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Autor: anton • October 31, 2010 • 2,908 Words (12 Pages) • 927 Views
St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most well-known and beloved saints of all time. Known for his radical poverty and love of God, St. Francis stands out amongst other saints as being the embodiment of the phrase "fool for Christ." He was considered a fool by many of his contemporaries but the so-called "madness" that possessed him began to spread and more and more people began to want be "foolish" like this man. Was St. Francis mad? Yes, but not in the crazy sense, he was madly in love with God.
St. Francis, in his youth, desired to be a knight. He loved the troubadours' songs of love and heroic battles. A longing was born in him to join the Crusades and fight for the Church. Little did he know that his dreams would be fulfilled and in a way beyond anything he could imagine. For Francis would become a knight fighting for the heavenly kingdom; he would become a troubadour but he would sing hymns of praise and joy to God; and Francis would fight in The Crusade to reconquer the world for Christ by becoming a channel of God's peace in the world.
Francesco Bernardone was born in 1882 to one of the wealthier families in the town of Assisi, Italy. A legend dating back to the 15th century, concerning his birth, speaks of a pilgrim (believed to be an angel) who arrived unannounced at the Bernardone home at the moment that little Francesco or Francis was to be born. This visitor declared that the baby would not be born until the mother had moved into the stable. The move was made and the cries of the first-born son - "whose first cradle, like that of the Savior, was a manger full of straw in a stable" - were soon heard.
In Baptism, Francis was christened Giovanni (Italian for John) by his mother but his father, who had been away at the time, had the name changed to Francesco, because of his love for France. Francis's father, Pietro Bernardone, was a cloth merchant who came from a background of famous weavers from Lucca. His mother, Lady Pica, belonged to a noble family from Provence in France, where his father did business. From the beginning both parents had high hopes and expectations of Francis. Pietro was eager to engage his son in business affairs, while his mother hoped that he would become a knight and serve the Church.
Francis was introduced to his father's business at an early age and though he had the talent and charisma to be a good businessman he was very liberal with his money, often spending it on expensive frivolities or giving it away to the poor, which angered his father. Francis received a decent education but was not particularly studious. Through his studies, he did however acquire a love of the French culture. The romantic ideal of knighthood that was portrayed in the French songs sung by the traveling troubadours captivated Francis , seeding in his heart a desire to live that knightly ideal that was popular at the time.
In his younger years, Francis's lifestyle did not give any indication as to the kind of life he would live later on. Thomas of Celano who wrote a biography of St. Francis said that in his early life "he attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice." Being well liked by all for his lighthearted and generous personality, he had many friends and seemed to stand out as a natural leader among them.
Francis did not have the obnoxious and selfish behavior that was common among those of higher rank. From the beginning, he had a special love for the poor even in his wild youth and was very generous to them. Though he loved to spend money especially on parties for his friends, he could just as easily give it away to a poor beggar. There was one occasion while he was working in his father's shop and being busy, he shooed a beggar away. "Charity for the love of God" the poor man had begged as he left. This phrase stayed with Francis and he was filled with shame for what he done, believing in the words spoken by Jesus that "as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me."
At around 20 years of age, something began to change in Francis. He grew restless with the emptiness that he found in his lifestyle and decided to fulfill his boyhood dream by becoming a knight. When war broke out in 1202 between Assisi and the neighboring Perugia, Francis was eager to go and fight but the war was a disaster for Assisi. Francis, among many others, was captured for a year before being released.
This did not dampen Francis's resolve to live the knightly ideal and he enlisted in the army of Gualtiero di Brienne, who was fighting for the defense of the Church against Emperor Fredrick II. But God had different plans for the young man; on the eve of his departure a strange dream came to him, which would be the birth of his conversion.
In his dream, Francis saw a huge hall, filled with brilliant amour all branded with a cross and he heard a voice saying, "All this shall belong to you and to your knights." Francis was pleased by this and eagerly set out the next day but sickness once again took hold of Francis and he was confined to his bed. It was in this sickness that he heard again the same voice, this time, biding him to return home. Upon awaking Francis abandoned his journey and returned to Assisi.
Francis did not immediately give up everything he had and start preaching the Gospel. It was a very difficult time for him spiritually. He took to wandering the countryside in prayerful solitude. On one such day Francis came across a leper. He was shocked to see the deformity and vivid pain of this man, but in this beggar's eyes, Francis knew that he was seeing Jesus suffering. Reaching out, he embraced and kissed the leper and continued on his way filled with a joy he had never experienced. Francis had conquered himself. In this encounter with the leper, Francis had, at that moment, found Christ and had, whether he knew it or not, dedicated himself to a life of service.
His friends, in attempts to understand his strange behavior, concluded that he must be thinking of marriage. To which Francis replied that he was indeed going to marry a woman "more beautiful, more rich, more pure than you could ever imagine." This bride would be Francis's "Lady Poverty" to whom he would join himself to forever. With this decision, Francis renounced his former life of vanity and "from that hour he began to value himself little."
As Francis was praying in the half-ruined church of San Damiano he heard the voice speaking to him again from the crucifix, "Francis, seest thou not that my house is in ruins? Go and restore it for me." Francis took the words literally and collecting some