Lights Along My Path, A Friars Journey in the Footsteps of St. Francis

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He heard the sound of voices and when he walked toward the sound, he saw Francis, bathed in a beautiful light, and beside him were Jesus and Mary, St. John the Baptist and a host of angels. The Brother fainted at seeing this. When Francis was returning back to the hermitage, he came upon the Brother lying on the ground. He carried the Brother back to the hermitage, and made him promise never to tell anyone what he had seen. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears, because they hear.

For, amen, I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them. One of the spiritual gifts that the Lord had given Francis was the gift of reading hearts. This was made very clear to Brother Leonard on one occasion when he and Francis were traveling together.

Francis was very tired from the journey and so had mounted a horse at the advice of his companions. After all, he is the son of Peter Bernardone while I am descended from a family of much greater nobility. I am tired as well. After all, I am only the son of Peter Bernardone while you are of much more important ancestry. I know that you are tired like I am. Please change places with me.

Lord, deliver me from my distress. See my hardship and my poverty and pardon all my sins. In addition to the gifts of healing, reading of hearts, conversions, discernment of spirits , stigmata, levitation, and miracles, the Lord gave Francis the gift of prophecy. One of the friars who lived with the saint, testified that if Francis said that something would occur at some time in the future, his words were fulfilled to the letter.

Even though much knowledge was given to him through revelation, he would still seek the opinion of others above his own. He considered the advice of his companions safer and more worthy of consideration. The word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. Once a woman spoke to Francis about the suffering she endured at the hands of her husband.

Not only was her husband cruel to her but he made every effort to stand in the way of the good works that she attempted to do for the Lord. She asked Francis to pray for her unhappy situation and he assured her that he would. When she spoke the words to her husband, it brought about a great spiritual change within his soul. He began to serve the Lord with her and their marriage was blessed with happiness for the rest of their lives. Every morning He brings His justice to light. He never fails. In the province of Rieti, a very serious pestilence broke out which took the lives of the oxen to such a degree that practically all of the oxen in that region had died.

A certain man who lived there had a vision in which he was told that he should hurry to the hermitage where Francis lived and get the water that Francis had used to wash his hands and feet. He was to sprinkle it upon all the oxen. Rising early in the morning, the man went to the place where Francis and the Brothers lived and obtained the water.

With the help of his companions, he sprinkled it upon all the oxen. The pestilence ceased from that moment and never returned to that region. I will sprinkle clean water on them, and they will be clean. Francis spoke of illness and weakness, he did not speak about something that he knew only in theory. No, he spoke as one who had experienced illness and weakness very deeply. They remain what they always are — a distressing and painful experience. As such, however, they were for Francis…a confirmation of the fact that he was completely accepted by Christ and also that Christ was taking him with him on his way of redemption.

I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. Brother Rufino was greatly loved by Francis and was considered to be one of the holiest of the Friars Minor. His esteem for Brother Rufino was such that he told the Brothers not to hesitate to call him St. Rufino, even while he was living, for he had found great favor with God. Brother Rufino, of the Scifi family, had been born of the nobility in Assisi. He was shy by nature and was a man of few words.

Once when Francis told him to go to Assisi and preach a sermon in the Cathedral, Brother Rufino begged him to send someone else, saying that he did not have the ability to speak before a crowd. Unhappy with his answer, Francis told him to go anyway, but to strip off his tunic and wear only his breeches and speak to the congregation. Brother Rufino obeyed and when he went up to the pulpit and began preaching without a shirt on and stripped down to his breeches, all the people who were in the church burst into laughter. Francis deeply regretted his harsh instructions to Brother Rufino and in order to make amends he walked into the church dressed in the very same way.

Francis preached with such spiritual power and conviction that the men and women who were present began to weep and there were many conversions. He preached on the kingdom of Heaven and the Passion of Jesus Christ. Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation. She always needs reform, which means she needs scholars and liturgists and committed lay people to help guide her, and pastors who know how to lead with humility, courage, and love.

But what she needs more than anything else is holiness—holy priests and holy people who love Jesus Christ and love his Church more than they love their own ideas. Today, just like years ago, when St. Francis of Assisi lived the structures of the Church are so much easier to tinker with than a stubborn heart, or an empty hole where our faith should be. But it can be done. Francis of Assisi showed us how. Chaput, OFM Cap. My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, so that you may learn to value the things that really matter, up to the very day of Christ.

Francis was humble in thought, word, and deed. Why have you made a simple, unlettered, wretched creature like me the head of this Order? I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future. Let them not be too solicitous in asking for medicines, nor too desirous that the flesh which is soon to die and which is the enemy of the soul, be delivered.

Let them give thanks in all things, so that they may desire to be as God wants them to be.

Letter for the Feast of St. Francis Walking the Road with Young People

It was during that time that Francis asked Brother Leo to bring him a piece of parchment and a pen. He wrote on one side, praises to God, and on the other side, a special blessing for Brother Leo. Upon taking the note, Brother Leo was instantly freed from the temptation which had oppressed him.

Brother Leo kept the note with him at all times for the rest of his life. He reached down from on high and took hold of me. He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. Once, while in San Severino, Francis preached at a convent where a novice was making her religious profession.

William of Lisciano, a famous poet, was present at the ceremony, as he was a relative of the nun who was being professed. William, who had been crowned poet laureate by the Emperor, was a worldly man who traveled in worldly circles. He had no interest in the spiritual aspect of life. He had never met Francis before but he listened carefully to his sermon that day and was profoundly moved by it. William was deeply convicted by what he saw and he began to reflect on the state of his soul.

He knew that he needed to amend his life, and seek a better way. Afterward, Francis singled William out and spoke to him. William became the first poet to join the Order of Friars Minor. I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. When St. Francis was passing through the city of Terni, he preached in the square and the citizens gathered to listen to his message.

The Bishop of Terni, also listened to his sermon that day and was deeply edified by his words. I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Francis knew that book-learning and study could be useful, but he saw the temptations to pride and vanity which often came about through scholarly endeavors and he feared for the spiritual welfare of the Friars Minor.

Nevertheless, he had a great admiration for theologians and teachers of sacred scripture. When a Brother asked him for permission to take a leave of absence to study, Francis told him that if he would often repeat the Glory be to the Father he would become very learned in the eyes of God. He himself was a perfect example of knowledge so attained. The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. Bonaventure preached a sermon in which he compared the life of Francis to the life of Moses. The Lord gave him nothing other than a staff; no riches, just a staff with which to make his way in the desert.

Later he came to be on such intimate terms with the Lord that he spoke with him as a friend. What we read of Moses can be said of St. Francis; the Lord spoke with him as a friend. As Moses was rescued from the river, so St. Francis was saved from the dangerous currents of a worldly life. God gave him the staff of the cross to lead the people out of the Egypt of vice into the desert of the Order of Friars Minor. He wanted nothing on the table, nothing in the utensils, that would bring back memories of the world.

Everything should show forth our state as pilgrims, everything bespeak our exile.

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Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And if he does not ask forgiveness, you should ask him if he wants it. And should he appear before you again, a thousand times, you should love him more than you love me, so that you may draw him to God. You should always have pity on such friars. Christ is your only teacher. And all of you are brothers. As a mother to her child, I speak to you, my son. In this one word, this one piece of advice, I want to sum up all that we said on our journey. And in case hereafter, you still feel it necessary to come to me for advice, I want to say this to you.

And if you find it necessary for your peace of soul or your own consolation and you want to come to me, Leo, then come. Francis had great love for the Brothers who spent their time in prayer and solitude, interceding for the needs of the world. Their lives were plain, humble and hidden. Although not always understood or esteemed by the people, their holiness of life was known to God. Because you have been faithful over a few things, I will place you over many things.

Those who are wise, will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. This became the model for his own life. He would be poor because Christ was poor. The Friars Minor had no land, no income, no possessions beyond what was needed for daily life and the Brothers were forbidden to accept money under any conditions.

Christian mysticism

On these points, Francis was uncompromising. He called the spirit of holy poverty, the foundation of the Order. Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. Put your trust in God, who by the Holy Spirit, will speak through you. You will find some men are devout and kind, while others who are proud, faithless and blasphemous, will insult and injure you. Many noble and wise men will join us; kings, princes and many others will be converted.

You are a hiding place for me; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Francis that consoling power which, after seven centuries, made the whole world follow after him. If, in his time, he penetrated everywhere, into castles and hovels, into bishopries and tiny parishes, and went through the public squares as through the countryside, bringing all to the Lord with his art of living, today even more are attracted to him either for the one or the other aspect of his sanctity.

He who does not love him for his penance, loves him for his poetry, and he who does not understand him as a saint admires him as a reformer of customs and a benefactor of mankind. And he who does not share his conception of life, would still like to share his perfect joy. Thus the legacy of St. Francis, of which the Church alone is the custodian as a whole, endures and spreads in the world.

All the days planned for me were written in Your book before I was born. His brotherhood was to be defenseless, exposed…. He St. Francis did not waver from his position. They were longing for a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Francis was guided by divine wisdom in his relationship with those who had joined his Order of Friars Minor.

His St. I will try to walk a blameless path, but how I need your help. The church bells would be rung when he entered a town, and with great joy, all of the townspeople would go out to meet him. Children would be waiting for him, holding flowers in their hands. It is not good for them and it is not good for you.

I pass it all on to God. Such companions who were everywhere with us, he used to say, are to be venerated, such are to be invoked as our guardians. He used to teach that their presence must not be offended, and that we must not presume to do before them what we would not do before people. See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Two years before his death, Francis retreated with three of his companions, to the mountainous and rocky region of La Verna, in the Tuscan Apennines. His great desire was to spend his time at La Verna in prayer and solitude and to make a forty day preparation for the feast of St.

Michael the Archangel, to whom he had a great devotion. One morning, while he was praying, he had a vision in which he saw a Christlike figure in the sky, moving toward him. As the figure came closer, he saw that it was suspended on a cross and that it had six shining wings, like the wings of an angel. As he gazed at the angelic being, suffused with a fiery light, he felt both a great joy and a great sorrow, joy because of the beauty of the apparition, and sorrow because the figure was crucified. As he looked in wonder, the wounds that Christ suffered in his Passion, appeared on his own hands, feet, and side.

It was September 14, , the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Francis became the first known person in history, to receive the stigmata. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. After the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, Francis left La Verna. Greatly weakened by the wounds of the stigmata, he rode down the mountain on a borrowed horse. There were people waiting to see him in the plain below, and a number of the sick who were brought to Francis, were healed of their infirmities. I love the Lord because He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.

Francis made every effort to conceal his stigmata, by pulling the sleeves of his habit down over his hands and by wearing shoes and woolen socks. It was very difficult for him to walk on his pierced feet. Some of the brothers who were closest to him, on occasion, saw the wounds of the stigmata in his hands and feet. Thomas of Celano, who knew the saint personally and was the first to write his biography, tells us that only one of the brothers had the privilege of seeing the wound in his side.

Whenever Francis had his habit cleaned, he would cover his pierced side by putting his hand over it. Once as Francis was taking off his habit to be cleaned, one of the Brothers saw the side wound. Everyone else saw it only after his death. Sacred Heart of Jesus, filled with infinite love, broken by my ingratitude, pierced by my sins, yet loving me still, accept the consecration that I make to You, of all that I am and all that I have.

Take every faculty of my soul and body, and draw me, day by day, nearer and neared to Your Sacred Side, and there, as I can understand the lesson, teach me Your blessed ways. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His compassions never fail; they are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness. Francis of Assisi exhibited the greatest esteem for all men and rendered each man every possible deference, he looked upon himself as a sinner, considering himself as only one among many sinners.

In fact, he believed himself the greatest of all sinners. He was accustomed to say that if the mercy shown him by God had been given to any other sinner, the latter would have become ten times holier than he, and that to God alone must be attributed whatever was found in him of goodness and beauty, for from God only was it derived. For this reason he tried in every possible way to hide those privileges and graces, especially the stigmata of Our Lord, imprinted on his body, which might have gained for him the esteem and praise of men.

When at times he was praised, either in public or in private, he not only refused to accept such praise but protested that he was worthy only of contempt and abuse and was really saddened thereby. Finally, what must we say about the fact that he thought so humbly of himself that he did not consider himself worthy to be ordained a priest? When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they shall not overflow. In the city of Narni, a man named Peter, who was paralyzed and bedridden, heard that Francis would be passing through the city.

He had great faith in Francis so he sent a messenger to the Bishop requesting that the saint stop by his home and visit him. Francis visited Peter and when he made the sign of the cross over his body, Peter was healed of his paralysis. For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man sees, what does he hope for? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Once when Francis was suffering from a long and painful illness, one of the Brothers convinced him to eat a bowl of stew.

It has been specially prepared for him, in hopes that his body would be strengthened thereby. Afterward, Francis regretted eating the meal and felt like a hypocrite because by word and action he was ever encouraging people to practice penance and self-denial. I confess to you and to God that during my illness I indulged in eating chicken and some stew. A number of people who heard his words began to weep, seeing him exposed to the cold weather and knowing how ill he was.

He accuses himself of a fault but all he did was try to care for his health. What will happen to us, we who satisfy our every desire and enjoy so many pleasures? God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world is crucified to me and I to the world.

And I, Brother Francis, the littlest of the brothers, and your servant, as far as I am able, confirm for you within and without, this most holy blessing. When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us. Francis appear in the innocence of his life, in the simplicity of his words, in the purity of his heart, in his love for God, in his fraternal charity, in his ardent obedience, in his peaceful submission, in his angelic countenance.

The trust you have shown shall not pass from the memories of men, but shall ever remind them of the power of God. Cardinal Hugolin of Ostia, had a great admiration for Francis. He said that just to look at Francis, always uplifted his spirit. The Cardinal testified that whenever he was disturbed or upset by problems and difficulties, he had only to speak to Francis briefly or glance at him, and his peace of mind would return at once.

He considered Francis as an apostle of Christ, and in his reverence for him, the Cardinal would often take his hand and kiss it. Knowing the great amount of good he was doing for the Church and for the world, Hugolin begged Francis to take better care of his health. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

And so you became a model to all the believers. Francis never enjoyed good health and his physical infirmities increased as time went by. On one of his missionary journeys to the Middle East, he contracted trachoma, an eye disease which was prevalent in Egypt and which caused his eyes to be painfully inflamed and swollen.

He kept the hood of his habit pulled down over his eyes because the light of day caused him great discomfort. The agonizing treatment consisted of cauterizing his forehead from his temple to his ear with a red hot iron along with the use of plasters to keep the wound open. How did Francis respond to this trial? The same way he responded to all the other trials in his life.

He accepted it without a trace of bitterness or self-pity and maintained his spiritual joy throughout. He regarded his sufferings as a purification and always spoke of them as such. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. In his early years, he had always had a horror of leprosy, but he marks the turning point in his life, and his moment of true conversion to God, when he was able to serve and care for those with leprosy. When I was still in sin, it seemed a very bitter thing to me to look upon people with leprosy.

But the Lord brought me among them, and I lived with them awhile. When I left them, what had seemed to me bitter, was turned to sweetness in my soul and body. After that I lived little in the world. I left it behind me. And we bless you, for by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.

In his final illness, Francis remained united to God and to the spirit of joy that had so characterized his life. Although his body was wracked with pain, he felt a greater need to sing than ever before and he asked the Brothers to sing the psalms. Brother Elias, who had been appointed the Vicar-General of the Order, was worried about public opinion.

He did not think it was right to have songs of praise being sung, when Francis was near to his departure from this world. A large crowd had assembled outside, knowing that Francis was close to death. Brother Elias feared that they would have a poor opinion of Francis.

A crowd is gathered there, knowing how serious your condition is. They will not think you are a holy man if they hear music coming from your cell. They will assume that you are not taking your death seriously. What will the faithful think of your sainthood, if you do nothing but sing? Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. Francis spent the few days that remained before his death in praise, teaching his companions whom he loved so much to praise Christ with him.

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He also invited all creatures to praise God. My presence will go with you and I will give you rest. Think of the end that will soon come, and the very great reward to follow. Then you will not feel any burden, but will experience strong comfort in your patience. For in place of the insignificant will of yours, which you now resign of your own accord, you will have your will in Heaven always. There you will have everything you want, everything you can desire. I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.

I pour out my complaint before Him. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my path. In the way where I walk, men have hidden a snare for me. Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. Set me free from my prison that I may praise Your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of Your goodness to me. When Francis was dying, a large number of larks perched on the roof of his cell and began singing.

Although it was evening, when the larks characteristically do not come out, they were all there, making their voices heard. The city watchman who guarded the area and a number of other witnesses were astonished at the occurrence and considered it a miracle. I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on Your name. Whatever they sing is better than to know. And if men should not hear them — then men are old. Francis told the Brothers, that when his last hour came, he wanted to be laid naked on the bare earth, in imitation of the Lord. In his final moments, his habit was removed and he was laid on the ground and covered with a borrowed cloth.

John, was read to him at his request. I want to know Christ and the power flowing from His resurrection; likewise to know how to share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. Thus do I hope that I may arrive at the resurrection from the dead. His last weeks on earth were like the close of a beautiful day, wherein the setting sun seems to shed on the world, all its remaining splendor. Thus, before leaving his friars, Francis expressed to them once more, his most intimate thoughts, poured out upon them all his tenderness, and then, serene and filled with gratitude, went home to God.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? He died painfully and he died singing. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Instead, he was taken in procession, to the church of St. George, in Assisi, where he had first preached. The marks of the stigmata on his body, which he had been so careful to keep hidden during his life, were now visible to all.

Fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm. Francis which is the spirit of Jesus Christ. His father went again after him, hit him on the head, and threatened him that if he did not return immediately to his house then he would have to renounce all of his inheritance and pay him the money from the clothing he had taken.

Francis did not have any difficulty renouncing his inheritance, but he told his father that the money from the clothing belonged to God and the poor. Francis received the first alms very gratefully; he traced the sign of the cross over his clothes with a piece of chalk and put it on. Right away, he left in search of a convenient site where he could settle down. He was joyfully singing the divine praises on the camino real, when he bumped into some bandits who asked him who he was. Francis continued his path singing the divine praises.

In a monastery he obtained alms and work as if he was a beggar. When he arrived in Gubbio, a person who knew him took him home and gave him a tunic, a belt, and some pilgrim sandals. Francis used them for two years at the end of which he returned to San Damiano. To repair the church, he went to ask for alms in Assisi, where everyone knew him as rich and, naturally, he had to put up with the mockery and the rejection from many.

He himself made sure to transport the stones that were needed to repair the church and he helped the construction workers. Once the reparations were done in the church of San Damiano, Francis took on a work similar to the early church of Saint Peter. After, he moved to a small chapel named Porziuncula that belonged to the Benedictine Abbey of Mount Subasio. It is probable that the name of the small chapel referred to the fact that the chapel was built in a reduced plot of land.

The tranquility of the site pleased Francis as well as the title of Our Lady of the Angels in whose honor the chapel had been built. Francis repaired it and made it his residence. It is there that on the feast of Saint Mathias in heaven showed him what was expected of him. Dressed in that way, he began to exhort people to penance with so much energy that his words penetrated the hearts of his listeners. God had granted him the gift of prophecy and the gift of miracles. One day there will be a convent of religious sisters there in whose good name the Lord and the universal Church will be glorified.

A resident of Espoleto suffered from cancer that had horribly disfigured his face. On one occasion, upon coming across Saint Francis, the man tried to throw himself at his feet, but the saint stopped him from doing so and instead, kissed him on his face. The sick man was instantly healed. Francis quickly had numerous followers and some wanted to become his disciples. The first one was Bernardo de Quintavalle, a rich merchant from Assisi. At the beginning, Bernardo would observe with curiosity the spiritual growth of Francis and he would often invite him to his house where he always had lodging available for Francis.

From that moment on, they would attend Mass together and studied Sacred Scripture to know the will of God. Since the signs from the Bible coincided with their goals, Bernardo sold everything and distributed the money amongst the poor. The third companion of Saint Francis was his brother Gil, famous for his simplicity and spiritual wisdom.

In when the group consisted of 12 members, Francis composed a brief and informal rule that entailed primarily the evangelical counsels to attain perfection. They took it to Rome to present it for approval from the Holy Father. They travelled by foot, singing and praying, full of happiness, and living off of the alms that people would give them. Pope Innocence III was opposed at first. On the other hand, many cardinals thought that the existing religious orders needed to be reformed, that new ones were not needed, and that the new manner of understanding poverty could not be practiced.

Cardinal John Colonna argued in favor of Francis and thought that his rule expressed the same counsels the Gospel used to exhort others to perfection. Five years later, the same Pope would have a similar dream about Saint Dominic. Innocence III ordered that Francis be called and verbally approved his rule; he then conferred the tonsure upon him along with his companions and gave them as a mission to preach penance.

Saint Francis and his companions transferred temporarily to a cabin of Rivo Torto in the outskirts of Assisi from where they would leave to go preach all over the region. Shortly after, they had difficulties with a farmer who was claiming the cabin as his own so that he may use it as a barn for his donkey. In , the abbot gave Francis the chapel of the Porziuncula with the condition that he always conserve it as the main church of the new order. The Saint refused to accept the property of the small chapel and only consented to borrowing it. As a proof that the Porziuncula would continue as property of the Benedictines, Francis would send them every year, in recompense for the loan, a basket of fish taken from the neighboring stream.

On their part, the Benedictines would, in turn, send them a barrel of oil.

Around the Porziuncula the friars built various primitive cabins because Saint Francis did not allow the order in general or the convents in particular to own any temporal goods. They had made poverty the base of their Order and their love for poverty would manifest itself in their way of dressing, in the utensils used, and in each one of their acts. Shortly before dying, considering that man is required to treat his body with charity, Francis asked forgiveness from his body for having treated him perhaps with too much rigor.

The saint had always opposed the indiscrete and exaggerated austerities. On one occasion, seeing that a friar had lost sleep due to excessive fasting, Francis took him some food and ate with him so that he would feel less mortified. At the beginning of his conversion, upon seeing himself attacked by violent temptations of impurity, he would roll over naked over the snow. When the temptation was still more violent than ordinary, the saint furiously disciplined himself.

Lights Along My Path, A Friars Journey in the Footsteps of St. Francis

Since this was not enough to drive it away, he ended up rolling over brambles. He detested with all his heart peculiarities. These are not poor in spirit because the one who is truly poor in spirit loathes himself and loves those who hit him on the cheek. His contemporaries speak with frequency of the care Francis had for animals and the power he had over them. Some authors considered such anecdotes as simple allegories and others attributed to them a historic value.

The first years of the Order in Saint Mary of the Angels were a period of training in poverty and fraternal charity. The friars worked in their duties and in the neighboring fields to earn their daily bread. When there was no sufficient work, they would ask for alms door to door, but the founder had prohibited them from accepting money. They were always prompt in serving everyone, particularly the lepers and the maids. The number of companions of the saint increased. Saint Clare. Clare had left Assisi to follow Francis in the spring of after having heard him preach.

The saint was able to establish Saint Clare and her companions in San Damiano, and the community of religious sisters soon became for the Franciscans what the nuns of Prouille were to the Dominicans: a wall of feminine strength, a hidden flower and fruit garden of prayer that made fruitful the work of the friars. In the autumn of , Francis, unhappy with everything he had suffered and worked for the souls in Italy, he was resolved to go evangelize the Muslims. He set sail in Ancon with a companion and headed for Syria, but a storm caused the boat to shipwreck on the Dalmatian coast.

Since the friars had no money to continue their trip, they were forced to hide inside a ship to return to Ancon. God, however, wanted them to never arrive at their destination: the saint fell ill in Spain and he then had to return to Italy. There he dedicated himself to passionately preach the Gospel to the Christians. With frequency he would exhort his companions to manual labor and if he allowed them to ask for alms, he prohibited them from accepting money. Asking for alms did not represent something shameful since it was a way of imitating the poverty of Christ.

Blessed is the servant who always remains under the rod of correction. He is a faithful and prudent servant who for each fault he commits he hurries to make amends: interiorly through contrition and exteriorly through confession and completing the penance. The wise and giving cardinal Ugolino exercised a great influence in the development of the Order. The companions of Saint Francis were so numerous that a certain form of systematic organization and common discipline would forcibly be imposed.

The first general chapter met in the Porziuncula in Pentecost of the year It was told that around five thousand friars gathered. It is not at all strange that in such a large community the spirit of the founder would have diluted itself slightly. The delegates found that Saint Francis would offer himself excessively to adventure and they demanded a more practical spirit. What seemed to them as an adventure was in reality a great trust in God.

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The Lord told me that we should be poor and crazy in this world and may that one and no other be the path through which He takes us. May God confuse your wisdom and science and make you return to your primitive vocation even if it is against your will and if you find it defective. His words were a reflection of his life in imitation of Jesus. He would say:. Consider how the greatest of all privileges is enjoying no privilege….

Francis wanted to brandish the sword of God. As a remembrance of this pious visit, the Franciscans are in charge since centuries ago of being custodians of the Holy Places of Holy Land. On June of , he embarked in Ancon with 12 friars. The ship took them to Damietta at the mouth of the Nile. The crusaders had established in the city and Francis suffered much upon seeing the selfishness and the dissolute habits of the soldiers of the cross.

I come to show you, you and your people, the path of salvation; I come to announce the truths of the Gospel. And if you still waver between Christ and Mahoma, order that a bonfire be lit; I will go inside it with your priests and you will see which one is the true faith. Discouraged by seeing the reduced success of his preaching amongst the Saracens and Christians, the Saint went to visit the Holy Places.

There he received a letter in which his brothers urgently asked him to return to Italy. During the absence of Francis, his two vicars, Mathew of Narni and Gregory of Naples, had introduced certain innovations that tended to standardize the Friars Minor with the other religious orders and frame the Franciscan spirit within the rigid scheme of monastic observances and ascetic rules. The religious sisters of San Damiano already had their own constitution drawn by Cardinal Ugolino using the rule of Saint Benedict as a base.

Upon arriving in Bolonia, Francis had the unpleasant surprise of finding his brothers lodged in a magnificent convent. The saint refused to place his feet inside it and so stayed with the preacher friars. At once he called for the guardian of the Franciscan convent, reprimanded him, and ordered the friars to leave that house. Such events had according to the vision of the saint the dimensions of a true betrayal: it dealt with a crisis out of which the Order had to leave either sublime or destroyed.

Saint Francis moved to Rome where he obtained from Honorius III the naming of Cardinal Ugolino as protector and advisor of the Franciscans since he had deposited a blind faith in the founder and he possessed a great experience of the matters of the Church. At the same time, Francis offered himself ardently to the task of revising the rule. For this he summoned a new general chapter that met in the Porziuncula in The saint presented the delegates the revised rule. As for poverty, humility, and evangelical freedom, which are all the characteristics of the Order, they remained intact.

They represented a challenge from the founder to the dissidents and legalists who behind his back plotted a true revolution of the Franciscan spirit. The head of the opposition was brother Eli of Cortona. The founder had already renounced being director of the Order, such that his vicar, Friar Eli, was practically the general minister.

However, he did not dare oppose the founder whom he respected sincerely. At the end of two years during which he had to move each time stronger against a current that was tending towards moving the order in a direction that he had not foreseen and that seemed to jeopardize the Franciscan spirit, the saint took on a new revision of the Rule.

Afterwards, he transmitted it to Brother Eli so that he may hand it down to the ministers. The rule, as it was approved by Honorius III in , represented substantially the spirit and the way of life for which Saint Francis had struggled since the moment he stripped himself of all his rich clothing before the bishop of Assisi. The association, which was formed by laypeople dedicated to penance and who led a life very much different to the one accustomed to back then, became a great religious strength in the Middle Ages.