Today marks the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan order. Known for his writings and commitment to a life of poverty, Francis’ early life stands in stark contrast to his later one. Born into a wealthy family, Francis spent his youth enjoying the pleasures and privileges that wealth afforded him. His life however, took a sharp turn when, he was struck with a serious illness, triggering a season of reflection. Dissatisfied with what he saw in himself, Francis experienced a deep conversion, leading him to exchange his former life of excess for one of poverty and abstinence. After initially living as a beggar, Francis began walking from town to town wearing only coarse woven robes, preaching the gospel and performing acts of charity. Within a year Francis had been joined by 11 other men, who had chosen to follow him and the life that he had chosen. His small group of followers quickly become known as the friars minor. In c.1209 Francis sought and obtained Papal approval for the friars minor to be established as an official order within the Church. Once established the order grew quickly and became increasingly organized. During this time Francis began to embark on a number of missionary activities which often kept him away from the order. Cracks in the leadership quickly began to appear in the vacuum created by his absence and in 1223 a new rule was confirmed which shifted the focus significantly from ideals with which Francis had begun. Disillusioned and disappointed by the events, Francis stepped down from his position of leadership and retreated to live out the rest of his life at a hermitage. He died in 1226. St Francis of Assisi has been attributed with a number of prayers and sayings which still provide many people with both challenge and solace. Below is one of the most well known of these, we invite you to join us in praying these words today:
‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. ‘