This is the story of a godly man named Francis. He was born in Assisi, a small city near Rome. His father was a rich business man. He had a store selling silk fabrics. Francis was handsome and spoiled. He loved beautiful clothes and parties. He has many friends. One day he became very sick and he almost died. He said that a voice told him to go and ‘repair My church’. He said it was Jesus who talked to him. He pledged to God that if he was healed, he will obey. God healed him. He went to a small church that was falling down. He sold his horse and his expensive clothes to raise money to repair the church. He made a vow to live a poor life and use all his wealth to serve God. This is how he got converted! His father dragged him to his house and beat him to forget his vow. He refused. His father then threw him on the streets and dis-inherited him as a son. He went to live in the church that he repaired. He dressed with a rough garment and lived by the mercy of others. Many people believed in his ministry and became his disciples. Francis’s humility was such that he never became a priest. Coming from someone whose order attracted thousands of people within its first ten years, this is humility indeed!
After renouncing his wealth, St. Francis founded one of the most famous religious orders, the Franciscans. The Franciscans lived an austere life of poverty in service to others following Jesus’s example, and preached the Gospel message all over Italy and other parts of Europe. He died at the age of 44, sick in his body but rejoicing in his spirit. After his death, he was made ‘a saint’ by the Pope. He is the Patron saint of Italy.
The Prayer of St. Francis is one of the best known and best loved prayers in the world today.
“Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
In Jesus’ name! Amen!”
(This is a painting of Francis of Assis, done by Lodovico Cardi)