Our parish, St. Anthony’s Friary is run by the Franciscans, Order of Friar Minor. Everything about our parish – the Franciscans, their contagious warmth, the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, the friary garden and the friary itself, fills me with a sense of awe. One of my best friends, an old friar gave me a book titled ‘A New Kind of Fool‘ by Christopher Coelho which was about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. The whole experience of reading the book about Saint Francis left me with a new found fascination for this great saint, and leading me to consider him as one of my favorite saint. After learning about his way of life, I felt truly inspired. I love nature and one of the reasons I could relate to Saint Francis is due to his sublime love for nature too. Saint Francis is the patron saint of ecology, animals and merchants. Out of the many instances in his life, one popular story is about a fierce wolf in the town of Gubbio which devoured not only animals, but humans as well. The whole town lived in terror because of this, but St. Francis was not afraid. He went out to meet the wolf, blessed it, and made peace with it. The wolf decided to no longer kill and the townsfolk in return made sure the wolf had plenty to eat every day. Thus he not only brought peace to the town of Gubbio but also built friendship between the townsfolk and the wolf.
Just like the saying goes “Every saint has a past and every sinner, a future“, Saint Francis also had a past. Saint Francis was born in the little town of Assisi, Italy in 1181. He was baptized as Giovanni di Bernardone and was born to Pietro di Bernardone, a silk merchant, and his wife Pica de Bourlemont. Francis lived like most young people of his time, of which he himself said, “I lived in sin”. He wanted to be a knight, however when he did go to battle, God spoke to him in a dream and asked him to return home. He returned to Assisi, where he was mocked and called a coward by all folk. Francis however was not perturbed and began spending long hours in prayer. Thus began his journey of responding to God’s love.
I too in my own life had many beautiful dreams to chase, which also in the worldly sense were good. But I realized that chasing these dreams never made me happy. Growing in communion with the Lord gave me true joy and a sense of peace.
Among the many things about Saint Francis, his simple life, love for nature and his attitude to remain joyful at all times are things which have touched me. For instance, Saint Francis chose the undyed and rough woolen tunics of the poorest peasants in Assisi to be the clothing of the Friars Minor. I learnt in small ways to buy things which I really needed and not to just buy because I wanted them. He would relate to all creatures as brothers and sisters.
“Praised be you, my Lord through Sister Water who is so useful, humble, precious and pure” – Saint Francis.
As Christians we have a sense of responsibility towards the beautiful things which God has created for us. Small things like turning off a running tap, switching of lights not needed, printing on both sides of the paper as much as you can make a lot of difference to our world which is increasing in global warming. He gave his all to God selflessly and lived the gospel literally in the practical sense. In his last years, when he was ill and began to go blind, he responded so beautifully to this suffering by composing the canticle of the sun – a famous praise hymn. This is another thing that I learnt from St. Francis – to praise God amidst sufferings. There were so many times I would question God on why he allowed me to suffer, but looking at Saint Francis who embraced suffering, I learnt that suffering is holy. God gave me the grace to understand that it is in our suffering we are more than ever closer to Him. All our sufferings have a definite purpose. Even though we may not understand it now.
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” – Saint Francis of Assisi
Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament
We adore You, O Lord Jesus Christ, in this Church and all the Churches of the world,
and we bless You, because, by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world – Saint Francis of Assisi
Prayer before a Crucifix
Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me Lord, a correct faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity, sense and knowledge, so that I may carry out Your holy and true command. – Saint Francis of Assisi