Leader of the Youth The Kiss in the Leper, São Damião's Crucifix
(the God new call)
Conflicts Between Feuds and Communes The First Followers and The Way of the Gospel
The Beginning of the Conversion The First Franciscan Priest
One More War and God's Call The Church's Approval
A Brave Decision, The Crazy Man of Assis Return to Assis and Travel to Rome
Saint Francisco of Assis's Prayer Canticle of the Creatures
(Song of The Brother Sun)
SAINT FRANCISCO OF ASSIS
Son of Pedro and Lady Pica Bernardone, Francisco was born between 1181 and 1182, in Assis' city, Italy. His father was a rich and prosperous merchant, that continuously traveled to France, from where brought most of their goods. It was from there, also, that he brought his beautiful and kind wife, Lady Pica. The boy was baptized with the name of Giovanni, (João - probably referring to the luminous spirit that was present in his body, that means, reincarnation of João Evangelista, Jesus' dear disciple), that the father changed for Francesco later (in other words, French), in honor to France, the wife's birthplace and destiny of their frequent commercial trips.
LEADER OF THE YOUTH
Dedicated to his father's activity first, he had an unworried adolescence: skilled merchant of tissues and a prodigal wasteful man, he was an adventurous and an avid of glory spirit. He was alphabetized at São Jorge's parochial school in Assis, learning, besides Latin, some elements of French (above all the Provençal).
Francisco was the youth's leader of his city. Cheerful, lover of the music and parties, with a lot of money to spend, he/she became quickly an idol among their companions. He loved banquets, whole nights of amusement and to sing serenades for the beautiful ladies of his city.
In 1202, he participated in the fights between Perúgia and Assis; arrested by the perusinos, he was freed the following year. Francisco of Assis took a trip (1205) to Puglia to become a knight in the pontifical troops of Gautier of Brienne, but he was stopped in Spoleto by a dream in that was done the invitation of proceeding before "the Lord than the servant". Then he returned to Assis, where he started being devoted to a life of meditation and mercy: Including in this period the actions of heroic charity to the poor and the lepers. Also to flee his father's anger,he passed the autumn of 1205 at Saint Damian's chapel, by the feet of the Mount Subasio, where he made restoration works, after having heard for three times the invitation of the Crucified: "Go, Francisco, and it restore my church that, as you see, it is in ruins".
CONFLICTS BETWEEN FEUDS AND COMMUNES
Italy, like the whole Europe of that time, lived a quite conflicting phase of his history, marked by the passage from the feudal system (based on the stability, in the servitude and in the unequal relationships between vassals and lords) for the bourgeois system, with the appearance of the free "communes" (small cities), with its trade, craft and small industries. With the new system, It changed the relationships. The power of feudal lords passed to be questioned and faced by the new lords, originating from the communes, most of them constituted by the wealthiest merchants, as an example, Pedro Bernardone.
Is that time, wars and battles between feudal lord and the emerging communes were frequent. As every ambitious young man, Francisco wanted to conquer, beyond fortune, fame and a nobility title. For such achievement, it was necessary to become hero in one of those frequent battles. In the year of 1201, motivated for his father, who also desired for the fame and nobility, Francisco left for one more war that the feudal lords, placed on the neighbor city of Perusia, had declared against Assis' Commune.
During the combat, in a winter afternoon, Francisco was arrested and taken to the Perusia prison. There he stayed long and frozen months. To a full of life young man like him, the inertia of the prison must have been very painful! Only his cheerful spirit, good temper and his taste for the music saved him from despair. He still found forces to relief and to revive his misfortune companions.
He used to say, in a funny way for his companions: "How do you want me to be sad, knowing that great things wait for me? The whole world will speak about me!"
After one year he was released from the prison, and returned to Assis, where he came back to the youth's nostalgic entertainment and the activities in his father's business house.
THE BEGINNING OF THE CONVERSION
The unhealthy climate of the prison, and even worse because of the long months of winter, all of this weakened his organism, provoking a serious illness now. After long months of suffering, without leaving the bed, finally he got better. When getting up, however, he was not same Francisco anymore. He felt different, without understand the reason.
The truth is that the humiliation and the suffering of the prison, added to the weakness caused by the disease, provoked deep changes in the youth Francisco. It was the road that God chose to enter more deeply in his life. No longer he felt pleasure in the ballads and in the banquets in his friends' company. He began to notice the thoughtlessness of the pleasures of the world, although he still didn't search for God. Actually, Francisco was not born saint, but he fought a lot to become a saint!
ONE MORE WAR!
Francisco had lost the taste for the pleasures of the world, but he still had the ambition of the fame. For that reason, he dreamed about the glory of the weapons and the nobility, which were conquered in the battlefields.
Therefore, he quickly joined to the army that Count Gentile of Assis was organizing to help Pope Inocêncio III in the defense of the interests of the Church. He counted for that with the father's excited approval, which glimpsed the opportunity so expected of ennobling his/her family. God, however, reserved him some surprises ...
Before leaving, in a pulse of generosity, Francisco gave up a poorer friend the rich clothes and the expensive armor that he had prepared for itself. That gave him a strange dream: he saw a castle full of weapons destined to him and his companions. Francisco didn't understand the meaning of the dream. He thought that he was, maybe, destined to be a famous warrior! The fact is that the dream didn't leave his mind.
When arriving to the town of Espoleto, God spoke to him in dreams again, this time with larger clarity, so that he recognized the divine voice that he asked him: "Who do you want to serve: to the Servant or to the Lord? " Francisco answered quickly: "To the Lord, of course! " The voice spoke to him: "Then Why do you insist on serving the servant? If you want to serve to the Lord, return to Assis. There will be told what you should do! " Francisco understood, then, that it was just searching for the human and passing glory. He was making the ambitious and mean people's will and no the will of the Lord of the Universe.
RETURN TO ASSIS
Challenging the neighbors' disdain laugh and Pedro Bernardone's rage, for being contradicted in his projects, Francisco returned to Assis, giving a proof of his character energy and of the value of his mind, virtues that would be shown valuable later in his new path.
He began a long search and a long wait: “What God does want from me? What does He want me to do?” It was Francisco's constant questioning.
He felt an emptiness inside, that even the parties, balls, fun with a lot of alcoholic drink and wars could fill it. He was restless and unsatisfied, but he didn't know very well the reason.
In vain his friends tried to attract him again for his pleasures, banquets and musical parties. They even gave him a title of Youth's King, during a party, but nothing of that moved him. That no longer interested him. His search was other thing...
Trying to discover the God's will, he started to be devoted to the prayer and meditation. He traveled fields and forests in a pursuit of more tranquil places, looking for answers to his doubts and inquietudes. For him, everything began to have another point of view. He started to see the things with other eyes and other heart.
TRAVEL TO ROME
Looking for answers, Francisco decided to travel for Rome, in the year of 1205. He visited the Apostle St Peter's tomb and, angry for that he saw, he cried out: "It is a shame that the mankind be so miserable with the Prince of the Apostles!" And he threw a large handful of gold coins, contrasting with other less generous followers' scarce alms. After that he changed their rich clothes with one of a beggar and he made his first experience of living in poverty.
He returned to Assis, to the paternal house, given himself more and more to the prayer and silence. His family and friends were concerned about the young Francisco: what would be happening? Was he out of his mind? His father didn't accept that! It was not that he had dreamed for his own son! Furious, Francisco's father forced him to work more and more in his commercial establishment.
THE KISS IN THE LEPER
In 1206, while walking in a horse through Assis' prairies, Francisco saw a leper, who had always seemed to be a terrifying being, repugnant to the sight and smell, whose presence had always caused him incredible disgust.
But, then, as moved by a superior force, he got off of the horse, and, putting in those bloody hands his money, and gave him a kiss of friendship. Maybe the motivation for this noble and significant gesture has been the memory of that Gospel sentence: "Anything you do to the least of my brethren, you do that to me "(Matthew 10.42).Talking later about that moment, he says: What before was bitter to me, became in sweetness to the soul and body. From that moment, I could stand back to the world and give myself to God".
SÃO DAMIÃO'S CRUCIFIX – THE GOD NEW CALL
Little later, Francisco entered to pray and to meditate at São Damião's small chapel, almost in ruins due to the abandonment. He was kneeling in prayer in front of feet of a crucifix, where the popular mercy was worshipped, when a voice, came from the crucifix, spoke to him: "Francisco, go and rebuild my Church that is in ruins". not noticing the reach of that call and seeing that Chapel was needing urgent reform, Francisco returned to Assis, and took in the paternal store a great bale of fine farm and he sold it. Returning, he put the money in São Damião's priest's hands and offered to help him in the chapel reconstruction with their own hands.
Knowing Pedro Bernardone's character, it is easy to imagine his angry when saw his commercial house embezzled and lost his money. "The embezzlement that you've done giving goods and feeding gratuitously the needy "vagabonds" was not enough?
Now that!" And Francisco had to hide of the paternal fury.
One day he came out resolutely to beg for his sustenance, from door to door, in Assis' city. For Bernardone, that was too much! How could he embarrass his family like that? If his son had gone insane, it was necessary to imprison him! And then, Francisco experienced once again the captivity. In this time in a dark cubicle under the stairway of his own house. What we know is that after some days, moved by compassion, his mother opened secretly the door and let him out freely to follow his destiny.
A BRAVE DECISION
At the end of 1206, Pedro Bernardone, convinced that neither the reasons nor the force could twist Francisco's vitality, he decided to go to the Bishop, being established a judgement as it never happened in another saint's history. The stage of the judgement was Assis' Communal Square, where everyone could see it.
Bernardone demanded that his son returned him whatever had received from him. Francisco, aware of Christ's sentence: "Who love your father or your mother more than love Me, it is not worthy of Me" (Mt 19,29), without hesitating one moment, he undressed from everything until being nude, tossed the clothes and the money on his father's feet, and exclaimed: "Up to now I called father Pedro Bernardone. From now on I won't have another father, except the Celestial Father". The Bishop, then, welcomed him, involving him with his mantle.
From that moment, singing "I'm the Great King, Jesus Cristo's herald", he stayed far from his family and friends and he dedicated himself with the lepers' service, treating their wounds, and to the reconstruction of the Chapels and Oratories that surrounded the city. Every day traveled the streets begging for his bread and inviting the people so that they contributed with stones and work in the restoration of the "Houses of God" that were in ruins.
THE CRAZY MAN OF ASSIS
Of some people, he received support and incentive. Of many, the contempt and the mockery. In the understanding of the most of them, Pedro Bernardone's son had gone insane completely! And not only the children of the city that mocked him, calling him crazy and other less noble adjectives.
More than once, he was tempt to return, when he arrived at his old friends' doors; but he left victorious from those fights between the human pride and his own ideal. Some of the people started to recognize in him lines of the future saint, although he didn't know his vocation.
He was already finishing the restoration of the last chapel of the neighborhood, the chapel of Santa Maria of the Angels and he wondered what would do later. What more God would ask for? He had not understood yet that the Church that should restore was not the one of stone, but Christ's own Church, weakened at that time by the divisions, heresies and for the attachment of their leaders to the wealth and the power.
It should be the year of 1209. Certain day, Francisco heard, during the mass, the reading of the Gospel: it was treated of the passage in that Christ instructed their Apostles on the way of going for the world, "without tunics, without stick, without sandals, without provisions, without money in the pocket... " (Lc 9,3). Such words found echo in his heart and went to him as intense light. And he exclaimed, full of happiness: "It's precisely that that I want! It's that what I desire with all of my heart! " He immediately began to live, as he would make it in all his life, the pure letter of the Gospel. He always repeated for himself and, later, also for their companions: "Our rule of life is to live the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Cristo"!
THE FIRST FOLLOWERS
Starting from that day, Francisco began his life of itinerant preacher, traveling the neighboring places and preaching, in simple words, Christ's Gospel.
Many began, finally, to understand the sense of that life and manifested the desire to follow it. The first was a rich man of Assis, Bernardo of Quintaval. When asking Francisco: What do I have to do to follow you?" He decided, as in all of the decisive moments of his life, to seek the answer in the Gospel, so that Christ could give him the answer
THE WAY OF THE GOSPEL
In the early morning, they went both to the mass. In the road joined them Pedro of Catânia, doctor in Law and a new companion.
For three times they opened the book of the Gospel, and the three answers that found were the following ones:
"If you want to be perfect, sell what you have and give it to the poor. Then come and follow me" (Matthew 19,21).
"You don't take anything from the road, neither a stick, nor a saddlebag, nor a second tunic... “(Luke 9,3).
"If somebody want to come after me, refuse to himself, take your cross every day and follow me" (Matthew 16,24).
"That is what we should do, and it is what will do all who want to come with us" - exclaimed Francisco, that all of a sudden saw a light shine on the road that he and his companions should proceed. Finally he found what had searched for so much time! This happened on February 24, 1208, leading off the foundation of the Fraternity of the Minor Brothers.
In the same day, Bernardo of Quintaval sold all their goods and distributed the money among Assis' poor people.
THE FIRST FRANCISCAN PRIEST
Bernardo's example produced fruits. The first is priest Silvestre, that exclaimed moved: "How can I, priest and old, be less generous than these young and rich? " And, without hesitating, he went with them to the adventure of living the Gospel. He became, like this, the first priest of the Franciscan Order!
Quickly they adhered others: Gil, a modest farmer that would turn a great saint; Morico, dedicated to the lepers' service; Barbarian, a future missionary in the East; Sabatino, Bernardo of Viridiante, João of Constança, Ângelo, of the illustrious family of Tancredo, kindred with kings and princes; Felipe, great preacher; and many others...
Together, they formed a group of voluntary beggars (then the adjective of Mendicant Order given to the Franciscan Order), that worked and prayed, they sang and they preached, amazing the people with the innovation of the Gospel being lived before their own eyes. Some cottages covered with foliage, in the picturesque Rivotorto Valley, served them of modest shelter.
THE CHURCH'S APPROVAL
In the year of 1210, Francisco and his followers traveled to Rome to search for Pope's approval for his way of life. But how that group of beggars, ragged and unknown men would be received by severe Inocêncio III? Francisco prayed and trusted. After all, wasn't the own Christ driving him?
For coincidence or divine providence, was in Rome, in that occasion, Assis' Bishop, a great admirer of Francisco. Thanks to him Pope received them.
Inocêncio III was amazed with the purpose of life of that group and, especially, with Francisco's illustration, the clarity of his option and the firmness that demonstrates it. He recognized in Francisco the man that saw in dream, holding the columns of the Church of Latrão (the church-mother of all of the Churches of the world!), that almost collapse. Pope recognized that was God himself who inspired Francisco to live the Gospel radically, bringing new life the whole Church, that was so distanced of Christ's teachings! Therefore he gave to Francisco's way of living the Gospel the official approval of the Church. He authorized Francisco and his followers to speak about the Gospel in the churches and out of them and he said goodbye to them with his blessing. This historical fact happened on April 16, 1210, marking the official birth of the Franciscan Order.
Canticle of the Creatures (Song of the Brother Sun)
Most high, all-powerful, all good, Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor and all blessing.
To you alone, Most High, they do belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
All praise to you, my Lord,
Through all that you have made
And first , my Lord Brother Sun
Who brings the day;
And light you give to us through him.
How beautiful is he, how radiant
In his entire splendor.
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
All praise be yours, my Lord
Through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright
And precious and fair.
All praise be yours, my Lord
Through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly
Precious and pure.
All praise be yours, my Lord
Through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten up the night. How beautiful he is, how gay! Full of power and strength.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother, who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces various fruits and colored flowers and herbs.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon for love of you; through those who endure Sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
By you, Most High, they will be crowned.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death, from whose embrace no mortal can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those She finds doing your will! The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks, and serve him with great humility.”
Exhortation to the Praise of the Lord
"Fear God, and give glory to him"(Rev 14,7).
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour (Rev 4,11).
"Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee"(LK 1,28).
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah! "King of Israel"(Jó 12,13)!
"Every thing that hath breath praise the Lord"(Psalm 150,6).
"Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul"(Psalm 146,1);
All flying fowl praise the Lord(Psalm 148,7-10).
Both young men, and maidens, praise the Lord(Psalm 148,12).
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honour, glory, and blessing.(Rev 5,12).
Praise of the Virtues
Hail, Wisdom Queen, may the Lord protect thee,
With thy sister, pure and holy Simplicity.
Holy Lady Poverty, may the Lord protect thee,
With thy sister, holy Humility.
Lady, Holy Charity, may the Lord protect thee,
With thy Sister, holy Obedience.
O most holy Virtues, may the Lord protect thee all,
from Whom you come and proceed.
Most holy virtues, the Lord salute all of you, He from whom you come and proceed.
There is scarcely a man in all the world, who can have one of you, before he dies.
He who has one and offends not the others, has all.
And he who offends one, has none and offends all. (cf. Jn 2:10)
And any whatsoever confounds vices and sins.
Holy Wisdom confounds Satan and all his wickedness.
Pure Holy Simplicity confounds all the wisdom of this world (cf. 1 Cor. 2:6) ,
Holy Poverty confounds cupidity and avarice and the cares of this world.
Holy Humility confounds pride and all the men, who are in the world, and likewise all the things, which are in the world.
Holy Charity confounds all the diabolic and carnal temptations and all carnal fears.
Holy Obedience confounds all things corporal both carnal and one's own willings and holds the body mortified in obedience to the spirit and in obedience to one's brother and is subject and submissive to all the men, who are in the world and not only to men, but even to all the beasts and wildlife, so that they might do with him, whatever they will, as much as it will have been given them from above by the Lord (cf. Jn 19:11).
Saint Francisco of Assis' Prayer
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring the love,
Where there is offense, let me bring the pardon,
Where there is discord, let me bring the union,
Where there is doubt, let me bring the faith,
Where there is mistake, let me bring the truth,
Where there is despair, let me bring the hope,
Where there is sadness, let me bring the happiness,
Where there is darkness, let me bring the light
Grant that I may seek rather
To console than to be consoled,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved,
Because it is in giving that we receive,
It is in forgiving that we are forgiven,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.