Thursday, October 4, 2012
Francis of Assisi
Most people think of Francis of Assisi as a sweet, simple kind of guy who picked flowers and talked with animals. He was much more than that. As a young man he willingly went to war, and eventually was imprisoned. Once while on the way to a battle, Francis heard a divine voice inviting him to start serving the master rather than the servant. It was then he decided to live for God alone.
Decision by decision he stripped himself of attachments, to be more like Jesus. In his early twenties, Francis decided to become like the poor he met in Assisi's back streets. One day, while praying, he heard a voice say, "Go and repair my church." Thinking that he was to fix the dilapidated church of St. Damian, he set to work. This infuriated his father, who took him to the bishop's court, demanding that his son repay the money he had spent on repairs. Francis then stripped naked, returning his clothes to his father as a sign that he was letting go of his family and his inheritance. He spent the rest of his life until his death in 1226 preaching and healing, attracting followers by his unflagging devotion to Christ.
Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, who was born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone in 1182 and later founded the Franciscan Order and Women’s Order of St. Clare. Thousands come to worship in Assisi's magnificent churches, and to pray to Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Italy affectionately called Il Poverello because he lived and preached a life of simplicity and poverty. Famous for its spectacular Basilica di San Francesco, built in the 13th century, Assisi is worth visiting even without the churches, extraordinary frescoes and associations with St Francis. Founded by the Umbrians, Assisi was prominent during the Roman era but achieved its greatest fame and importance during the Middle ages.