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Reflections: On St. Francis of Assisi (Prsn.)

St. Francis of Assisi

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St. Francis Section:

The Person of St. Francis of Assisi

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The Person of St. Francis of Assisi



The Person of St. Francis of Assisi

"Francis had all his life a great liking for people who had been put hopelessly in the wrong." (G. K. Chesterton)

"St. Francis's power was always exercised with this elaborate politeness." (G. K. Chesterton)

"[St. Francis was] a man gifted by nature and grace which admirably assisted him in reaching himself and in rendering easy for his neighbors the highest possible perfection." (Pope Pius XI, "Rite Expiatis", 1926)

"Now, this poor man of Christ had but two pieces of money - to wit, his body and his soul - which in his liberal charity he could bestow upon others, and of these he made a continual offering for the love of Christ" (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

"We may say if we like that St. Francis, in the bare and barren simplicity of his life, had clung to one rag of luxury; the manners of a court. But whereas in a court there is one king and a hundred courtiers, in this story there was one courtier, moving among a hundred kings. For he treated the whole mob of men as a mob of kings." (G. K. Chesterton)

"He bore unspeakable love for the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, because by her the Lord of Majesty became our Brother, and through her we have obtained mercy. In her, next to Christ, he placed his confidence: he took her for his advocate, and in her honor he was accustomed to fast devoutly, from the feast of the Apostles, Peter and Paul until the festival of the Assumption." (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

"Aroused by all things to the love of God, he rejoiced in all the works of the Lord's hands and from these joy-producing manifestations he rose to their life-giving principle and cause. In beautiful things he saw Beauty itself and through his vestiges imprinted on creation he followed his Beloved everywhere, making from all things a ladder by which he could climb up and embrace him who is utterly desirable." (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

"His burning love for the Sacrament of our Lord's Body seemed to consume the very marrow of his bones, as he wondered within himself which most to admire - the condescension of that charity, or the charity of that condescension of our Lord. He communicated often, and so devoutly as to move others to devotion; and, by the sweetness of that Immaculate [Host], he was, as it were, spiritually inebriated, and frequently rapt in ecstasy." (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

"[W]ith exceeding tenderness of compassion did he minister to all bodily sufferings, whether penury, or want of any kind, sweetly commending the sufferer to Christ. Marcy, indeed, was born with him, but it received a two-fold increase by the infused charity of Christ, for truly his soul melted within him at the sight of poverty and sickness; and the comfort which his hand was unable to bestow, he gave by the affection of his heart." (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

"With the love of the cross, an ardent charity penetrated the heart of St. Francis, and urged him to propagate zealously the Christian faith, and to devote himself to that work, though at the risk of this life and with a certainty of peril. This charity he extended to all men; but the poorest and most repulsive were the special objects of his predilection; so that those seemed to afford him the greatest pleasure whom others are wont to avoid or over-proudly to despise. Therefore has he deserved well of that brotherhood established and perfected by Jesus Christ, which has made of all mankind one only family, under the authority of God, the common Father of all." (Pope Leo XIII, "Auspicato Concessum", 1882)

"Being in some mystical sense on the other side of things, he sees things go forth from the divine as children going forth from a familiar and accepted home, instead of meeting them as they come out, as most of us do, upon the roads of the world. And it is the paradox that by this privilege he is more familiar, more free and fraternal, more carelessly hospitable than we. For us the elements are like heralds who tell us with trumpet and tabard that we are drawing near the city of a great king: but he hails them with an old familiarity that is almost an old frivolity. He calls them his Brother Fire and Sister Water." (G. K. Chesterton)

"How fair, how bright, how glorious he appeared in innocency of life, in simplicity of word, in purity of heart, in the love of God, in charity to the brothers, in ardent obedience, in willing submission, in angelic aspect! He was charming in his manners, of gentle disposition, easy in his talk, tactful in admonition, most faithful over what was entrusted to him, far-seeing in counsel, effectual in business, gracious in all things; calm in mind, sweet in temper, sober in spirit, uplifted in contemplation, assiduous in prayer and fervent in all things. He was steadfast in purpose, firm in virtue, persevering in grace, and in things consistent. He was swift to pardon and slow to get angry. He was ready of wit and had an excellent memory; he was subtle in discussion, circumspect in choice and simple in all things; stern to himself, tender to others, in all things discreet." (Celano)

"Everyone knows how he, because of the noble character bestowed on him by nature, loved to befriend the poor, and how, as St. Bonaventure has said, he was so filled with kindness that being 'no mere hearer of the Gospel' he had decided never to deny help to the poor, especially if they in asking for assistance did so with the plea 'for the love of God.' (Legenda Maior, Chap. I, No. 1) Divine grace completed in him the work of nature and brought him to the highest perfection. Having on one occasion refused alms to a poor man, he forthwith repented and felt impelled to go and seek him out so that by the very abundance of his charity he might succor this man in his poverty." (Pope Pius XI, "Rite Expiatis", 1926)

"We must speak also of the 'beauty and cleanliness of purity' which the Seraphic Father 'loved singularly,' of that chastity of soul and body which he kept and defended even to the maceration of his own flesh. We have already seen that as a young man, although gay and fashionable, he abhorred everything sinful, even in word. When later on he cast aside the vain pleasures of this world, he began to repress the demands of his senses with great severity. Thus at times when he found himself moved or likely to be influenced by sensual feeling, he did not hesitate to throw himself into a bush of thorns or, in the very depths of winter, to plunge into the icy waters of a stream." (Pope Pius XI, "Rite Expiatis", 1926)

"I have said that St. Francis deliberately did not see the wood for the trees. It is even more true that he deliberately did not see the mob for the men... To him a man was always a man and did not disappear in a dense crowd any more than in a desert. He honored all men; that is, he not only loved but respected them all. What gave him his extraordinary personal power was this; that from the Pope to the beggar, from the sultan of Syria in his pavilion to the ragged robbers crawling out of the wood, there was never a man who looked into those brown burning eyes without being certain that Francis Bernardone was really interested in him; in his own inner individual life from the cradle to the grave; that he himself was being valued and taken seriously" (G. K. Chesterton)

"Francis of Assisi was slight in figure with that sort of slightness which, combined with so much vivacity, gives the impression of smallness. He was probably taller than he looked; middle-sized, his biographers say; he was certainly very active and, considering what he went through, must have been tolerably tough. He was of the brownish Southern coloring, with a dark beard thin and pointed...and his eyes glowed with the fire that fretted him night and day. There is, something about the description of all he said and did which suggests that, even more than most Italians, he turned naturally to a passionate pantomime of gestures. If this was so it is equally certain that with him, even more than with most Italians, the gestures were all gestures of politeness or hospitalities." (G. K. Chesterton)

"For we may consider that as to him, when he followed Christ militant on earth, it was by the cross that he merited salvation, so now that he triumphs, with Christ is the Cross, the faithful witness of his honor. For this great and marvelous mystery of the Cross, in whose sublime depths are hidden infinite graces and all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God, this mystery which is hidden from the wise and prudent of this world, was to this simple man of Christ so plainly revealed that all his life long he ever followed the footsteps of that Cross, nor did he ever enjoy any sweetness but in the Cross, nor preach any glory but of the Cross: so that from the very beginning of his conversion he could say with the Apostle: 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ'" (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

"The herald of Christ being thus glorified by these and many other miracles, men listened to the things which he said in his preaching, as if an angel of the Lord were speaking to them. And forasmuch as he excelled in the possession of all virtues - in the spirit of prophecy; in the power of miracles; in the gift of preaching given him from heaven; in the obedience rendered him by creatures without reason; in the mighty change of hearts at the hearing of his word; in the learning (beyond all human teaching to bestow) imparted to him by the Holy Ghost; in the authority to preach committed to him by divine revelation, by the Supreme Pontiff; in the rule wherein his manner of preaching was expressed, confirmed by the Vicar of Christ; finally, by the royal signet impressed upon his body - by all these tenfold witnesses, the venerable office, authentic doctrine, and wonderful sanctity of Francis, the herald of Christ, are undoubtedly proved, and he is set fort as the true messenger of God, declaring the Gospel of Christ." (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

"St. Francis was not a lover of nature. Properly understood, a lover of nature was precisely what he was not. The phrase implies accepting the material universe as a vague environment, a sort of sentimental pantheism. In the romantic period of literature..., it was easy enough to imagine that a hermit in the ruins of a chapel (preferably by moonlight) might find peace and a mild pleasure in the harmony of solemn forests and silent stars, while he pondered over some scroll or illuminated volume, about the liturgical nature of which the author was a little vague. In short, the hermit might love nature as a background. Now for St. Francis nothing was ever in the background. We might say that his mind had no background, except perhaps that divine darkness out of which the divine love had called up every colored creature one by one. He saw everything as dramatic, distinct from its setting, not all of a piece like a picture but in action like a play. A bird went by him like an arrow; something with a story and a purpose, though it was a purpose of life and not a purpose of death. A bush could stop him like a brigand; and indeed he was as ready to welcome the brigand as the bush. In a word, we talk about a man who cannot see the wood for the trees. St. Francis was a man who did not want to see the wood for the trees. He wanted to see each tree as a separate and almost sacred thing, being a child of God and therefore a brother or sister of man." (G. K. Chesterton)

Also See: Praise of St. Francis of Assisi | Biographical Information | St. Francis is a Faithful Image of Jesus | St. Francis Was an Obedient Catholic | St. Francis of Assisi: Biographical Information | St. Francis of Assisi: Misc. Facts

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