Il Poverello

Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the little poor one of God.

 

Found here on the young Francis:

 

Francis would go with an unnamed friend in a lonely spot, and enter all by himself into a “crypt”, where he would spend hours. When he returned to his friend he would seem completely dazed. Or else he would ride his horse in the plain below Assisi, where there was a leper colony. It was on one of these occasions that he met a leper face to face. Although being terrified of the poor wretch, he dismantled from his horse and ran towards the man, offering him money, and the kiss of peace. He would cherish this encounter all his life and even bring it to his memory before his death.

Towards the end of 1205 another encounter changed him radically. This time he was in an old and semi-abandoned church just below Assisi. The church of San Damiano was officiated by a poor priest who could not even afford to buy oil to light the lamp in front of a Byzantine image of the crucified Christ. Francis was enchanted to gaze upon this crucifix. It is still visible today in the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Assisi. Christ is alive on the cross. He is not fixed to it, but seems to dominate the background, where angels and saints surround him. His eyes are wide open, and although blood is dropping out of his wounds, he does not seem to feel any pain. It was this crucifix which “spoke” to Francis. His biographers affirm that Christ asked Francis to repair that old church, calling it “my church”. It was obvious to the keen eyes of a young man like Francis that that church needed urgent repairs and he set out ot do it. He went to his father’s shop, took a bale of expensive cloth, went to the marketplace of Foligno, and sold cloth and horse. Then he returned exuberant to give the money he earned to the poor priest, who wisely rejected the offer, knowing that Pietro di Bernardone would be enraged by his son’s latest eccentricity. However he allowed Francis to live with him in San Damiano as an “oblate”, that is, as a person who offered his services to a particular church with the aim of living a penitential life.

 

Assisi

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