St. Francis of Assissi

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Wait for me here, I am going to preach to our sisters the birds! And he walked into the field up to the birds who sat upon the earth. And St. Francis said, ‘My sister birds! You owe God much gratitude and ought always and everywhere to praise and exult Him.’ And When St. Francis had finished his sermon and his exhortation to praise God, he made the sign of the Cross over all the birds. And all the birds flew up at once and twittered wonderfully and strongly and separated and flew away.” - from St. Francis of Assisi by Johannes Jorgensen

 

St. Francis was born in Assisi, Italy. After a carefree youth, he renounced the wealth of his family and embraced “Lady Poverty.” Early in his conversion, he encountered a leper on the road. Francis was initially repulsed by the leper’s appearance and odor, but when he reached out for alms, Francis went to him and kissed his hand. A kiss of peace was returned and Francis was filled with great joy.

 

Francis’ radical conversion to become a beggar for Jesus Christ and His Gospel was a shock to all who knew him. From the crucifix in the Chapel of San Damiano, God called him to “go and repair my house which you see is falling down.” Francis accepted this new vocation and spent his life in contemplative prayer and preaching the Gospel message to all who would listen.

 

In his humility Francis was never ordained a priest, but remained a permanent deacon. When his companions desired to join him, he founded the Friars Minor, the religious order now known as the Franciscans. A young, wealthy woman follower, Clare of Assisi, also desired to live a life of poverty and charity. With the help of Francis, she founded a religious order for women, known as the Poor Clares. Two years before his death at the age of 42, Francis received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. He is the first known stigmatist in the history of the Church.

 

M. Theresa Witte
Carpe Gratiam, Vol. 2, Is. 1.