Oct 4 – Memorial for St. Francis of Assisi
Francis Bernardone (1181–1226) was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a rich cloth merchant. Though he had a good education and became part of his father’s business, he also had a somewhat misspent youth. He was a street brawler and some-time soldier. He was captured during a conflict between Assisi and Perugia, and spent over a year as prisoner of war. During this time, he had a conversion experience, including a reported message from Christ calling him to leave this worldly life. Upon release, Francis began taking his religion seriously.
He took the Gospel as the rule of his life, Jesus Christ as his literal example. He dressed in rough clothes, begged for his sustenance, and preached purity and peace. His family disapproved, and his father disinherited him; Francis formally renounced his wealth and inheritance. He visited hospitals, served the sick, preached in the streets, and took all men and women as siblings.
He began to attract followers in 1209, and with papal blessing founded the Franciscans based on a simple statement by Jesus: “Leave all and follow me.” In 1212, Clare of Assisi became his spiritual student, which led to the founding of the Poor Clares. He visited and preached to the Saracens. He composed songs and hymns to God and nature. He lived with animals, worked with his hands, cared for lepers, cleaned churches, and sent food to thieves. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Franciscans.
While in meditation on La Verna (Mount Alvernia) in the Apennines in September 1224, Francis received the stigmata, which periodically bled during the remaining two years of his life. This miracle has a separate memorial on 17 September.
In the Middle Ages, people who were believed to be possessed by Beelzebub especially called upon the intercession of St. Francis, the theory being that he was the demon’s opposite number in heaven.
“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” – St. Francis of Assisi
– Patron Saint Index
In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, the wine being my concern, I took up the wine and offered it to the king. Now I had never been downcast before. So the king said, ‘Why is your face so sad? You are not sick, surely? This must be a sadness of the heart.’ A great fear came over me and I said to the king, ‘May the king live for ever! How could my face be other than sad when the city where the tombs of my ancestors are lies in ruins, and its gates have been burnt down?’ ‘What’ the king asked ‘is your request?’ I called on the God of heaven and made this reply to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if you are satisfied with your servant, give me leave to go to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ tombs, and rebuild it.’ The king, with the queen sitting there beside him, said, ‘How long will your journey take, and when will you return?’ So I named a date that seemed acceptable to the king and he gave me leave to go. I spoke to the king once more, ‘If it please the king, could letters be given me for the governors of Transeuphrates to allow me to pass through to Judah? And also a letter for Asaph, keeper of the king’s park, to supply me with timber for the gates of the citadel of the Temple, for the city walls and for the house I am to occupy?’ This the king granted me, for the kindly favour of my God was with me.
As Jesus and his disciples travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’
Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me’, replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’
Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say goodbye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
Your duty is to go and spread the news
I left home early for the airport to avoid the mad, morning peak-hour traffic jam, and got to the departure gate in anticipation of the work I have to do in another city — get a status report on the project and come back home all in one day. I start every week as if I am on a mission, to clear off my to-do list by the end of the week, leaving as little loose ends as possible when the weekend arrives. I feel that I must be pretty focused on what is ahead of me.
St Francis of Assisi was a man on a mission as well, who truly never lost sight of the deep faith he had for the Lord. He was full of humility and embraced poverty so that he was free of distractions, spreading the truth and Good News wherever he set foot. Then, how about our own missions? Have we sorted out our everyday distractions in order to be effectively on our faith mission? Or have we been so engrossed in the work and pleasures of our lifestyle that we have lost sight of the duty to go and spread the news?
In today’s Gospel, we are reminded of God’s calling in whatever vocation we have chosen. To be able to drop the unimportant issues as it has already been taken care of, and to follow Christ. So often, our attention gets called away to non-productive and even worse, unfaithful directions that cause us to procrastinate and derail our mission – that of spreading the news to others. Perhaps, as we approach this weekend, let us not only set aside one hour of Mass time on Sunday, but pick up an additional ministry within our Church community, to bring the Good News to someone else’s ears.
(Today’s Oxygen by Austin Leong)
Prayer: We pray for a more focused week, giving priority to the Lord and to keep away from negative secular motivations.
Thanksgiving: Give thanks for our health, wisdom and intellect; that we are able to sort right from wrong, to be able to share the Good News to others.