‘If God can work through me, He can work through anyone’
Indeed, one of the most venerated Saints in the Catholic Church, Saint Francis of Assisi was a friar, a deacon and a preacher. If you haven't read yet the article about one of the milanese churches of whom he is the patron saint, read it here.
Born in 1182 in a wealthy family (his father was cloth merchant) Francis grew up having the same ambitions of his social class. In 1202 he was enlisted in the war between Assisi and the Perugia. During a battle he was captured and sent to jail. He created quite a fraternal connection with his fellow prisoners. During this period, in the silence of his cell he had time to reflect and encounter God.
One year later, the war ended and Francis was repatriated. Something had changed in Francis after this experience. One of his first steps for conversion was when he saw a leper and he went straight to him and hug him. Touching lepers was his personal phobia previously. It was an experience that once again lead him to trust and encounter God in others.
Back to his normal life, his dream of becoming a knight was still burning. Always a person of action, in 1205 Francis decided to travel to Puglia in order to meet with Count Gentile and become a knight.
One night while he was falling asleep, he heard a voice asking him: "Who can better treat you: the Lord or the servant?". He replied, "The Lord." The voice replied: "Then why do you abandon the Lord for the servant?"
For Francis, this was the point of no return. It was clear now, more than ever before that his call was different than the one of the knights so he returned to Assisi. He dedicated completely to the prayer, taking care of the lepers and giving his father’s money to the poor.
His father not only did not agree with the gesture but in fact denounces his son to the Bishop. Reaching the trial moment in front of his father, the citizens of Assisi and the Bishop, Francis renounces to all possible paternal inheritance.
He decides on the spot that he doesn’t even want the clothes he was wearing anymore. Thus, naked in the front of everybody, he said no to all possible material possessions and proclaimed:
“From here on I can say with certainty: -Father of ours who are in heaven-, since it is to Him that I have entrusted my treasure and given my trust.”
From this moment onwards, Francis dressed himself as a hermit and he continued with his life style. He dedicates not only to the poor but also travels from place to place to spread The Good News of the Gospels. Francis was in love with Nature and liked traveling.
On his way he visited and restored several churches. One of them is San Damiano that was destroyed during the 1202’s war. Upon entering the dusty church, Francis looked around with sadness of what was left inside but notices the crucifix is still on.
In that moment he hears again the voice of the Lord, telling him: “Francis, repair my house which, as you can see, is all in ruins”. In that moment he believed the message was to take care of the actual restoration of this church’s ruins and others he would discover on the way.
We know that the calling of Francis was way bigger than that, with him being the origin of many orders of Franciscanism, both feminine and masculine.
The Franciscans preach the Gospel, peace and love for others, love for the creatures and nature. Their preaching is simple and clear in order to touch large audiences.
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