Life of St. Francis of Assisi
In his lifetime, he was known simply as “Il Poverello,” the poor one. Yet few poor men in the history of the world have touched as many souls and affected as many lives as Francis of Assisi. The ideals he embraced—his passion for peace, his quest for simplicity and his respect for all of creation—are as relevant today as they were to the medieval society into which he was born more than 800 years ago.
Francis, christened Giovanni Bernardone in 1182, was a child of privilege, the son of a wealthy cloth merchant of central Italy. As carefree and self-indulgent as his prosperous contemporaries, he spent his youth engaged in extravagant pleasures. But despite his family’s material success and its elevated social status, Francis felt that his life lacked meaning. When one day the Spirit spoke to him, saying, “Francis, go and repair my church which is falling into ruin,” he was ready to respond. Francis took the Lord at his word and began to rebuild the ruined chapel of San Damiano. Only later did he realize that the Lord was asking him to renew his people—the Church.
He was but one man, and the task seemed impossibly difficult. Nevertheless, Francis renounced his family’s wealth and set out to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Before long, this itinerant beggar-preacher became widely known for his holiness, his empathy for the poor and his radical self-giving to the Lord. Some were amused but many were inspired by his love of creation. Francis considered himself a small part of a remarkable universe inhabited by animals and elements that were all connected as “brothers” and “sisters.”
He educated others with his actions by embracing lepers, calming a marauding wolf with kindness, traveling to Syria to preach to a Muslim sultan in the midst of the Crusades. Inspired by his example, many put aside their possessions, joining him as penitent preachers of the Gospel. In 1209 they gave birth to the Franciscan brotherhood, the Order of Friars Minor. The growth of his following was unprecedented: By the time Francis died in 1226, thousands of men had cast aside material possessions to become his brother friars, assuming the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The movement he created survived the centuries and lives today in the Friars Minor, in affiliated orders of Franciscan women and men and in the Secular Franciscans. His legacy is an affirmation of the power of faith in action. As Francis believed, we are all instruments of God’s peace. And one person can indeed transform the world.
—Toni Cashnelli, Communications Director
At the end of October I attended the Mission Congress 2010 held in Albuquerque, N.M., sponsored by the United States Catholic Mission Association. The theme of the congress was “God’s Mission, Many Faces: A Portrait of U.S. Catholics in Mission”. There were over 400 participants, religious, lay, and clergy in attendance as well as 17 bishops. Keynote speakers during the conference were: Rev. Gary Riebe-Estrella, SVD, PhD, associate professor at Catholic Theological Union, Sr. Janice McLaughlin, MM, president of the Maryknoll Sisters, and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriquez-Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Each of the speakers talked of the need to give people hope in a very troubled world – to be passionate in spreading the Good News.
A major highlight of the congress was the concluding Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Francis in Santa Fe. The liturgy was filled with multi-lingual songs and the offertory gifts were brought to the altar following behind dancers of Native Americans. It was truly reflective of the many cultures of the local church in New Mexico.
As we once again recall those events surrounding the first Christmas – that Jesus came among us to bring the Good News of God’s kingdom to all people – may each one of us be reminded that we have the same mission, to continue to announce that same message.
Merry Christmas and a very Blessed and Happy New Year!
–Br. Vincent Delorenzo, OFM
Director, Franciscan Mission Office
Thanks To You
Bill and Carol on Poor Clare Missionary Sis… Srimal Fernando on St. Anthony’s church at Wahako… Prof.Kennedy on St. Anthony’s church at Wahako… Srimal Fernando on SAINT ANTHONY CATHOLIC PATRON… YeshuaLives on SAINT ANTHONY CATHOLIC PATRON…