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Francis of Assisi

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 2 months ago

He was born in 1181 or 1182 as Francesco di Bernardone, Franciscus meaning in Italian "Little Frenchman". His mother would have preferred "Giovanni", but his father Pietro, a cloth merchant, named him Francesco in honor to France, because the commerce with that country was the origin of the family's wealth. Of his mother, Pica, little is known. Francis was one of several children.

Rebellious toward his father's business and pursuit of wealth, Francis spent most of his youth lost in books (ironically, his father's wealth did afford his son an excellent education, and he became fluent in reading several languages including Latin). He was also known for drinking and enjoying the company of his many friends, who were usually the sons of nobles. His displays of disillusionment toward the world that surrounded him became evident fairly early, one of which is shown in the story of the beggar. In this account, he found himself out having fun with his friends one day when a beggar came along and asked for alms. While his friends ignored the beggar's cries, Francis gave the man everything he had in his pockets. His friends quickly chided and mocked him for his stupidity, and when he got home, his father scolded him in a rage.

After his return to Assisi in 1203, Francis recommenced his carefree life. But in 1204 a serious illness started a spiritual crisis. In 1205 Francis left for Puglia to enlist in the army of Gualtiero di Brienne. But on his way, in Spoleto, a strange vision made him return to Assisi, deepening his spiritual crisis.

It is said that when he began to avoid the sports and the feasts of his former companions, and they asked him laughingly if he was thinking of marrying, he answered "Yes, a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen" - meaning his "lady poverty", as he afterward used to say.

He spent much time in lonely places, asking God for enlightenment. By degrees he took to nursing lepers, the most repulsive victims in the lazar houses near Assisi.

After a pilgrimage to Rome, where he begged at the church doors for the poor, he had a mystical experience in the Church of San Damiano just outside of Assisi, in which the Icon of Christ Crucified came alive and said to him 3 times, "Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins."

Part of his appreciation of the environment is expressed in his Canticle of the Sun, a poem written in Umbrian Italian in perhaps 1224 which expresses a love and appreciation of Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Mother Earth, Brother Fire, etc. and all of God's creations personified in their fundamental forms

While he was praying on the mountain of Verna, together with his close friend Thomas, Francis received the Stigmata on 17 September 1223. Suddenly he saw a vision of an angel on a cross. This angel bore holes into St. Francis's feet, hands, and chest. This is the first account of Stigmata in history. However, no one knew about this occurrence until after his death, when Thomas told a crowd of Franciscans that he had witnessed this account.

Suffering from these Stigmata and from an eye disease, he had been receiving care in several cities (Siena, Cortona, Nocera) to no avail. In the end he was brought back to the Porziuncola. He was brought to the transito, the hut for infirm friars, next to the Porziuncola. Here, in the place where it all began, feeling the end approaching, he spent the last days of his life dictating his spiritual testament. He died on the evening of 3 October 1226.

From his preach to the birds: “My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you…you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore…always seek to praise God.”

What strikes me: Parallels to Haci Bektas and Niklaus von der Flüe: He developed (as Dante Alighieri did) modern Italian language. He was against worldly and religious power (Emperor and Pope), he was quickly made a saint after his death, he had many connections and contacts to heretic people....

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