Francis of Assisi
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St. Francis of Assisi

 

St. Francis is the perfect patron for Mystical Ventures or anyone who desires to live a sustainable lifestyle of stewardship of the earth. He was known for his love of all things in nature, including animals, but also Brother Sun and Sister Moon and the wind and stars. Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone was born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy to a wealthy cloth merchant and his wife Pica. His father started calling him Francesco, translated into English, Francis, and the name stuck.   In his youth, Francis was a fun-loving young man who enjoyed his life and paid little attention to the spiritual life until he heard God calling him to something different. While he was in the military, he was captured and imprisoned for a year where the solitude may have began his first opportunities for conversion. He experienced a vision that directed him to return to Assisi where he began to abandon his family’s wealth and associate with beggars and the very poor. His father thought he was mad and abandoned him when he saw him throw away his wealth. Francis fell in love with what he called “lady Poverty,” a personification of the simple uncluttered life. He associated with beggars and wanted to cherish them, since Christ already did so. In prayer, he heard God tell him to “rebuild his church” and thinking the message was to fix up an old abandoned chapel, he began to do so, attracting a few others in the process. He restored several chapels including Porziuncola, which would become one of his favorite dwelling places.

Saint Francis of Assisi

 

His followers continued to grow, so he began to petition Rome to recognize his group as a new religious order in the Church, eventually known as the Franciscans. He also founded a woman’s group of contemplative Franciscans with St. Clare of Assisi (her brother was one of his followers) and later a Third Order of Franciscan followers for lay people. The charism of the Franciscans to this day is to live a simple life, embracing “Lady Poverty” and working with the poor. Francis loved nature and all things in it and is especially know for his love of animals. Many churches celebrate his feast on October 4th with what has become a traditional “blessing of the animals” in his honor. Legends arose that he sang and preached to the birds and they flocked around him and listened, and that he convinced a wolf that was terrorizing a town to refrain from doing so. He addressed the heavenly bodies as Brother Sun, Sister Moon, wind and water, and Sister Death, calling on all of them to praise God in what became known as his “Canticle of the Sun”.  Link and text below.

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http://prayerfoundation.org/canticle_of_brother_sun.htm

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.

We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,
who sustains us
with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.

We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.

We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.

We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility.

Amen.

There have been several classical musical pieces as well as contemporary music pieces composed around the world, depicting his theme of the “Canticle of the Sun” and several films have been made of his life.

 

Francis preached to men and women and all creatures to praise God, a common theme throughout the psalms, and he was very conscious of protecting nature and taking care of this earth. Around 1220, he was also responsible for creating the first “Christmas creche,” creating a nativity scene complete with animals to allow the faithful to contemplate more closely the mysteries of the Incarnation.

 

Francis received the Stigmata, or the wounds of Christ in his hands and feet and side.  His concern, however, was that he strove to imitate Christ as closely as he could.  He befriended the poor, because Christ loved the poor.

Francis died in 1226 and was canonized in 1228 by Pope Gregory IX.

 

Not only Catholics, but Anglicans of England and Canada, the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church commemorate his life on his feast day, October 4th.

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Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, it that direct intuition or experience of God; a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or less degree, such a direct experience – one whose religion and life are centered not merely on accepted belief or practice, but on that which the person regards as first hand personal knowledge.                    

Evelyn Underhill