Saint of the Day – St. Francis of Assisi – October 4
St. Francis of Assisi window – St. Joseph’s Monastery in Aptos, CA – Artist: Susan Wagner
October 4 is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was born in Assisi, Italy in about 1182 and died at the Porziuncola, a chapel outside Assisi’s walls, in 1226. He is one of the best known saints, founder of the Order of Friars Minor or Franciscans, the Poor Ladies or Order of St. Clare (Poor Clares – founded with St. Clare of Assisi) and the Third Order Franciscans, including lay men and women who also wanted to live in accordance with the Gospels in a Franciscan manner. There are many sub-groups of Franciscans.
Brother Bill Short, OFM of the Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley, CA has developed an excellent series of lectures on the life and times of St. Francis. I listened to it recently and was fascinated with the richness of detail he included about the culture and history of the times, as well as the people who each played a part in the story of St. Francis.
I asked Brother Bill and a few others for reflections on St. Francis for his feast – one thing they would like people to know about him. I received these responses.
From Brother Bill:
Something (one thing) I would like people to know about St. Francis – hmmmm, there’s an embarrassment of riches. Let me try this:
Francis was rather alarmed by the notion that people might think he was some kind of saint. In a fairly reliable account from companions who travelled with him, recounted some fifteen years after his death, they remember that on travelling through a town in Tuscany, a man pleaded with Francis to pray that his wife would be freed from an evil spirit that was making her cry out, disturbing the neighbors. Francis seemed pretty skeptical, but finally agreed to go to the house, along with three companions. He stationed them in three corners of the room where the woman was ranting, while he took one corner for himself. They all prayed, and the woman stopped shrieking, apparently healed. The husband thanked Francis profusely, but Francis seemed in a hurry to move along. Some time later he passed through the same town with Brother Elias (his vicar) and the woman came rushing out to thank him. He still seemed reluctant to accept her story, but finally agreed that she had been freed from her problem – but he was very clear that four brothers had prayed for her (including him) and who knew which prayer God had answered? That’s good, practical humility, I think.
I like the story because it shows Francis as someone with a pretty shrewd sense of “phonies,” and a cautious approach to anyone (including himself!) being considered a saint during their own lifetime.
From Sr. Krista Aitkin of St. Joseph’s Monastery in Aptos, CA
St. Francis of Assisi is a spirit and a way of life. His spirit and his way of living are reality lived, not an idea or ideal, or even a formula. Everything about St. Francis is an invitation to practice. He is not locked into “a system.” He lives reality through devotion toward others, respect for the poor and for all of God’s creation. In short, St. Francis lives in and through the Word of God. His charism is not linked to a particular apostolate, but is focused on “becoming” rather than “producing,” on one spirituality – putting on Christ, who called himself the way, the truth, and our life.
Thank you to Brother Bill and Sr. Krista for your responses to my question and for sharing your love of St. Francis with me. May the Lord continue to bless you richly.