If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
While it is commonly known that St. Francis of Assisi was a lover of both creation and the Creator, his role as a grassroots environmentalist is often surprisingly underplayed in biographical synopsis of his life which center mainly upon his profound journey of faith.
If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.
-St. Francis de Assisi
He conversed with the universe. He spoke to his Brother Fire, his Sister Moon, with the fowl of the sky, and the beasts of the earth. Yet for as much as he lived in a spiritual realm, he was entirely human. He made no attempts to deify himself. He expected no reward for his life of service. He simply lived to serve and love in harmony.
Yet his story is that much more profound considering the sacrifices he willingly made and the lifestyle he corrected to reach this oneness with creation.
Also known as Francis Bernardone, or il Poverello, St. Francis de Assisi was born Giovanni di Bernadone, named by his mother after John the Baptist on October 4th, 1181 in Umbria, Italy. The son of a rich cloth merchant, his father changed his name to Francis because he allegedly didn't want his child named after a saint. Though blessed with popularity and riches, Francis had a tumultous youth, with bouts both as a street fighter and as a soldier, and was considered to be one of the leaders of the dissident youth of the town of Assisi. While imprisoned after a battle, he had a life-altering spiritual experience which led him to a change of heart and change of life.
Upon his release, Francis gave up all material possessions, which, having come from a very wealthy family, was a large sacrifice. His mission then forward was to follow his faith, and he recognized that in order to do so, he must first rid himself of excess, of boastfullness, of ego -- traits that tyrannize our modern times as they did Francis'.
Dressed in ragged clothes, working as a brick layer, and often begging for his sustenance to survive, yet all the while preaching peace and purity, Francis' family and old friends either beheld him with great sorrow or with great embarrasment. Many even considered him a "religious nut" and treated him poorly, not understanding the depth of his calling. His father even attempted to have him imprisoned.
The Church also saw him as a threat. He was an unconventional revolutionary of sorts. His call for poverty, simplicity, and sincere love were seen as a threat to the status quo of the day.
Yet Francis' work pressed on.
By 1209 he had attracted followers and founded the Fransiscan order of brothers. In 1221 he resigned direction of the Fransiscans, but his work and his order still continue and thrive to this day.
Towards the end of his life, Francis already a frail man, was practically blind and very ill. In 1224, two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the actual wounds of Christ upon his hands. St. Francis of Assisi died on October 4th, 1226 at the age of 44 and was Canonized (made a saint) on July 16th, 1228 by Pope Gregory IX.
St. Francis de Assisi followed his calling gladly and without resentment. His Earthly sacrifices were not seen as a burden to him but as a natural path towards oneness with creation and the Creator. His story is perhaps most powerful in that he was a young man with every worldly thing going for him: his family was wealthy, his friends saw him as a fearless soldier, he was a natural leader, and he enjoyed the pleasures of the earth. Yet he sacrificed everything for his heartfelt beliefs and took it upon himself to care for all creation over his own well-being. By doing so, he gained much more - a profound and enchanting harmony with all creation.
He is a heroic example of sacrifice, of selflessness, of humility, and likewise, a reminder of the attainability of achieving a harmonious state of peace and unity with all creation by simply exuding love.
St. Francis of Assisi -- an article on his courtesy, good manners, and love, from the Catholic information network by Paul Gallico.
Stories of St. Francis and the animals -- from American Catholic. Includes other links and information as well.
St. Francis de Assisi -- a detailed text entry from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Includes many informative links.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
-St.Francis of Assisi
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