St. Francis of Assisi

Dear Friends,


Few saints are as recognized as St. Francis of Assisi, this Tuesday the Church remembers with great joy the Poverello (the little poor man).    He was born Giovanni Bernadone (later his name was changed to Francesco or the “little Frenchman”) around 1181 in the hills of Umbria Italy.   His father was a cloth merchant allowing him to enjoy a rich lifestyle.   At age twenty, Francis joined the military and was captured.  In captivity he became ill and was released.    The next several years of his life, he underwent a slow period of arduous conversion.   He learned to abandon the worldly lifestyle his father had provided him.   During his time the Church was plagued by corruption in the clergy and it was taking a serious toll on the faith of the people of Europe.   In 1205 he received a visionary message from God with the instructions, “Go, Francis, rebuild my Church in ruins”.   Francis embraced his call through his spiritual marriage to what he called “Lady Poverty” whom he described as “his wife of surpassing fairness”.   He understood that the vocation he was called to was to complete abandonment of self, of worldly possession, of fame and fortune.   “In a symbolic gesture [he] stripped off his clothes, thus showing he renounced his paternal heritage…just as at the moment of creation, Francis had nothing, only the life that God gave him, into whose hands he delivered himself.” (Pope Benedict XVI).  


In 1209 he traveled to Rome to meet with Pope Innocent III to propose a new apostolic movement of Christian life.   His radical evangelical poverty attracted a band of followers he called the “Jongleurs de Dieu” or the “jesters or jugglers of God”, known as the Franciscans.   He understood that his new way of Christian poverty must have been a spectacle to many, considered absolutely foolish even in the Middle Ages.   His radical love of Christ was a spiritual revolution of the Mendicant friars that launched a growth of renewal both of the clergy of the Middle Ages but also of the faith of the people of God.   His apostolic initiative inspired St. Dominic to found another Mendicant group, the Dominicans.    Francis contribution to the Church sparked a new movement of fidelity and spiritual depth.   “He knew that Christ was never ‘mine’ but always ‘ours’, that ‘I’ cannot possess Christ, that ‘I’ cannot rebuild in opposition to the Church, to her will, and her teaching.  Instead it is only in communion with the Church built on Apostolic succession that obedience to the Word of God can be renewed.”  (Pope Benedict XVI)


Traditionally, many parishes celebrate the blessing of animals to remember St. Francis.   I, however want to recover the image of St. Francis of Assisi, the man of faith, committed to giving himself completely in solidarity with the poor and innocent, who lived in harmony with God’s divine will and totally dependent on his love, instead of the image of St. Francis the lover of animals.  His legacy is that of the man who best resembled Jesus Christ and whose total disregard of himself helped the Church to rise from the weight of corruption to a new life ignited by the Holy Spirit through the Poor Beggar of Assisi.   In a time when the Church needs enlighten souls like Francis, we beg Almighty God to inspire within us but especially with the clergy the same burning desire to live in service of Christ and his Holy Church which he was an outstanding model and witness.  


In the Lord Jesus,

Fr. Vasquez 


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