No turning back

St Francis of Assisi – Cimbue

“When I was in sin…. I delay a little and left the world.” (Testament of St Francis 1-2)

In the previous article about this period of Francis’ life we highlighted his experiences at the abandoned San Damiano chapel – especially his prayers before the cross – and how they seemed to lead Francis from a burdened and directionless existence to the first steps on the path of conversion. In this same time period we also have the moment when Francis chose to “leave the world.”  The order of the events in late 1205 and early 1206 are not clear and are the content of some debate within the Franciscan world.  In other words, did Francis choose to “leave the world” and then have the San Damiano experience or vice-versa?  When did his famous encounter with the leper occur with respect to these events (the topic of the next article)? Hard to say, so I will simply tell the stories as best I can. Continue reading

Honor, chivalry and war

Much of Francis’ youth had been spent as an apprentice in his father’s cloth business by day and as playboy by night – a time that the older Francis refers to as “When I was in sin.” At the same time, the intrigue and rivalry of imperial and papal politics swirled around Assisi. When Francis was 16-years old, the popolo, as the merchant and new generation of leaders were called, rose up in revolt against the nobles of Assisi (1198 AD). The last remnant of feudal governance was replaced by the “commune” of the city-state of Assisi.  Loyalty to the Emperor was replaced by nominal loyalty to the Papal State. The noble families of Assisi – likely including the family of the young woman who would become St. Clare of Assisi – fled to Perugia, the age-old enemy of Assisi, across the Spoleto Valley. While the people of Assisi thought it to be the definitive victory, it was but a lull in the conflict. Continue reading

Francis of Assisi

In a 13th century text called the Il Foretti (The Little Flowers), a story is told about St. Francis in which a brother friar came to him and asked, “Why after you? Why is the whole world coming after you, wanting to see you, to hear you, to follow you?” Some 800 years after the life of St. Francis, this question remains. What is it about this unpretentious figure from the early 13th century that continues to exert such a perennial fascination for Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and agnostics alike? What is it that has made Francis the subject of more books than any other saint? Why has he inspired artists, led ecologists, peace activists, and advocates for the poor to claim him as a patron? Why has he inspired countless tens of thousands of men and women to follow his Rule of Life in religious and secular communities? Continue reading

Something about angels

City-of-Angels2I think most people know that the expression, “City of Angels”, refers to Los Angeles, CA. But did you know that the name is only the shortened form of the original city name, which grew up around one of the Franciscan missions? The original name of the pioneer town was, “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula,” (in English, “City of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the little Portion”). Both “Our Lady Queen of the Angels” and “the little Portion” are steeped in the earliest history of the Franciscan Order. For that we return to the 13 th century and the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Continue reading

Francis of Assis and Prayer

When people think of St. Francis of Assisi and prayer, what most likely comes to mind is “The Peace Prayer of St. Francis,” with the memorable line: “Make me an instrument of peace…” It is a moving and noteworthy prayer, certainly in the Franciscan tradition, perhaps inspired by St. Francis, but it dates to 1912 and was first published as a poem in the French spiritual magazine, La Clochette. Later, during World War I, it appeared on the back of a holy card bearing an image of St. Francis and the association of the two became cemented in our minds. Continue reading

Up to now….

Note: the series on St. Francis is something that was being done for the parish bulletin.  It has been a while since posting an article there on here on friarmusings. So perhaps we should summarize a bit before pressing on. 

Some of the early key events in Francis’ life occurred between 1202 and 1209.  Before this period he was a bit of a prodigal son freely spending family money on entertainment and fun.  His military adventures in 1202 lead to a profound crisis in his life that in time lead him to become the person and saint we know best in story and legend.  It is in the year 1209 that history records Francis founding the religious movement that came to bear his own name:  the Franciscans.  If you would like to read theseries in detail, you can find the 29 previous installments at Continue reading

Marks of holiness

Saint Francis of Assisi and scenes of his life...


I have to admit that in counseling conversations, pastoral settings, preaching, and a variety of teaching settings (RCIA, Bible study, etc.) I often return to the topic of the formation of moral conscience. I have even written about it here and here in this blog.


About two years, ago while preaching on the formation of moral conscience, I mentioned health care reform as a topic about which the bishops were teaching at the moment. The topic of health care per se was in the news, but the primary point of my reference was to indicate how often when our bishops speak and teach, we praise them or criticize them based on our already-held opinion of the topic. And I use the word “opinion” pointedly as it is my experience that most people do not form their conscience as described in the Catechism (§1776-1803). Such formation was the real point of the homily – with the challenge being to operate as Christians, not in the realm of opinion, but in the sphere of the formed moral conscience. We are called to do such, but do we do it? Often all I must do is to ask if they have prayed about it or asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom on the topic/decision. Lingering silence is often the answer. Continue reading

Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi - An IntroductionSeveral days ago I mentioned that there would be lots of things written about Pope Francis and St. Francis of Assisi in the coming days – and that I was impressed that a writer for a news outlet would be daunting enough to try and produce something which included information about St. Francis.  It is a complex task (as I hinted) and it is inevitable that things won’t be exactly correct.  Even though I did list a short bibliography of recent books about St. Francis, someone contacted me and said that I should not criticize, especially since I had not written anything about St. Francis. So, I sent them the list of my posts – the same one I am posting here. I hope it is helpful, enlightening, and inspiring. Continue reading

Admonition Twenty-Three

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance” (St. Augustine, Letter 18). At the root of Francis of Assisi’s on-going conversion was the movement towards a fuller realization of humility in his own life: from son of a privileged, wealthy merchant to a lesser brother following the footsteps of Christ.  From one well-dressed and flamboyant as a young man to one who asked to be laid naked upon the ground at the time of his death. From one hiding from God, to one laid bare, knowing that what he was before God he was that and nothing more.  Along the way he discovered and lived all the other virtues. Continue reading