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Francis was born in Assisi, a charming hill town in the Italian region of Umbria. His father, Pietro Bernardone, was a wealthy cloth merchant who traded often in France, and his mother, Pica, is said to have belonged to a noble family of Provence. Though baptized “John”, their only son was called “Francesco” or “the Frenchman”.
St. Francis of Assisi giving his father his clothesYoung Francis had an expansive nature and was a lover of life, spending his father’s money lavishly. He was also devoted to romantic chivalry then being extolled by troubadours.

At twenty he fought for Assisi against Perugia and was imprisoned for a year. Later, he sought to join another general, and bought a handsome horse and outfit, but meeting a poor man on the way, gave him his clothes. Taken ill, he heard a voice that invited him to fight for “the master” rather than the man.

As he prayed in the Church of San Damiano, he heard a voice coming from the crucifix: “Francis go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.” Thinking he was ordered to rebuild the crumbling church, he sold a bolt of cloth, and his horse and offered the money to the pastor who refused to use it.

St. Francis of AssisiFrom then on, young Francis embarked upon a spiritual path that culminated in his father publicly disowning him. In a dramatic gesture, Francis handed his father all his clothes, and was covered by the bishop’s cloak. He then set out to beg alms to repair churches in his area. Knowing him, the town’s people mocked him, all of which he bore joyfully.

Francis had fallen in love with “Lady Poverty”, leaving all to find ALL. His was the calling to counteract the worldly spirit then infecting society, so contrary to the spirit of the Gospel that had built the Middle Ages.

Around the small chapel of Portiuncula, in the valley below Assisi, he built a first community of wood and mud huts. As others joined him, the community grew to the point that he sought approval of Pope Innocent III in Rome, who, having had a dream of Francis holding up God’s falling church, blessed his Order.

Out of humility, Francis gave his order the name of “Friars Minor”, and never sought ordination, thinking himself unworthy of such an honor.

He also co-founded a feminine branch of the Franciscans with St. Clare of Assisi.

In the fall of 1212, St. Francis resolved to go and preach to the Muslims. His first two attempts were foiled, and he returned to Italy where he preached extensively.

In 1219 he went into Egypt with the Crusading army, and fearlessly sought and faced Sultan Malek-al-Kamil, who, impressed with his teaching, invited the monk to stay with him, but, ultimately, did not make a commitment.

Disappointed, Francis returned to Italy to face a crisis developing in his Order, now spread throughout Europe. In response to a movement attempting to overturn his initial ideal of strict poverty, he revised his rule. The form ultimately approved by Pope Honorius III in 1223 substantially represented the spirit of St. Francis.

In August of 1224, Francis retired with a companion to Mount Alvernia where he was granted the stigmata of Christ. As his health worsened, the wounds were a source of further pain and weakness and he also became nearly blind.

He died surrounded by his spiritual sons, laying on the floor as he had requested, exhorting his brethren to love of God, of poverty and of the Gospel, “before all other ordinances”.

He was forty five, and was canonized only two years later by Pope Gregory IX.

 


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 8, 2020

Every virtue in your soul is a precious ornament which makes...

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April 8

Every virtue in your soul
is a precious ornament
which makes you dear to God and to man.
But holy purity, the queen of virtues, the angelic virtue,
is a jewel so precious
that those who possess it become like the angels of God in Heaven,
even though clothed in mortal flesh.

St. John Bosco

 
My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

 

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Julie Billiart

She was miraculously healed of the paralysis of her legs on...

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St. Julie Billiart

Born on July 12, 1751 in Cuvilly, France, Marie Rose Julie Billiard was the daughter of fairly well-to-do peasant farmers who also owned a small shop. From early childhood Julie had a keen interest in spiritual things and by seven years of age she had memorized the catechism and attained an understanding of it beyond her years.

During her youth, her father’s shop was robbed and her father attacked. This so traumatized his daughter that she became ill and gradually a physical paralysis took hold of her. Deprived of the use of her legs, she eventually had great difficulty in even speaking. Julie's paralysis lasted for twenty-two years, and throughout this whole trial she continued to teach her beloved catechism to children and to trust unwaveringly in the everlasting goodness of “le bon Dieu”. Her infirmities drove her to an even deeper life of prayer and union with God.

During the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution when the pastor of Cuvilly was superseded by a constitutional priest sworn to the new atheistic government, Julie influenced her friends and neighbors to boycott the intruder. Though an invalid herself, she worked to hide and assist fugitive priests who remained loyal to the Catholic Church, and for this charitable work she was herself persecuted and obliged to escape from place to place – on one occasion, hiding all night under a haystack.

While taking refuge with the aristocratic family of Gézaincourt, Julie met Françoise Blin de Bourdon, a noblewoman who had barely escaped the guillotine by the fall of Robespierre before her execution. The two became close friends and collaborators.

After the Terror, they both dedicated themselves to the spiritual care of poor children, and the Christian education of girls in a generation sorely neglected by the ravages of the Revolution.

In 1804, after a novena to Him, Julie Billiart was miraculously healed of the paralysis of her legs on the feast of Sacred Heart of Jesus. Now physically free to pursue a full range of activity, her educational work increased rapidly.

At odds with the bishop of Amiens through the meddling influence of a misguided young priest, Julie and Françoise were obliged to move to Namur, in present-day Belgium, where with the full support of the local bishop, they proceeded with their work, eventually founding the Institute of Notre Dame de Namur, today in sixteen countries around the world.

Julie Billiart died on April 8, 1816 while praying the Magnificat. She was canonized in 1969.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort...

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And He Stole Heaven

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.
 
On his left hung another man, covered in the matted blood of his wounds. Yet, with the exception of a few intermittent words, there was no sound from him.

As time passed, the thief became more and more engrossed in the silent crucified beside him, and less and less in his own plight.St Dismas Picture

Indeed life is ironic, mused Dismas, this man who had lived in the open, and was acclaimed as a healer and even as a king, now hung beside him who had spent his life lurking and hiding.

And now they were lifted up, both on a high parallel. He could see the roof tops of the city, he could see the highways he had stalked, and he could see the way they had walked. Now he looked down on those gathered around this place of execution, the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the curious, the friends of the man beside him…and a young man supporting a lady directly beneath them...

And then he knew her; that upturned face, that maidenly majesty now wracked by sorrow, her tear-filled eyes fastened on the man on his left–Yes, he knew that face.

As the wheels of time rolled back in his mind,  his heart gave a jolt as he remembered that blessed day in the desert, decades ago, when a young family making its way to Egypt, sought refuge for the night in his family’s hovel. The man was strong and kind, the woman was the fairest his child’s eyes had seen, and she carried a golden haired babe, as if nothing in the universe was more precious.

He remembered the lady’s gaze on him, her beautiful eyes full of concern for the leprous sores on his young body. Then she and his mother talked. And next, he was being bathed in the same water the lady had just washed her infant son.

And then the sores were gone.  His mother wept for joy, and kissed the lady’s hands, and the baby’s feet. And even his robber-father was moved, and offered the strong man and his family the best in the house.

Now, in one revealing flash, he knew the identity of the wounded man on his left.  He looked again at the lady, and her eyes, those same sweet eyes of old, were on him once more.  
He felt his heart quiver, as the power of gratitude filled his being and softened his criminal soul.  And then came tears, rivers of tears.  When he could speak, he turned to the left,

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And the Lord turned his face to him, His divine eyes on him, and he heard the most beautiful voice he had ever heard, a voice at once full of pain and full of strength, full of sweetness and full of majesty, a judge’s voice, and a father’s voice,

“Amen, amen I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”

 

By Andrea F. Phillips
Based on: A Legend of St. Dismas and Other Poems,
Copyright by P. J. Kenedy and Sons. 1927, p. 18.

 

Free Meditation Booklet - Be Still and Know That I AM GOD

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.

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