December 2.  Who was St Francis of Assisi?    Francis Bernardone lived more than 800 years ago, born in 1182, the son of a wealthy merchant, and died in 1226.  As a young man he was a playboy, became a soldier and in a war between Assisi and a neighbouring town, he was wounded, captured and imprisoned for a year.  During this time and after his release he began to feel disillusioned with the materialistic, secular way of life and felt drawn towards a life of poverty. He publicly rejected his family, stripping off all his smart clothes and giving them back to his father, and took on a peasant’s robe tied with a rope. 

One day while out walking he entered a small derelict church and a voice from the crucifix spoke to him.  “Francis go and rebuild my church, as you can see it is falling into ruin.” Immediately he responded by starting to rebuild but soon discovered it was not the building of stone, but the people and Church leaders who needed renewal. So he chose a new way of life of prayer, poverty and humility. Soon some friends and other men from the town chose to follow him, and later too, Clare, a daughter of a noble family in Assisi who was captivated by his vision asked to join. Gradually Francis established many communities based on his way and they went about preaching, even in neighbouring countries.

Francis was no highly educated theologian and never became a priest.  He intensely experienced God‘s love in the Incarnate Crucified Jesus. While travelling,  preaching and teaching his growing community of friars and Clare’s community of sisters, Francis lived humbly and in peace with every person, creature and element of nature, seeing them as his family, his brothers and sisters, calling them by name as Brother Sun, Sister Moon, also Brother Wolf, Sister Dove.  A life-changing event for him was a journey to Damietta in Egypt to meet the Muslim sultan, a leader in the war between the Christian Crusaders and the Muslims.. Another life-changing event was receiving the stigmata – the wounds of Jesus on his body in the last years of his life. 

From the time of his conversion and death at a young age of 45 his life was an expression of his love and joy although physically he suffered ill health, becoming almost blind before he died, from the eye disease he most likely contracted on his journey to Egypt. Stories of his life and experiences are interwoven in the DAILY THOUGHTS that follow. 

Scripture. In that day the meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord and the poor among men shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.   Isaiah 29.  Pope Francis:  St Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically.   He loved and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving and his open-heartedness.   He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself.  LS11.    For Reflection and Sharing. As family members share on what you particularly admire in St Francis.