Today is the day that we remember and celebrate the life of St Francis of Assisi, here is a description of his early life:
Often named the Patron Saint of Animals and the Environment, there is much more to St Francis:
Saint Francis is called the little poor man of Assisi. He was born in the year 1182 in the town of Assisi in Italy. His father's name was Bernadone. Bernadone was a very wealthy merchant of Assisi. Francis was a very good-looking boy. He was merry and soft-hearted. So he had many friends. All the noble men's sons were his companions.
Francis was brought up in luxury and gaiety. He spent a considerable portion of his wealth in extravagant pleasures. He used to drink with the young princes of the land.
One day Francis was joking and laughing with his friends. A beggar came along crying for alms. Francis, who was soft-hearted, gave whatever he had in his pocket to the beggar. His companions mocked at him for his charitable act. Dispassion dawned in his heart. The sight of the beggar set him thinking about the poverty and misery of mundane life. He gave much money to the poor. His father thought that Francis was wasting his money and rebuked him.
Sometime after this, Francis was laid up in bed for many months on account of some serious disease. He was about to die. But the Lord saved him as he had to carry out a definite mission in his life. The nature of Francis was entirely changed. Francis prayed to the Lord for light and guidance as to his future. He had a vision of Lord Jesus. He made a strong determination to renounce his old way of living to tread a life of purity and to dedicate his life to the service of humanity.
As soon as Francis got well, he informed his parents of his determination. They were disappointed. They became angry with Francis. Francis gave up his old ways and habits and set up to serve God. He distributed clothes, goods and money to the poor. His father was very much annoyed towards his son. He said, "Is this the gratitude you show to me ? I laboured hard and amassed wealth. You are lavishly wasting it on these miserable wretches".
Francis' friends mocked at him and teased him. His father turned him out of the house. Francis lived like a beggar. His old friends even pelted him with stones and mud. He bore everything with patience. He wore a coarse dress and ate simple food.
Francis went on to travel from village to village preaching the love of God. He invited people to join him in his life of service if they were willing. Bernard, a rich man of Assisi, was very much attracted by the saintliness of Francis. He joined Francis. He was the first follower of Francis. He placed all his wealth at the altar of God. Eleven others also joined Francis. They distributed all their wealth to the poor. Francis and his followers went all over Italy preaching, teaching, healing and blessing wherever they went.
The gospel of kindness and love of Francis soon spread all over Europe and earned for him the name of St. Francis. People called him the little poor man of Assisi. He lived for ever in the hearts of all men.
St. Francis collected many followers and founded the Order of Mendicant Friars or Franciscans. The members of this Order have to take a vow of poverty, chastity, love and obedience.
St. Francis gave up his mortal coil in 1228.
I would like to dedicate this Friday Five to St Francis of Assisi.
1. Saint Francis experienced a life changing call, has anything in your journey so far challenged you to alter your lifestyle?
Yes. In my twenties, I was a corporate trainer. Not a happy one, but a successful one. Wanted the security of a steady job with a financial services company, and I was good at it. Further, I'd worked my way up from customer service, and was proud of my accomplishments. I'd been a music major in college, but that didn't seem particularly stable, so I gave it up. Not only was I not doing music as a career, I wasn't even making any in a serious way.
So then, a friend of mine took me to see the National Lutheran Choir in concert. I didn't even breathe through the entire first half. I auditioned at the next opportunity, and got in. As I was singing at the choir kickoff retreat the next fall, I had a moment of complete, serene clarity that this was my gift. I actually heard a voice saying "This is for you; go do something with it." (And yeah, I know what they say about auditory hallucinations being a bad sign...) A year later, I entered seminary in the Master's of Sacred Music program.
That was twelve years ago. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. I make about a third as much money as I would be making if I continued on that track, but I really do feel like I'm set down in the center of my purpose in the world. Vocation is more compelling than security for me, I guess.
2. Francis experienced mocking and persecution, quite often in the comfortable west this is far from our experience. If you have experienced something like this how do you deal with it, if not how does it challenge you to pray for those whose experience is daily persecution?
I guess the closest I get to that is being gay. It was very weird when I was coming out, realizing that there are places in the world where I could be killed for it. That there are people who hate and fear and disapprove of me based upon that one thing--without even knowing me. That was new for me, as a middle-class, white American; by acknowledging that one aspect of myself, much of the privilege I was used to disappeared. I was pretty scared for a while. Then I got tired of being scared, and decided that, if this is who I am, I'm going to live it well.
It changed how I heard a lot of the Bible. All of a sudden, instead of being an observer, I WAS that woman with the hemorrhage. It changed and deepened my faith in a profound way.
And so, I now have a heightened sensitivity to those outside the circle for lots of reasons. I pray and work for change on a large scale, but I'm also more likely to seek out the person on the sidelines and try to bring them in. Because at one point, I needed someone to do that for me.
And it strikes me, as I write this, that my own journey has thus far been exponentially safer than that of many others, for whom I am grateful and hope to honor by continuing to work for peace and justice.
3 .St Francis had female counterpart in St Clare, she was influenced by St Francis sermon and went on to found the Poor Clare's, like the Franciscans they depended on alms this was unheard of for women in that time, but she persisted and gained permission to found the order. How important are role models like St Clare to you? Do you have a particular female role model whose courage and dedication inspires you? If so share their story....
There are so many...but today, I'll talk about Hildegard of Bingen. Amazing woman, whose contributions were sort of trivialized by her trendiness a decade ago. Mystic, visionary, artist, musician, ecclesiastical leader and activist, preacher, healer...a Renaissance woman before the Renaissance actually happened. Integrity, courage, creativity and attentiveness to social justice were the hallmarks of her life. I'm a fan.
Honorable mention to Eleanor Roosevelt, Coretta Scott King, Sojourner Truth, Emily Saliers, Hillary Clinton, and the list goes on and on and on...
Finally, Mary. Yes, THAT Mary. What amazing courage she had--just a kid, dealing directly with God, risking everything and changing the world with a simple "yes."
4. Francis loved nature and animals, how important is an expressed love of the created world to the Christian message today?It's central. Love of God and love of neighbor absolutely contains reverence of God's creation and stewardship of neighbor's home. Not to mention the need to have somewhere to live ourselves as we carry out this love. Attention must be paid.
One other note...we have much to learn from Creation about authenticity, simplicity, and beauty.
5. On a lighter note; have you ever led a service of blessing for animals, or a pet service, was it a success, did you enjoy it, and would you do it again?I led music for a couple of them. It was fun (with the exception of the behavior of one dog with dominance issues), and it was meaningful. You can learn a lot about someone when you see them with their pet! It was a new kind of community experience, and I'd absolutely do it again--especially now that I have pups of my own!