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  1. CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Francis of Assisi
  2. Saint Francis of Assisi’s Story
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  4. Biography Newsletter

This celebration demonstrated his devotion to the human Jesus, a devotion that would be rewarded in most dramatic fashion in the following year. In the summer of , Francis went to the mountain retreat of La Verna Alvernia , not far from Assisi, to celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary August 15 and to prepare for St. He prayed that he might know how best to please God; opening the Gospels for the answer, he came upon references to the Passion of Christ three times.

As he prayed during the morning of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross September 14 , he beheld a figure coming toward him from the heavens. Bonaventure , minister-general of the Franciscans from to and a leading thinker of the 13th century, wrote:. As it stood above him, he saw that it was a man and yet a Seraph with six wings; his arms were extended and his feet conjoined, and his body was fixed to a cross. Two wings were raised above his head, two were extended as in flight, and two covered the whole body.

The face was beautiful beyond all earthly beauty, and it smiled gently upon Francis. Conflicting emotions filled his heart, for though the vision brought great joy, the sight of the suffering and crucified figure stirred him to deepest sorrow. Then as the vision disappeared, it left not only a greater ardour of love in the inner man but no less marvelously marked him outwardly with the stigmata of the Crucified.

For the remainder of his life, Francis took the greatest care to hide the stigmata marks resembling the wounds on the crucified body of Jesus Christ. After the death of Francis, Brother Elias announced the stigmata to the order by a circular letter. Later, Brother Leo, the confessor and intimate companion of the saint who also left a written testimony of the event, said that in death Francis seemed like one just taken down from the cross.

Francis lived two years longer, in constant pain and almost totally blind he had contracted an eye disease while proselytizing in the East in Medical treatment at Rieti was unsuccessful, and after a stay at Siena, he was brought back to Assisi, where he died at the Porziuncola. He was buried temporarily in the church of San Giorgio at Assisi. On July 15, , concluding a process of unprecedented speed, Francis was canonized by his former protector, Pope Gregory IX. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles.

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See Article History. Start your free trial today for unlimited access to Britannica. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. These and other devotional movements of laypeople were supported by Pope…. Francis of Assisi was one of the earliest Italian poems.

It was written in rhythmical prose that recalls the verses of the Bible and uses assonance in place of rhyme. In the Umbrian dialect, God is praised through all the things of his creation. Poor Clare, any member of the Franciscan Order of St. Clare, a Roman Catholic religious order of nuns founded by St. Clare of Assisi in The Poor Clares are considered the second of the three Franciscan orders.

Because each convent of Poor Clares is largely autonomous, practices have varied…. History at your fingertips. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade.

During the last years of his relatively short life, he died at 44, Francis was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He recognized creation as another manifestation of the beauty of God. In the autumn of the same year Francis's burning desire for the conversion of the Saracens led him to embark for Syria , but having been shipwrecked on the coast of Slavonia, he had to return to Ancona.

The following spring he devoted himself to evangelizing Central Italy. About this time Francis received from Count Orlando of Chiusi the mountain of La Verna , an isolated peak among the Tuscan Apennines, rising some feet above the valley of the Casentino, as a retreat , "especially favourable for contemplation ", to which he might retire from time to time for prayer and rest.


For Francis never altogether separated the contemplative from the active life, as the several hermitages associated with his memory, and the quaint regulations he wrote for those living in them bear witness. At one time , indeed, a strong desire to give himself wholly to a life of contemplation seems to have possessed the saint. During the next year Francis set out for Morocco , in another attempt to reach the infidels and, if needs be, to shed his blood for the Gospel , but while yet in Spain was overtaken by so severe an illness that he was compelled to turn back to Italy once more.

Authentic details are unfortunately lacking of Francis's journey to Spain and sojourn there.

Saint Francis of Assisi’s Story

It probably took place in the winter of After his return to Umbria he received several noble and learned men into his order, including his future biographer Thomas of Celano. The next eighteen months comprise, perhaps, the most obscure period of the saint's life.

That he took part in the Lateran Council of may well be, but it is not certain ; we know from Eccleston , however, that Francis was present at the death of Innocent III , which took place at Perugia , in July Shortly afterwards, i. It is related that once, while Francis was praying at the Porziuncola , Christ appeared to him and offered him whatever favour he might desire.

Brotherhood. A life with Saint Francis (2016)

The salvation of souls was ever the burden of Francis's prayers , and wishing moreover, to make his beloved Porziuncola a sanctuary where many might be saved, he begged a plenary Indulgence for all who, having confessed their sins , should visit the little chapel. Our Lord acceded to this request on condition that the pope should ratify the Indulgence. The latter, notwithstanding some opposition from the Curia at such an unheard-of favour, granted the Indulgence , restricting it, however, to one day yearly.

He subsequently fixed 2 August in perpetuity, as the day for gaining this Porziuncola Indulgence , commonly known in Italy as il perdono d'Assisi. Such is the traditional account. The fact that there is no record of this Indulgence in either the papal or diocesan archives and no allusion to it in the earliest biographies of Francis or other contemporary documents has led some writers to reject the whole story. This argumentum ex silentio has, however, been met by M. Paul Sabatier, who in his critical edition of the "Tractatus de Indulgentia" of Fra Bartholi has adduced all the really credible evidence in its favour.

But even those who regard the granting of this Indulgence as traditionally believed to be an established fact of history , admit that its early history is uncertain. The first general chapter of the Friars Minor was held in May, , at Porziuncola , the order being divided into provinces, and an apportionment made of the Christian world into so many Franciscan missions. Tuscany , Lombardy , Provence, Spain , and Germany were assigned to five of Francis's principal followers; for himself the saint reserved France , and he actually set out for that kingdom, but on arriving at Florence , was dissuaded from going further by Cardinal Ugolino , who had been made protector of the order in He therefore sent in his stead Brother Pacificus , who in the world had been renowned as a poet, together with Brother Agnellus , who later on established the Friars Minor in England.

Although success came indeed to Francis and his friars , with it came also opposition, and it was with a view to allaying any prejudices the Curia might have imbibed against their methods that Francis, at the instance of Cardinal Ugolino , went to Rome and preached before the pope and cardinals in the Lateran. This visit to the Eternal City , which took place , was apparently the occasion of Francis's memorable meeting with St.

The year Francis devoted to missionary tours in Italy , which were a continual triumph for him. He usually preached out of doors, in the market-places, from church steps, from the walls of castle court-yards. Allured by the magic spell of his presence, admiring crowds, unused for the rest to anything like popular preaching in the vernacular, followed Francis from place to place hanging on his lips; church bells rang at his approach; processions of clergy and people advanced to meet him with music and singing ; they brought the sick to him to bless and heal, and kissed the very ground on which he trod, and even sought to cut away pieces of his tunic.

The extraordinary enthusiasm with which the saint was everywhere welcomed was equalled only by the immediate and visible result of his preaching. His exhortations of the people, for sermons they can hardly be called, short, homely, affectionate, and pathetic, touched even the hardest and most frivolous, and Francis became in sooth a very conqueror of souls. Thus it happened, on one occasion, while the saint was preaching at Camara, a small village near Assisi , that the whole congregation were so moved by his "words of spirit and life" that they presented themselves to him in a body and begged to be admitted into his order.

It was to accede, so far as might be, to like requests that Francis devised his Third Order , as it is now called, of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, which he intended as a sort of middle state between the world and the cloister for those who could not leave their home or desert their wonted avocations in order to enter either the First Order of Friars Minor or the Second Order of Poor Ladies. That Francis prescribed particular duties for these tertiaries is beyond question.

They were not to carry arms, or take oaths , or engage in lawsuits, etc. It is also said that he drew up a formal rule for them, but it is clear that the rule, confirmed by Nicholas IV in , does not, at least in the form in which it has come down to us, represent the original rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. In any event, it is customary to assign as the year of the foundation of this third order , but the date is not certain. At the second general chapter May, Francis, bent on realizing his project of evangelizing the infidels , assigned a separate mission to each of his foremost disciples , himself selecting the seat of war between the crusaders and the Saracens.

After preaching there to the assembled Christian forces, Francis fearlessly passed over to the infidel camp, where he was taken prisoner and led before the sultan. According to the testimony of Jacques de Vitry , who was with the crusaders at Damietta , the sultan received Francis with courtesy, but beyond obtaining a promise from this ruler of more indulgent treatment for the Christian captives, the saint's preaching seems to have effected little.

Before returning to Europe , the saint is believed to have visited Palestine and there obtained for the friars the foothold they still retain as guardians of the holy places. What is certain is that Francis was compelled to hasten back to Italy because of various troubles that had arisen there during his absence. News had reached him in the East that Matthew of Narni and Gregory of Naples, the two vicars-general whom he had left in charge of the order, had summoned a chapter which, among other innovations, sought to impose new fasts upon the friars , more severe than the rule required.

Moreover, Cardinal Ugolino had conferred on the Poor Ladies a written rule which was practically that of the Benedictine nuns , and Brother Philip, whom Francis had charged with their interests, had accepted it. To make matters worse, John of Capella, one of the saint's first companions, had assembled a large number of lepers , both men and women , with a view to forming them into a new religious order, and had set out for Rome to seek approval for the rule he had drawn up for these unfortunates. Apart from these difficulties, the order was then passing through a period of transition.

It had become evident that the simple, familiar, and unceremonious ways which had marked the Franciscan movement at its beginning were gradually disappearing, and that the heroic poverty practiced by Francis and his companions at the outset became less easy as the friars with amazing rapidity increased in number. And this Francis could not help seeing on his return. Cardinal Ugolino had already undertaken the task "of reconciling inspirations so unstudied and so free with an order of things they had outgrown.

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That Cardinal Ugolino had no small share in bringing Francis's lofty ideals "within range and compass" seems beyond dispute, and it is not difficult to recognize his hand in the important changes made in the organization of the order in the so-called Chapter of Mats. At this famous assembly, held at Porziuncola at Whitsuntide , or there is seemingly much room for doubt as to the exact date and number of the early chapters , about friars are said to have been present, besides some applicants for admission to the order.

Huts of wattle and mud afforded shelter for this multitude. Francis had purposely made no provision for them, but the charity of the neighbouring towns supplied them with food, while knights and nobles waited upon them gladly. It was on this occasion that Francis, harassed no doubt and disheartened at the tendency betrayed by a large number of the friars to relax the rigours of the rule, according to the promptings of human prudence , and feeling, perhaps unfitted for a place which now called largely for organizing abilities, relinquished his position as general of the order in favour of Peter of Cattaneo.

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But the latter died in less than a year, being succeeded as vicar-general by the unhappy Brother Elias , who continued in that office until the death of Francis. The saint , meanwhile, during the few years that remained in him, sought to impress on the friars by the silent teaching of personal example of what sort he would fain have them to be. Already, while passing through Bologna on his return from the East, Francis had refused to enter the convent there because he had heard it called the "House of the Friars" and because a studium had been instituted there.

He moreover bade all the friars , even those who were ill, quit it at once, and it was only some time after, when Cardinal Ugolino had publicly declared the house to be his own property , that Francis suffered his brethren to re-enter it. Yet strong and definite as the saint's convictions were, and determinedly as his line was taken, he was never a slave to a theory in regard to the observances of poverty or anything else; about him indeed, there was nothing narrow or fanatical.

As for his attitude towards study, Francis desiderated for his friars only such theological knowledge as was conformable to the mission of the order, which was before all else a mission of example.

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Hence he regarded the accumulation of books as being at variance with the poverty his friars professed, and he resisted the eager desire for mere book-learning, so prevalent in his time , in so far as it struck at the roots of that simplicity which entered so largely into the essence of his life and ideal and threatened to stifle the spirit of prayer , which he accounted preferable to all the rest. In , so some writers tell us, Francis drew up a new rule for the Friars Minor.

Others regard this so-called Rule of not as a new rule, but as the first one which Innocent had orally approved; not, indeed, its original form, which we do not possess, but with such additions and modifications as it has suffered during the course of twelve years. However this may be, the composition called by some the Rule of is very unlike any conventional rule ever made. It was too lengthy and unprecise to become a formal rule, and two years later Francis retired to Fonte Colombo, a hermitage near Rieti , and rewrote the rule in more compendious form. This revised draft he entrusted to Brother Elias , who not long after declared he had lost it through negligence.

Francis thereupon returned to the solitude of Fonte Colombo, and recast the rule on the same lines as before, its twenty-three chapters being reduced to twelve and some of its precepts being modified in certain details at the instance of Cardinal Ugolino. It is based on the three vows of obedience , poverty , and chastity , special stress however being laid on poverty , which Francis sought to make the special characteristic of his order, and which became the sign to be contradicted.

This vow of absolute poverty in the first and second orders and the reconciliation of the religious with the secular state in the Third Order of Penance are the chief novelties introduced by Francis in monastic regulation. It was during Christmastide of this year that the saint conceived the idea of celebrating the Nativity "in a new manner", by reproducing in a church at Greccio the praesepio of Bethlehem , and he has thus come to be regarded as having inaugurated the popular devotion of the Crib.

Christmas appears indeed to have been the favourite feast of Francis, and he wished to persuade the emperor to make a special law that men should then provide well for the birds and the beasts, as well as for the poor , so that all might have occasion to rejoice in the Lord.

Early in August, , Francis retired with three companions to "that rugged rock 'twixt Tiber and Arno", as Dante called La Verna , there to keep a forty days fast in preparation for Michaelmas. During this retreat the sufferings of Christ became more than ever the burden of his meditations ; into few souls , perhaps, had the full meaning of the Passion so deeply entered.

It was on or about the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross 14 September while praying on the mountainside, that he beheld the marvellous vision of the seraph , as a sequel of which there appeared on his body the visible marks of the five wounds of the Crucified which, says an early writer, had long since been impressed upon his heart. Brother Leo , who was with St. Francis when he received the stigmata , has left us in his note to the saint's autograph blessing , preserved at Assisi , a clear and simple account of the miracle , which for the rest is better attested than many another historical fact.

The saint's right side is described as bearing on open wound which looked as if made by a lance, while through his hands and feet were black nails of flesh, the points of which were bent backward. After the reception of the stigmata , Francis suffered increasing pains throughout his frail body, already broken by continual mortification. For, condescending as the saint always was to the weaknesses of others, he was ever so unsparing towards himself that at the last he felt constrained to ask pardon of "Brother Ass", as he called his body, for having treated it so harshly.

Worn out, moreover, as Francis now was by eighteen years of unremitting toil, his strength gave way completely, and at times his eyesight so far failed him that he was almost wholly blind. During an excess of anguish, Francis paid a last visit to St. Clare at St. Damian's, and it was in a little hut of reeds, made for him in the garden there, that the saint composed that "Canticle of the Sun", in which his poetic genius expands itself so gloriously.

This was in September, Not long afterwards Francis, at the urgent instance of Brother Elias , underwent an unsuccessful operation for the eyes, at Rieti. He seems to have passed the winter at Siena , whither he had been taken for further medical treatment. In April, , during an interval of improvement, Francis was moved to Cortona , and it is believed to have been while resting at the hermitage of the Celle there, that the saint dictated his testament, which he describes as a "reminder, a warning, and an exhortation". In this touching document Francis, writing from the fullness of his heart, urges anew with the simple eloquence, the few, but clearly defined, principles that were to guide his followers, implicit obedience to superiors as holding the place of God , literal observance of the rule "without gloss", especially as regards poverty , and the duty of manual labor , being solemnly enjoined on all the friars.

Meanwhile alarming dropsical symptoms had developed, and it was in a dying condition that Francis set out for Assisi.

“Only the best is good enough”

A roundabout route was taken by the little caravan that escorted him, for it was feared to follow the direct road lest the saucy Perugians should attempt to carry Francis off by force so that he might die in their city, which would thus enter into possession of his coveted relics. It was therefore under a strong guard that Francis, in July, , was finally borne in safety to the bishop's palace in his native city amid the enthusiastic rejoicings of the entire populace.

In the early autumn Francis, feeling the hand of death upon him, was carried to his beloved Porziuncola , that he might breathe his last sigh where his vocation had been revealed to him and whence his order had struggled into sight. On the way thither he asked to be set down, and with painful effort he invoked a beautiful blessing on Assisi , which, however, his eyes could no longer discern. The saint's last days were passed at the Porziuncola in a tiny hut, near the chapel , that served as an infirmary.

The arrival there about this time of the Lady Jacoba of Settesoli, who had come with her two sons and a great retinue to bid Francis farewell, caused some consternation, since women were forbidden to enter the friary. But Francis in his tender gratitude to this Roman noblewoman, made an exception in her favour, and "Brother Jacoba", as Francis had named her on account of her fortitude , remained to the last.

On the eve of his death, the saint , in imitation of his Divine Master , had bread brought to him and broken. This he distributed among those present, blessing Bernard of Quintaville, his first companion, Elias , his vicar , and all the others in order. After a while he asked to have read to him the Passion according to St.

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John , and then in faltering tones he himself intoned Psalm At the concluding verse, "Bring my soul out of prison ", Francis was led away from earth by "Sister Death", in whose praise he had shortly before added a new strophe to his "Canticle of the Sun". It was Saturday evening, 3 October, , Francis being then in the forty-fifth year of his age, and the twentieth from his perfect conversion to Christ. The saint had, in his humility , it is said, expressed a wish to be buried on the Colle d'Inferno, a despised hill without Assisi , where criminals were executed.

However this may be, his body was, on 4 October, borne in triumphant procession to the city, a halt being made at St. Damian's, that St. Clare and her companions might venerate the sacred stigmata now visible to all, and it was placed provisionally in the church of St. George now within the enclosure of the monastery of St. Clare , where the saint had learned to read and had first preached. Many miracles are recorded to have taken place at his tomb. Francis was canonized at St. George's by Gregory IX , 16 July, On that day following the pope laid the first stone of the great double church of St.

Francis, erected in honour of the new saint , and thither on 25 May, , Francis's remains were secretly transferred by Brother Elias and buried far down under the high altar in the lower church. Here, after lying hidden for six centuries, like that of St. Clare's , Francis's coffin was found, 12 December, , as a result of a toilsome search lasting fifty-two nights.

This discovery of the saint's body is commemorated in the order by a special office on 12 December, and that of his translation by another on 25 May. His feast is kept throughout the Church on 4 October, and the impression of the stigmata on his body is celebrated on 17 September.

It has been said with pardonable warmth that Francis entered into glory in his lifetime, and that he is the one saint whom all succeeding generations have agreed in canonizing.