Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Evangelical Counsels

We left St. Francis of Assisi bound, beaten and locked up by his father for spending his gold in the repair of San Damiano or St. Damian's Church. We now continue the adventures of this Seraphic Doctor of the Church.

Freed by his mother during his father Bernardone's absence, Francis returned at once to St. Damian's, where he found a shelter with the officiating priest, but he was soon cited before the city consuls by his father. The latter, not content with having recovered the gold from St. Damian's, sought also to force his son to forego his inheritance. This Francis was only too eager to do; he declared, however, that since he had entered the service of God he was no longer under civil jurisdiction. Having therefore been taken before the bishop, Francis stripped himself of the very clothes he wore, and gave them to his father, saying: "Hitherto I have called you my father on earth; henceforth I desire to say only 'Our Father who art in Heaven.'"

"Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or lands for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over and also inherit eternal life." (Matt. 19:29)

St. Francis renouncing his inheritance and returning all his possessions to his father, including the clothes he wore.

On a certain morning in 1208, probably 24 February, Francis was hearing Mass in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, near which he had then built himself a hut; the Gospel of the day told how the disciples of Christ were to possess neither gold nor silver, nor scrip for their journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff, and that they were to exhort sinners to repentance and announce the Kingdom of God. Francis took these words as if spoken directly to himself, and so soon as Mass was over threw away the poor fragment left him of the world's goods, his shoes, cloak, pilgrim staff, and empty wallet.

St. Francis giving away his cloak to a poor man.

At last he had found his vocation. Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic of "beast colour", the dress then worn by the poorest Umbrian peasants, and tied it round him with a knotted rope, Francis went forth at once exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace.

The Assisians had already ceased to scoff at Francis; they now paused in wonderment; his example even drew others to him. Bernard of Quintavalle, a magnate of the town, was the first to join Francis, and he was soon followed by Peter of Cattaneo, a well-known canon of the cathedral. In true spirit of religious enthusiasm, Francis repaired to the church of St. Nicholas and sought to learn God's will in their regard by thrice opening at random the book of the Gospels on the altar. Each time it opened at passages where Christ told His disciples to leave all things and follow Him. "This shall be our rule of life", exclaimed Francis, and led his companions to the public square, where they forthwith gave away all their belongings to the poor. After this they procured rough habits like that of Francis, and built themselves small huts near his at the Porziuncola or the Portiuncula.

His Holiness Pope John Paul II praying inside the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi which now houses the Portiuncula. The photos below and inset show what the Chapel might have looked like during the time of St. Francis, nestled in the woods.

Guido, Bishop of Assisi, who was then in Rome, commended Francis to Cardinal John of St. Paul, and that at the instance of the latter, the pope recalled the saint whose first overtures he had, as it appears, somewhat rudely rejected. Moreover, in site of the sinister predictions of others in the Sacred College, who regarded the mode of life proposed by Francis as unsafe and impracticable, Pope Innocent, moved it is said by a dream in which he beheld the Poor Man of Assisi upholding the tottering Lateran, gave a verbal sanction to the rule submitted by Francis and granted the saint and his companions leave to preach repentance everywhere.


The dream of Pope Innocent showing St. Francis holding up the tottering Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of Rome and the Mother and Head of all the Church in the City and in the World.

Before leaving Rome they all received the ecclesiastical tonsure, Francis himself being ordained deacon later on having felt unworthy to receive priestly ordination..

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