04Oct 04 Oct. (Friday) Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, religious

Gal 6:14-18: St Paul’s close bond with Christ crucified caused him to experience the stigmata.

Mt 11:25-30: The joy that Jesus shares with those who are humble of heart.

First Reading: Galatians 6:14-18

May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision nor un-circumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!  As for those who will follow this rule – peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Poor Man who inspired the world

Francis Bernardone was born in 1181 at Assisi, Umbria, Italy. The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, he lived the same kind of  spendthrift, irresponsible life as many sons of wealthy parents. At the age of twenty, in a local war against Perugia, he was captured and imprisoned. While in imprison he experienced a vision from Christ and completely changed his life . He left all his possessions and embraced complete poverty, taking the Gospel as his rule of life.

From his conversion, he wore sandals and the very simplest of clothes, begged for food and preached peace and reconciliation. He began to attract followers, and in 1209 founded the Friars Minor (Franciscans). Soon afterwards, with Clare of Assisi he founded the foundation of the Order of “Poor Ladies” (now Poor Clares.) Francis also founded the Franciscan Third Order for lay people wishing to live a more intensely spiritual life. Two years before his death he received the stigmata (the five wounds of Christ) on Mount Alvernia. He died on October 4, 1226 in Portiuncula, Italy. He was canonized by Gregory IX less than two years later.

A longer account of St Francis’ life is online at http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/F1004S/; also, to get a flavour of his spirituality enshrined in the “Fioretti” (Little Flowers of St. Francis) written by Fra Ugolino after Francis’ death, you can read his famous Sermon to the Birds,

“My little sisters the birds, ye owe much to God, your Creator, and ye ought to sing his praise at all times and in all places, because he has given you liberty to fly about into all places; and though ye neither spin nor sew, he has given you a twofold and a threefold clothing for yourselves and for your offspring. Two of all your species he sent into the Ark with Noah that you might not be lost to the world; besides which, he feeds you, though ye neither sow nor reap. He has given you fountains and rivers to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys in which to take refuge, and trees in which to build your nests; so that your Creator loves you much, having thus favoured you with such bounties. Beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praise to God.”