St. Francis of Assisi, born in 1181 (or 1182) in Assisi (Umbria), is one of the best known and loved saints in the world. His life was characterized by a radical conversion, which gave rise to a profound union with God and a new way of relating to others and to creation.
Son of a wealthy merchant, Francis lived a carefree and adventurous youth. However, a series of spiritual experiences led him to a profound transformation: after an encounter with a leper and then with the Crucifix in the church of San Damiano, Francis felt the desire to follow the way of the Gospel and let God transform his way of feeling and loving. His promptness in responding makes him an example of trust and surrendering to God: just as Mary “got up and hurried” to visit Elizabeth, similarly Francis moved quickly to respond to God’s call, abandoning his previous life and dedicating himself completely to his new vocation.
Therefore, renouncing his inheritance and a comfortable life, he chose the path of poverty and, together with his first followers, he founded the Order of Friars Minor (ie the Franciscan friars) in 1209. This order, based on evangelical poverty, fraternity and the testimony of the Gospel, soon became a large community spread throughout the world.
From his deep relationship with God, Francis slowly learned to live a free and freeing relationship with his brothers, until he saw the face of the Creator in every creature (as also testified in his famous “Canticle of the Creatures”). For this he always preached peace and reconciliation: for example during the crusade of 1219 he went to the Sultan of Egypt to promote peace and dialogue between the warring sides. This meeting demonstrates his determination to find common ground and understanding between peoples, beyond differences and conflicts.
In this way, Francis inspired millions of people with his message of love, humility and fraternity, and for this reason still today men and women of all social backgrounds call themselves “Franciscans”: friars, nuns, the lay people, all those who wish to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the footsteps of Francis.
to St. Francis
you have chosen to live
in poverty and simplicity
to be free from any bond,
help me face life’s challenges
with trust in the Heavenly Father.
You who received brothers as a gift,
widen my heart so that I can receive
whoever comes next to me,
desiring solely to grow together.
You who rejoiced
for the beauty of creation,
teach me to look full of amazement
for the little things
that everyday are given to me.
help me to be inhabited
by that same love for Jesus
that has made your life
great in offering yourself.
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