October 3, 2020
Francis of Assisi is not a name, noun and nomenclature but sanctity, fraternity, tabernacle and temple of God. He was born in 1181/1182 at Assisi, to the devout and God-fearing parents of Pietro di Bernardone dei Moriconi, a prosperous silk merchant, and a French mother Pica de Bourlemont. He died on 3rd October 1226, just in 44 years of life, conquered the entire world by his love for God’s creation called them as his brother and sister. If anyone in the history of humankind who called the ferocious wolf as his brother and charming moon as his sister, he is none other than the star of Assisi, patron of ecology, lover of nature, second Christ, a mirror of Christ, an icon of youth, a friend of lepers- Francis of Assisi, and the founder of three orders.
1. Assisi is a place of solace: The persons irrespective of religion who visit Assisi did not return with bare hands but with a memorable and everlasting memory to cherish for life. The ocean of people but splendid silence, a market full of things but the maker of all is the first, plenty of movements but standing stillness. It is not a place but a palace where the entire universe converges to commune with the creator.
• Inebriating and lively in the spring, powerful and passionate in the summer, full of spirituality in the autumn, mystical and evocative in the winter, Assisi is the ideal destination for any season.
• Francis of Assisi said ‘he had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ in the forsaken country chapel of San Damiano, just outside Assisi, in which the icon of Christ Crucified said to him, "Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which, as you can see is falling into ruins." He took this to mean, the ruined church in which he was comfortable in communion with God.
2. A builder of the Church: The 12th and the 15th century is no difference speaking in line of spirit/ situation in the Catholic Church but two sons of the time made a difference. Francis of Assisi who stood by the Catholic Church and cleansed all the filth in it, but another giant son of the Catholic Church Martin Luther due to the views on indulgences and other teachings of the church forced himself to desert the catholic teachings that resulted in his ex-communication in 1521 by the pope Leo the X.
3. A replica of ‘humanness’: Francis of Assisi is a man down to earth, rich in heart, full of emotions before his conversion and very much transparent after. What an understanding he had with his brothers? It is tremendous, passionate and affectionate. Brother Juniper gives us a beautiful example in Little Flowers of St Francis “a sick brother was craving to eat pig’s foot.” Brother Juniper went quickly to the kitchen, borrowed a knife, and ran away with a fervent spirit into the wood where the pigs were kept. He threw himself upon one of the pigs, cut away its foot, and left it with just three legs. Meanwhile, the keeper of the pigs, who watched the pig lose his foot, angrily confronted the friars. He called them liars, thieves, rascals, hypocrites, and good-for-nothings. Francis arrived at the scene and promised to compensate the keeper for the bleeding pig.
Francis, full of wisdom, pondered and prayed about the events of the day. He summoned the accused friar and said to him: “Did you cut off the foot of a pig?” And Brother Juniper, who believed he had committed a great act of charity, said: “Yes, Sweet Father Francis, I cut off the pig’s foot. I did so out of concern for our sick brother. Considering the consolation and pleasure that it brought our poor brother, I would have cut off the feet of one hundred pigs; I believe that my actions were also pleasing to Almighty God.”
4. An impersonator of Christ: To follow Christ is not only to serve him; it is not enough to do his will; it also means becoming like him. “This love is a love that consists not only in doing but in being; a love that thrives not only in activity but in the person” says Ivan Gobry in his book St Francis and the imitation of Christ.
St. Bonaventure writes “he devoted such an ardent love to Christ and his Beloved showed him in exchange such a familiar tenderness, that the servant of God had almost continually before his eyes the physical presence of his Savior." He imitated Christ from the crib to the cross. The Lord because of His unconditional, single-minded love as a token Francis of Assisi experienced in his body the pain, agony and passion of the five wounds of the Lord in 1224.
5. The architect of three orders: Francis of Assisi was surrounded by young, energetic, talented and intellectuals to follow the youth icon to build the dilapidated, ruined and broken church and to create a society without any distinction and disparity but having the vision of diversity. Pope Innocent III in 1209 approved the unwritten rule and Pope Honorius III, 29 November 1223, accepted the second rule. Thus we have the birth of the first order of Francis Assisi for men.
Second order - The foundation of the Poor Ladies or second-order, may be said to have been laid in 1212. In that year, Clare of Assisi who had besought St. Francis to be allowed to embrace the new manner of life he had instituted at St. Damian's near Assisi. Today they are known as Poor Clares who perpetually adore the Lord by living in cloistered convents
Third order - Tradition assigns the year 1221 as the date of the foundation of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, known as Tertiaries, called secular Franciscans or members of the third order of Francis Assisi. Pope St. Pius X proclaimed that the purpose of the Third Order of St. Francis consists in this: “that its members put into everyday practice the precepts of Gospel perfection and serve as models of Christian life for the imitation of others” (Tertium Franciscalium Ordinem, September 8, 1912).
Pope Pius XI stated “A most wholesome change in society began to take shape, the new Order founded by Francis spreading far and wide among the peoples of Christendom and gaining in its members, while moral purity followed in the wake of the practice of penance. …There was a beautiful, glorious revival of the choicest virtues in civil life. In fine the face of the earth was renewed.” (Rite Expiatis)
6. The “sweet heart” of nature: Francis preached that the world created was good and beautiful. In the Canticle of the Brother Sun he gives thanks to God for Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Water, Fire, and Sister Earth, all of which he sees as rendering praise to God.
The legend from the Fioretti (Little Flowers) tells that in the city of Gubbio, where Francis lived for some time, was a wolf "terrifying and ferocious, who devoured men as well as animals". Francis went up into the hills and when he found the wolf, he made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf to come to him and hurt no one. Then Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens made a pact between them and the wolf. The wolf had “done evil out of hunger, the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly. In return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks.
On 29 November 1979, Pope John Paul II declared Saint Francis the Patron Saint of Ecology. On 28 March 1982, he said that Saint Francis' love and care for creation was a challenge for contemporary Catholics and a reminder "not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us." The same Pope wrote on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1990, the saint of Assisi "offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation.” He went on to make the point that "As a friend of the poor who was loved by God's creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honor and praise to the Lord. The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples."
7. A visionary and a revolutionary:
• The man, mad after the gorgeous and colossus attire going to a simple chestnut farmers clothes
• The man was bitter to see the horrible sight of the lepers, kissing and feeding them
• The man refuses in the papal court to accept Pietro Bernardone as his father, and embracing God as the father
• The man prefers Hut to the Palace
• The man marries poverty as his spouse
• The man accepts the robbers as his brothers
• The man remains position-less and at the death-bed completely naked on the floor as a sign of complete and total renunciation.
It is not possible for an ordinary person with ordinary knowledge but it is just a bloodless revolution; it is not a tide but a wave, not a drop but an ocean. As G.K. Chesterton puts in “St. Francis did not love humanity but men and women, so he did not love Christianity but Christ.” Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit, and without a sense of self-importance.
Conclusion: Francis was a man of vision provision and compassion who incarnated God’s plan to every creature on earth. A normal person will not call a wolf, leper, robber as his brother but Francis of Assisi did call them but lived with them. When the Church was dominated with slime and smut, filth and foul, nepotism and discrimination, all sorts of isms, the man of Assisi stood firm like a rock to clean the muck and mire from the Church. When the society was divided with majors and minors he stood with the poor like massah and the rock of meribah . The man of Assisi supported the neglected ones of the society to regain their identity as the image and likeness of God, revolutionized the concept of universal brother/sisterhood by calling everyone as ‘brother and sister’. When the earth was losing its fertility and productivity in the selfish hands of the people, the little man of Assisi of the 12th century protected the earth from its degradation and deterioration. When the religious are clamoring for power, position and prestige he chooses to be an ordinary man. He was dynamic yet sometimes dynamite when one misused the power.
Napoleon the Great was once travelling he saw a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. Napoleon commanded the entire procession to come to an immediate halt. He then removed his headgear and bowed. The generals were shocked. They said to Napoleon, "Sir, you are the greatest man in the world. You never bow to anyone, nor do you show respect to any other human being on earth. The entire world knows you and reveres you as the most indomitable figure ever to walk on this earth. How is it that you have taken off your headgear now?" Napoleon replied, "I need guns and cannons to conquer the world. Once I conquer one country, another country revolts, and then I must go there to quell their revolt and reconquer the country. My victories are in no way permanent. Look at St. Francis of Assisi! He was such a great saint. He had no weaponry — not one gun, not one cannon. I have countless weapons, but he had only one weapon: love. With that love-weapon, St. Francis of Assisi conquered the entire world. With all my guns, cannons, ammunition, armies and more, my victories are never, never lasting. But his victory is everlasting, and his sole weapon was love." As Shakespeare says in As you like it: “you so much in love as your rhymes speak? Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much. So Francis of Assisi cried and said “love is not loved enough” Be the weapon of love.