pacificus
lute and improvised a tone about God’s love.
A week later
Pacificus joined the order.
had a vision of thrones at the foot of God. One was higher
and more ornate than the others. God told him that was Lucifer’s
but it is reserved for Francis. Another voice said, “Just
as Lucifer due to his pride lost his place in heaven. Francis
will be raised up by his humility.
John The Simple
Francis while preaching in Nottiano was sweeping out a church,
and cleaning up after receiving permission. A young peasant
name John left his oxen in the field where he was ploughing
to meet Francis. John alarmed at Francis doing clean up finished
Francis he had wanted to join the order but did not know where
to find Francis. Francis told him to sell his possessions
and give them to the poor.
one of the oxen he considered his for the years working for
his father and gave it to Francis for the poor.
When his parents
found out what had happened they begged for the ox. Francis
thinking he should not take their son and the ox returned
the ox to them.
John was told
that he could obtain salvation by imitating Francis. This
he began to do. John mimicked Francis’ every act; kneeling,
crouching, raising his hand. Francis called him “St.
died an early death at 18. The brothers were certain he obtained
Giles knight of the round table.
One of the
friars said that Giles should learn to preach. Giles replied,
“Going on a pilgrimage is better than showing someone
the road to take.”
to a woman mourning over her son he asked whether she wanted
his body or his soul. She said his body of course. Giles told
her to go to the cemetery and dig it up and see what was left
When he was
preaching on sexual excess, a man came up and said he had
only had one wife and no lovers. So the subject of sexual
excess did not apply to him. Giles asked him if a man ever
gets drunk in wine from his own vineyard.
to the great basilica honoring Francis he disapproved. He
said that since the brothers had abandoned their promise to
live poorly, they might as well give up on chastity and find
asked Giles for his prayers. Giles responded that the cardinal
had more faith that he did. “You have wealth, power
and honors hoping to save your soul and I live a very simple
life afraid I’ll be damned”
one time to find Francis deathly ill but not being provided
for by the brothers. A brother came up to Giles saying he
had had a dream of hell and there were no Franciscans there.
Giles simply replied that the brother was not going deep enough.
In his later
years, Giles, went into ecstasy several times a day. The boys
in the streets know about Giles and his ecstasy and would
call out “paradiso” when they saw him to watch
him go into ecstasy.
He became a
saint and two books “The Life of Blessed Giles”
and “The Sayings of Blessed Giles” were written
In 1213, Francis
met a young knight named Angelo Taplati. He was very refined
in manner and appearance. He said “Father. I would like
to join your order.”
“You are very young and delicate. Do you think you can
adhere to our austere and rigorous life?”
“Are you men like me? What you can endure, I can endure.”
him to his order and assigned him as the guardian of the Monte
One day three
robbers who had been terrorizing the area came to the convent
and asked for something to eat. Algelo was summoned by the
them vile persons who not only stole from honest people but
now were demanding foods received as alms by the servants
of God. He told them to depart and never return, which they
returned and heard about the episode he told Angelo he had
done wrong; that such souls must be returned to God by kindness
not rebukes. Jesus said he was called to heal the sick not
Angelo to take the food he had just brought with him and find
the robbers and feed them. Then after they eat tell them if
they will quit their evil ways Francis will provide for them.
He found and fed the robbers.
felt remorse that they had done so much evil and were being
treated with kindness they decided to go find Francis and
ask him to obtain God’s mercy for them.
to them with the result that they renounced their evil ways
and were admitted to the order.
a tall attractive man and a good preacher. When he worked
he was given the choice of meat, best fruit, and soon he became
vain and egocentric.
One day Masseo
met Francis returning to St. Mary’s and asked him three
times, “Why you?”
what he was talking about.
is the world running to you? Everyone wants to see you, listen
to you, join your order, why you?” Masseo asked. “You’re
not handsome, not well educated, and not of noble birth. What
does the world see in you?”
“Because there is no worst example of someone less qualified
or more of a sinner, than me.”
stunned Masseo and he increased his fasting and prayer and
increased his humility.
In time he
became one of Francis’ best friends.
occasion when traveling with Francis they came to a fork in
the road with the options, Florence, Siena and Arezzo. Masseo
asked which way. Francis told him to spin around, which he
did, until he fell down. Francis asked him to do it again
asked Masseo where he was facing.
is the way God wants us to go.” said Francis.
In 1211, Francis
was traveling with Sylvester to Cortona. There he recruited
Elias Bononarone who would cause Francis grief in running
the order as minister general.
He was considered
the least of the Franciscans.
He was autocratic,
led the order away from its poverty roots, wanted status and
power, harassed some of the original members and was self
Yet under him
the order grew. Eventually it would be made over into a close
likeness of the other established orders of Augustine and
Benedict, both of which Francis objected to.
Francis. And after he died was appointed to build his memorials
and did an excellent job. He was excommunicated as Francis
told him he would be but he was allowed to return to the church.
The order needed
a tough administrator and he filled that role but maybe a
bit too arrogantly.
On the day
of his death Francis took a loaf of bread blessed it and made
the sign of the cross over it. Brother Elias who wept was
the only one who did not eat his portion. He gave it to Leo
when he asked for it. It was preserved and worked many miracles.
As vicar general
he made a habit of treating brothers of science and those
who stood out, better than others. He would place them at
the head of the table. One day Francis in defiance after a
blessing was said called two lowly friars to sit on either
side of him.
him and said his demand for simplicity would ruin the order.
him his vanity was creating injury to the order. He then told
him he would be excommunicated and die out of the order. He
was excommunicated but this was reversed. He did die out of
prayed for him regarding excommunication by the said he could
do nothing about dying not out the order. Francis had quit
speaking to him and Elias had then come to Francis begging
his prayers as intercession.
One day in
Spoleto Francis saw Elias who had on a habit made of fine
cloth with wider sleeves and a larger cowl. It was to make
him look worldly and fashionable. Francis made him take it
off and give it to him. Francis put it on and then walked
around with an arrogant courtly air saying, “God save
you good people.” He then took it off and threw it at
Elias saying, “That is how bastard children of our order
a doctor of the new university of Bologna, was serving as
a magistrate when he heard a swine herd yell at his pigs “Pigs
get into your stable as judges go to hell.” The pigs
calmed down and went in.
The event shook
the doctor into considering his salvation. He gave up his
magistrate and returned to Florence. He met Francis and along
with his only son sold all they had, distributed the proceeds
to the poor, and joined the order.
After the death
of Francis, John was elected by the brothers a minister general
of the order to replace Elias. He charged Elias to build the
St. Francis Basilica and complex.
In the wildest part of Mt. Alverno a criminal named Lupo hade
made a hideout for himself. He was a terror to all who came
When the friars
moved into the mountain he was angry because he had come to
feel the mountain was his. He went to see the friars and threatened
them if they did not vacate the mountain. The friars informed
to the mountains and waited for Lupo to appear. Lupo returned
shortly. Francis spoke to him a few gentle words of a nature
he probably had not heard in many years. Lupo threw himself
at Francis’ feet and said he would never leave him.
him into the order where he became known as Angelo. The violence
left him and he became a gentle and loving bother.
On March 2, 1247, Peter Catania died. As soon as he was buried
his tomb caused many miracles. The people crowded to his grave
and left many valuable gifts. The crowds disturbed the peace
of the brothers and the valuable gifts gave them concern about
their vow of poverty.
informed of the problem and went to the tomb. He said, “Brother
Peter when you were alive you always obeyed me. I want you
to obey me now. The people who are coming to your grave are
causing us troubles. Our poverty is in jeopardy and our peace
is disturbed. Therefore, I command you to stop performing
request was obeyed and no more miracles were performed by
could no longer tolerate the divisive act of Elias he appointed
Peter minister general of the order. He served in that position
until he died. Francis was compelled to reappoint Elias.
Q & A Francis
most famous of the conversations between Francis and Leo is
the one about perfect joy. It takes place along the road to
Perugia, in the dead of winter. The two preachers are very
cold. Francis begins relating his parable to Leo, who is marching
two paces ahead of him, “Brother Leo! Even if the Friars
Minor gave the finest example of sanctity and edifying behavior
everywhere, write down and not carefully that that is not
The two walked
on for a moment in silence, and Francis spoke again, “Brother
Leo! Even if Friar Minor restored sight to the blind, made
the crooked straight, expelled demons, made the deaf hear,
the lame walk, the mute speak – and an even greater
miracle, raised those who had been dead for four days –
write down that that is not perfect joy.”
Then Francis said in a louder voice, “Brother Leo! Even
if a Friar Minor know all languages and all sciences and all
the Scriptures, so as to prophesy and reveal not only future
event, but also the secrets of consciences and of hearts,
write down that that is not perfect joy.”
of client walking. Then Francis spoke, “Brother Leo,
little lamb of God! Even is a Friar Minor spoke in the tongue
of the angels, knew the course of the stars and the properties
of the herbs; even if all treasures of the earth were revealed
to him, even if he knew the virtues of the birds and the fish,
of all the animals and of men, trees, and rocks, of the roots
and the waters, wrote down that that in not a perfect joy.”
proceeded down the road in silence. And Francis spoke yet
again, “Brother Leo! Even if the Friar Minor knew how
to preach so well that he converted all the infidels to the
Christian faith, write down that that is not a perfect joy.”
monologue of Francis had gone on for a league already, without
his having conveyed his thought. Finally, Leo, wanting to
know more about it, turned around and said, “Father,
I beg you, in the name of God, please tell me where perfect
joy is to be found.”
who perhaps was only waiting for this intervention explained
himself at last: “When we arrive at Santa Maria degli
Angeli, drenched as we are by the rain and chilled by the
cold, spattered with mud, tormented with hunger, if we knock
at the door of the friary, and the porter comes to ask us
angrily, ‘Who are you?’ and we answer, ‘We
are two of your brothers’, and he replies, ‘That’s
not true. You are two scoundrels who go about deceiving the
world and stealing alms from the poor. Off with you!’;
and if he does not open the door for us and makes us stay
outside in the snow and the rain, cold and hungry, until midnight;
and if we endure so many insults, cruelties, and rebuffs without
being disturbed and without murmuring; and if we think, in
humility and charity, that this porter truly knows us and
that God is the one who made him speak against us, then, O
Brother Leo, write down that that is where perfect joy is
found. And if we continue to knock, and he comes out furious
and chases us away like importunate good-for-nothings, with
insults and blows, crying ‘Away from here you villains,
go to the inn, for you will find no food or lodgings here’;
if we endure that patiently and gladly, in a true spirit of
charity, then, O Brother Leo, write down that that is perfect
joy. And if the hunger, the cold, and the darkness force us
to knock yet again, to call and groan and beg him, for the
love of God, to open the door for us, and he says, in an even
greater fury, ‘Well, these certainly are importunate
good-for-nothings! I will give them what they seserve’;
and he comes after us with a knotty cudgel, grabs us by the
cowl, throws us to the ground, rolls us on the snow, and strikes
us with all the knots on his codgel; and if we endure all
that patiently and happily, thinking of the sufferings of
our Blessed Savior and that we chould put up with it for love
of hi, O Brother Leo, write that that is perfect joy.
to the conclusion, Brother Leo. Over and above all the graces
and gifts of the Holy Spirit that Christ grants to his friends,
there is the gift of conquering self, of enduring sufferings,
insults, opprobrium, and inconveniences for the love of Christ;
for we cannot boast about all the other gifts of God, since
they do not come from us, but from God. But we can boast in
the cross of tribulation and affliction, because that comes
Leo was the
confessor of Francis and his secretary.
A few days
before the death of Francis, Leo was sitting with him. He
wanted something to remember Francis with and he thought about
The next morning
Francis who had a revelation of Leo’s thought, called
Leo to his bedside and gave him his tunic. Francis said, “I
give you my tunic. It still clothes my body but it is yours.
In a few days it will clothe you.”
Leo’s candor, Francis called him “The Sheen of
God”, Pecorella Di Dio.
On his way
from Mt. Alverno to Assisi, Francis due to his bad health
and fatigue was riding a donkey. Brother Leonard who was also
very tired was walking behind. Leonard was thinking to himself,
“Father Francis’ parents were not equal to mine
but yet he is riding and I am walking.”
to know his thoughts and dismounted the donkey and said that
Leonard was correct, that Francis should not be riding because
Leonard was of a more noble birth that he, Francis.
shocked, surprised and ashamed, fell to his feet, acknowledged
his short comings and with tears begged Francis’ forgiveness.
Francis would say he wished he had a whole forest of Junipers.
One time Juniper
was taken for a spy in Viterbo. He was about to he hanged
without protest when another friar came along dressed the
same as Juniper. They had heard him preach and took his word
as to Junipers innocence.
he simply crowds out evil thought with other thoughts. He
tells the devil to be gone there is no more room in the inn.
give away too much of his tunic so he was immodest. So Francis
ordered him to stop. A beggar asked him for his tunic. Juniper
said he was prohibited from giving it away but if the beggar
wanted to take it Juniper would not stop him. Francis was
furious. Later Juniper brought Francis some soup because he
was sure his throat was sore from yelling. Francis declined.
So Juniper asked Francis to hold the candle while he ate it.
He did not intend to throw it away. Francis relaxed and they
One day when
Juniper was working in the hospital a sick brother said he
would like to eat a pig foot. Juniper took a knife and found
a heard of pigs, caught one, cut off its foot, cooked it,
and served it to the sick brother. The Shepard reported it
and his master went to see Francis. Francis told Juniper to
go ask for forgiveness. Juniper found the owner and told him
how good the sick brother felt after eating the foot. The
owner ordered the pig roasted and took it to the brothers
from a prominent Assisian family. He was very shy and it hampered
his ability to preach. To overcome this, Francis requested
that he remove his tunic to his waist, walk into town and
preach. Rufino did as he was told. Francis was informed that
the town’s people had jeered and laughed at him.
to town and removed his tunic to his waist and stood next
to Rufino and put his hand around him. He then gave a sermon
related to Christ’s nakedness on the cross to which
the crowd listened intently and was inspired. Christ as he
was naked and dying suffered jeers and insults.
A short time
later Rufino had a dream in which the devil told him that
he should leave St. Mary’s and the fraternity. The next
day he left and disappeared for several months before Francis
found him. When he found out what had happened he said, “Rufino,
the next time the devil appears in a dream like that, just
tell him if he opens his mouth like that again you will fill
it with dung.”
a first cousin of Clare and ___.
and Angelo wrote the first account of Francis and the order.
the first to follow Francis. Francis had a deep respect for
money, Bernard told one benefactor, it is true we are poor
but it is not a curse. God has made us poor by his grace.
sent to Bologna by Francis. When he first began to preach
in the square he was looked down upon and harassed because
of his poor habit. Then one day a lawyer listened to him and
asked him who he was. Bernard showed him the Rule. The lawyer
was amazed and impressed.
Bernard and his companions a furnished house and agreed to
take care of him. Bernard accepted.
then accepted him and respected and honored him. They wanted
to be close to him to touch his habit.
to Francis and asked him to send someone else to Bologna because
Bernard was concerned that he would lose God’s grace
if he continued to live there with so much respect and honor.
James the Simple
James was assigned
to lepers. He cared for one so well he almost restored him.
He took the leper from the hospital for a walk to St. Mary’s.
Francis was upset and told him the lepers distress people
and he should care for him in the hospital.
The leper was
upset that Francis had chastised James. Francis realized what
he had done, fell at the leper’s feet and begged his
forgiveness for causing him pain.
the leper outside the convent and shared food with him out
of the same bowl. He then embraced the leper and sent him
asked the Benedictines for St. Mary is of the stony valley,
close to Fabriano. They complied. He was traveling there and
lost his way. And so he asked a ploughman to take him there.
The ploughman objected because he had a field to plough but
he stopped and escorted Francis and his companion to the church.
He received Francis’ blessing and when he returned to
his field, he found that the work had been completed.
A town neighboring
Contanello was molested by wolves and plagued with hail. The
wolves attacked and ate men and livestock and every year the
hail destroyed their crops and damaged their vineyards, Francis
informed then these troubles were due to their sins. He promised
them if they gave credit to God, confessed their sins and
repented they would be relived of their calamities and receive
blessings. He warned them if they returned to their old ways
the troubles would return twice as bad. The people agreed.
The wolves disappeared and hail fell around their town and
on their neighbors and their crops. In time they reverted
to their old ways and wolves returned with a vengeance.
In the town
of Toscanella, Francis received the hospitality of a knight
whose son was lame in both legs and suffered though his whole
body. The knight asked Francis to intercede with God on his
son behalf. In time Francis placed his hands on the boy and
made the sign of the cross on him. The boy stood up; his body
In Gaeta, the
people crowded him to touch him. He stepped onto a boat to
avoid this praise which he felt he did not deserve. The boat
floated out a bit and became stationary while Francis preached.
When he finished the boat returned to shore.
to build a convent in Gaeta. While his work was in progress
a beam fell and crushed a workman to death. He was being carried
home when Francis was returning. He instructed them to put
the dead man down. He made the sign of the cross over him,
took him by the hand, called his name telling him to rise.
The dead man got up and went back to work.
A female servant
left a child alone and went to hear Francis speak. Returning
she found the child half boiled in a copper pot. She hid the
child in a trunk and later told the parents what happened.
Francis was to dine with them and they determined not to show
their grief. After dinner Francis asked for an apple. The
parents said they had none. Francis insisted they did in the
trunk which contained the child. The parents protested but
Francis finally opened the trunk. The child sat up holding
an apple in each hand. The father placed the child in the
arms of Francis.
not attend all provincial Chapters due to their number and
distance. At Arles, Anthony was preaching when a religious
named Monald looked toward the door and saw Francis with his
arms extended, blessing the assembly. Francis later acknowledged
Francis met a woman whose husband cruelly used her and prevented
her from serving God. She was on her way to pray for her husband.
Francis instructed her to tell her husband “Now is the
time for mercy, later will be the time for justice.”
The woman received Francis blessing. When she related to her
husband what Francis had told her, the Holy Ghost descended
on him. He immediately changed and said “Wife let us
serve God and work out our salvation.” They loved for
many more years together and died on the same day.
the men who were traveling with Francis tried to purchase
food from the townsfolk with no success. Francis told them
to put away their flies (money) and go back to those houses
begging for the food and offering to pray for them as payment.
The men acquired all they needed.
traveling between Lombardy and the Treuisan marshes, Francis
and Leo were overtaken by darkness. Leo asked Francis to pray
that they be delivered from danger Francis replied “that
God could provide them with the light they desired”.
At that moment they were surrounded by light; which allowed
them to see clearly. A convent was established there and named
“Holy Fire” to mark the event.
staying with a poor charcoal dealer name Cotolai in Compostella.
God informed Francis that he wanted a convent between the
Valley of God and the Valley of Hell. The Benedictines owned
the land. Francis negotiated with them for the right to build
and offered his standard payment of a small basket of fish
each year. The abbot agreed.
informed his host that he should build the convent. Cotolai
asked how since he was very poor.
him to take his pick ax and dig a hole a little in front of
a close by spring and there he would find a treasure with
which to finance the construction of the convent. Cotolai
did as Francis asked, found the treasure and built the convent
know as St. Francis.
Due to his
health, fatigue of traveling and the weather, Francis was
exhausted and had to stop. He was only hungry for some wild
foul. As he was relating that to Bernard, a knight rode up
and presented him with a prepared meal of wild foul. “servant
of God”, said the knight, “partake in what the
Lord has sent you” and then disappeared. Francis ate
the provisions, was strengthened, and rose up and continued
on his journey to St. Mary’s.
In his first
attempt to join the Crusades his ship was blown off course
to Dalamatia. He would have to return to Italy but he could
not afford the fare.
came aboard and gave him provisions to a passenger for Francis
and his companion. The ship was caught in a storm and the
crew ran out of their provisions. All that was left was the
provisions for Francis and his companion.
were miraculously multiplied, feeding all on board until they
reached shore. The sailors thanked God for his mercy provided
by Francis who the war refused on board because he had no
In the “Chapter
of the Mats” in 1217 at St. Mary’s there were
three thousand friars but no one had brought anything to eat.
No one even considered that they may die of hunger. Without
being asked, food and drink flowed in a steady stream from
the nearby towns.
On his way
to Siena to have a second operation to see if his eyesight
could be restored, the group with Francis was near Radicofani.
girls appeared who looked like triplets. They stopped in front
of Francis and in unison said “Welcome to Lady Poverty”.
After passing, the young girls disappeared.
of John ends by stating that if all the miracles of Jesus
had been individually recorded, the world may not be able
to hold all of the books. Francis’ ministry was 18 years,
Jesus’ ministry was two. Like Jesus, Francis was 24/7
occupied with doing good.
In truth, it
seems what Jesus could do, Francis could do. This is not hard
to believe. Jesus told his disciples that they would be able
to manifest even greater miracles than those he preformed.
a man of absolute faith in God. Jesus said if you have faith
the size of a mustard seed, you will be able to say to the
mountain move and it will move.
a violent and profane man was on rampage in the town. He constantly
insulted and cursed the friars as they went about their work.
The brothers reported this to Francis. Francis called the
brothers together to kneel down and pray for this man. As
they stood up after prayer the profane man knocked at the
door asking forgiveness though his tears of remorse.
some work men would not stop making noise as he preached.
He told them that their work would not be successful. They
ignored him. A few days later the building they were working
One of the
patients in one of the leper hospitals, in which the brothers
were working, was very distressed. He would hit the friars
and yell at them. The friars were tired of his blasphemes
against Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
to speak to him and told him that sickness was from God to
heal the soul. The man had believed that God had abandoned
to pray. When he returned the man seemed much calmer. He prayed
Francis would wash him because he could no longer tolerate
the smell of his sickness.
washed him, his leprosy was cured. When Francis finished the
man was healed.
After the man
spent a short time in rigorous penance he died.
Later he appeared
to Francis when he was praying. He identified himself as the
leper. He told Francis he was going to heaven due to Francis
intercession and he told Francis that many other souls would
be saved through Francis.
COMMUNICATION WITH BIRDS, FISH AND ANIMALS
Francis had the ability to communicate with all God’s
creatures. In the end Francis saw God in everything. Creatures
and stars, sun, moon, fire and water were all brothers and
sisters to him; Children of God.
On his way
back to Assisi from a frustrating mission he thought he would
be more effective preaching to the birds. Shortly he saw a
significant number of dove, crow, magpie, jackdaws near the
road. He ran over to them. He felt them waiting on him and
he said, “May the Lord give you peace.” When they
did not fly away he asked them to listen to him.
should praise God, your creator who gave you feathers and
wings and whatever you need. He gave you a home in the sky.
You don’t sow or reap and yet he feeds you. He protects
and cares for you. The birds turned their heads, stretched
their necks, and opened their beaks as if listening. He passed
through them, touchinng them with his tunic, then he gave
them permission to leave which they did.
From then on
he encouraged them to praise and to love God.
Francis was about to speak but a large number of swallows
nesting there were chirping and making noise. He said, “Sister
swallows, you have said enough. It is my turn to speak. Be
quiet and listen to the Lord’s word.” They fell
silent until Francis was finished to everyone’s amazement.
insects and worms from the road. In the winter, he would provide
honey and wine for the bees.
At St. Mary’s,
a cicada pleased Francis with its song each day. He said “Sister
cicada come to me.” It would come to him and land on
his hand. He told her to song and he would join her. He then
asked her to return to her branch. This continued until he
sent her away.
He loved larks,
he said they were humble. They sing praises to God, when they
fly – like good religious.
They are always
directed to heaven praising God. Her feathers are dull earth
colors not brightly colored garments.
in the town of Grubbio there was a wolf that created havoc,
scaring the people, killing livestock, causing panic. People
did not want to travel outside the city walls.
there and heard all the stories and declared he would preach
to the wolf. They thought he was mad to put himself in danger.
He made the sign of the cross and walked out with a companion.
The wolf appeared almost immediately. He made the sign of
the cross and told the wolf to come to him so he could talk
to him about Jesus.
The wolf came
and curled up at his feet.
Wolf you are creating chaos wounding and killing God’s
creatures and attacking humans. All the people hate you and
want to kill you. I am here to make peace. If you stop your
destruction they will forgive your past, and no longer pursue
watched as the wolf acted like he understood.
wolf I know you acted out of hunger but if you stop I will
see to it that you have plenty to eat. Do you agree?”
the paw of the wolf and told the wolf to follow him without
fear and they would make a pack in God’s name.
and sisters if you fear the jaws of this wolf how much more
should you fear the jaws of hell. This wolf can only kill
the body. The fires of hell will torment the soul.
agreed to feed the wolf and the wolf held out his paw to Francis
The wolf lived
another 2 years and died of old age. He went where he pleased
and was well fed and not harassed. When he died, he was missed.
A lark built
a nest close to the convent at Mount Columba. The mother bird
came each day to eat from Francis hand. When the babies could
fly the mother brought them to Francis.
one greedy bird pecked the others when they tried to eat.
Francis preached to the greedy one. He told him he was greedy
and would die a wretched death and no animal would eat him.
The next day
the greedy bird was found dead in their water bowl. The body
was thrown away but no animal would touch it.
release snared animals and netted fish.
was fasting on Alverno before he received the stigmata he
made friends with a falcon. He would feed the falcon by day
and at midnight the falcon would come to his cell and wake
him for matins.
across a mixed herd of horses, cows and a small lamb being
driven by their owner. The lamb could not keep up and Francis
had pity on it. He wanted to buy it but had nothing but his
tunic to offer. About that time a merchant came along and
after understanding Francis wishes, purchased the lamb and
gave it to him.
the lamb to the poor Clares who cared for it and sent Francis
a tunic woven from its hair every year.
In Rome in
1222 a lamb attached itself to Francis and followed him everywhere.
When he left Rome he made a present of it to Jacoba. She was
When she would
go to church it would follow her and be silent during the
service. It would also wake her each morning and if she did
not respond to his bleating the lamb would push her with his
head until she got out of bed.
At St. Mary’s
Francis was given a lamb by a friend. He gave it to the friars
to care for after he gave it instructions on proper behavior.
When the friars
would chant their office the lamb would kneel down as if in
prayer. During the chanting she would also bleat and leap
before the altar. When the holy sacraments were raised she
would kneel in reverence.
One day Francis
met a young man who had captured two doves and was taking
them to market to sell. Francis convinced the young man to
give him the doves. He took the doves to the convent at Baucciano
where they became so familiar with the friars that they would
eat out of their hands.
The young man
joined the order and did well. He died young and in peace.
One day a mother
of two of the brothers came to St. Mary’s for help.
She had no money and owned nothing. The mothers of the brothers
were considered his mothers as well.
Peter what they had to give her. Peter said the only thing
they had was a copy of the New Testament for reading. Books
Peter to give her the book that the mother of Jesus would
prefer the woman to have the book as opposed to the brothers
reading from it.
The woman sold
the book and lived off the proceeds for two years.
also told Peter that if they could not give alms to the poor
who came to them to take the adornments from the altar and
give them as alms. Francis believed the mother of Jesus would
rather a plain altar than the gospel of Jesus ignored.
Preach by example
because words produce little effect when they are not backed
up by example. To preach one thing and live another is hypocrisy.
our mission is to bring salvation and save many souls. Let
us live by example more than by our words. Let us encourage
the people to repent and to penance and follow the commandments.
The Holy Spirit will speak through you. You will encounter
those who will welcome you with joy and those who resist your
words and insult you. Be resolved to endure it all in humility
and with patience.
Embrace Lady Poverty. Possess nothing except your habit. Become
attached to nothing.
Travel in pairs.
Observe silence for the first three hours of the day. Do not
engage in idle talk. Always be as humble as in your cell.
Our bodies are the cells which our souls inhabit. Our bodies
inhabit the cells of our hermitage.
bio add Q&A between Francis and Leo wanting to be criticized
A corpse is
an example of perfect obedience. It does not complain bout
where it is placed. Does not ask to be moved. Does not seek
a more honored seat. Goes where it is send without question.
One day upon
leaving Bari, Francis and his companion passed a purse of
money. His companion thought it should be given to the poor.
Francis said it was the devils trap. If it was lost it would
not be right to give it away even to the poor.
The companion would not let the matter rest. So Francis returned
to the purse and instructed the companion to pick it up. The
companion became apprehensive but did as Francis asked.
When he touched
the purse and large poisonous snake crawled out and took the
purse into the bush.
said, “Money is to the servants of God a poisonous snake
if not the devil himself.”
never passed a church without going in. They would pray, “We
adore thee o most Holy Lord Jesus Christ! Here in all thy
churches which are in the entire world, and we bless thee
for having redeemed the world by thy holy cross.”
Prayer 1727 309 Michu 123
Father,’ most happy and most holy, our Creator, our
Redeemer, and our Consoler. ‘Who art in Heaven;’
in the angels, in the saints, in the illuminated, in order
that they know Thee, who inflamest them, and Thou are their
Beatitude by satiating them: Thou are the Sovereign and Eternal
Good, from whom all good proceeds, and without Thee there
is no other good. ‘Hallowed be Thy name:’ in order
this to make Thyself known to us by vivid light, so that we
may see the full extent of Thy bounty, the duration of Thy
promises, the sublimity of Thy majesty, and the depth of Thy
judgment. ‘Thy Kingdom come:’ in order that Thou
mayest reign in us by grace, and that Thou mayest bring us
to Thy Kingdom, where Thou art clearly and perfectly loved,
where we become happy in Thy society, and where Thou art eternally
enjoyed. ‘Thy will be done on earth at it is in Heaven:’
in order that we may love Thee ‘with our whole hearts,’
thinking always of Thee ‘with our whole soul,’
ever longing for Thee, ‘with all our mind,’ referring
to Thee all our views, seeking Thy glory in all things; ‘with
all our strength,’ employing in Thy service, for Thy
love, all the strength,’ of our bodies and souls, without
making any other use of them; that we may love our neighbor
as ourselves, using all our efforts to draw them to Thy love;
rejoicing in all the good that happens to them, as if it was
our own; being grieved at any ills which may befall them,
and giving offense to none. ‘Give us this day our daily
bread:’ it is Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ; we ask
Thee for Him, in order to remind us of the love He has shown
us, and of what He has said, done and endured for us; we ask
Thee to make us fully comprehend these things, and cause us
to revere them. ‘Forgive us our trespasses,’ by
Thy infinite mercy, by the passion of Thy beloved Son, our
Lord Jesus Christ, by the merits and intercession of the Blessed
Virgin Mary, and of all the elect. ‘As we forgive them
that trespass against us:’ what may not be altogether
remitted on our part, grant us the favor, O Lord! to remit
entirely, in order that, for love of Thee, we may sincerely
love out enemies, and may intercede for them fervently at
Thy throne; that we may not render to any one evil for evil,
and that in thee we may endeavor to do good to all. ‘And
lead us not into temptation,’ hidden, manifest, sudden,
grievous. ‘But deliver us from evil:’, past, resent,
and to come. Amen: willingly and gratuitously”
was one of God’s special human beings. He was a Christian
but there are others like him who are Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim
and others who experience God through a religious metaphor
other than Christianity. But only Jesus came to the world
human society with a peace and love message. In time Christianity
will swallow all the other major religions. By swallow I mean
integrate and incorporate into Christianity, even as they
remain distinct religions. Christianity has already done this
The point is
that St. Francis was a rare human being but not totally unique.
There were others before him and others will continue to come
after him. He was a servant/Disciple/Apostle of Jesus, Jesus
was Francis’ master. His love. Had Francis been a Buddhist,
his life would have been the same except he would have taught
his message with Buddhist metaphors.
was needed in the Western world. Christianity needed him.
And so he was born in Assisi, Italy in 1182. Advance souls
like Francis come into this reality by agreement with God
to teach. Before Francis was born, his destiny was set. This
is not predestination; this is God and Francis agreeing that
Francis would attempt to accomplish a mutually agreed goal
of bolstering Christianity at a critical time in the history
of the church.
Most of the
soul’s memory of the pre birth reality is forgotten.
The soul incarnates into a human body and then it goes through
a long process of orientation. The mission to earth for one
like Francis is never easy.
to learning how to function as a human, these missionaries
must always contend with the initial fear and hatred of anyone
who challenges the traditional/conventional wisdom and myths.
Once that is overcome then the bureaucrats who know how to
manipulate the masses take the message of the missionary and
skew it to fit the demands of those lesser souls who need
to incorporate it into their lives.
disciples are necessary to spread the message. They are necessary
to make the message acceptable to the masses and to do that
the pure truth and light of the missionary must always be
toned down. The high impact truth of the missionary undiluted
will burn up the average human being. It will make their heads
send angels to found religions and teach spirituality because
the masses can barely embrace the message of a human missionary.
to the earth as a human being. After he was crucified and
his body died, he returned as a heavenly being, as no other
religious missionary has done. Jesus returned to show his
heavenly image, which all four gospels say, no one recognized.
They did not recognize him until he spoke. Then they knew
human history God has spoken to the world human society through
human beings, some greater than St. Francis and some lesser
but all have been human beings.
missions like Francis must be careful and not allow others
to fully see their gifts and they seldom tell all they know.
on water; Francis levitated when he was in ecstasy. If he
was born in the 21st century Jesus walking on water would
not be believed. People would want to know how the trick was
performed. The result is that the world human society has
become more trapped in confusion and believes the earth reality
is the true reality, that this finite mortal world is the
infinite immortal heaven. The human God of technology and
science have blinded human beings to the truth that all things
connected to the tangible earth are nothing but a dream; a
story is true. He is a bridge back to the truth of Jesus.
He is a lighted highway back to heaven.
time sickness and pain and suffering were attributed to evil
spirits. Today there is an arrogance that science and medicine
and the solution to all human ills and diseases. The reality
is that some sickness is biologically related but some is
due to a spiritual chaos and confusion. Some people do not
respond to medical treatments. Some don’t respond because
even though the symptoms indicate a certain medical cause,
the reality is that the cause is spiritual and that requires
a spiritual cure.
mission was to lead people from the darkness of attachment
to and confusion in the earth back to the infinite immortal
light of heaven and Francis was one of his later day apostles,
carrying the same message in a Christian metaphor.
Chalippe, Father Candide, The Life and Legends of St. Francis
of Assisi (1727), New York, 1917
G.K., St. Francis of Assisi, New York; Doubleday & CO.
Saint Francis of Assisi, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2006
Rev. Pamfilo DA, OSF, The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi
and a Sketch of the Franciscan Order, New York, 1867, Univ
of Michigan Univ Library Reprint
Reluctant Saint – The Life of Francis of Assisi, New
York, Penguin Compass, 2002
let me be an instrument of the peace” is the first line
of an anonymous poem written during WWI, the war to end all
wars. It was printed on the back of a card with a picture
of God and Francis on it in 1919 and distributed. It was then
copied by others and disseminated in the world human society.
The friar who first printed it said the poem sounded like
something God and Francis would write.