Monday, July 20, 2015

Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi (c.1181—1226) is the founder of the Franciscan order. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant. Francis, however, turned his back on living the life of the nouveau riche to take a vow of poverty. He believed that possessions only increased envy and conflict, and were destructive to peace in the world.

During this time, Rome came down hard on lay groups who were critical of papal abuses, and the Franciscan's poverty could have been seen as an indictment of the Church's opulence. In France in 1209, the Pope had twenty thousand people killed in one day for supposed heresy. The Franciscans received papal approval, however, because their leader did not criticise the Church publicly. By the 1220s they officially became a religious order.

At his death, the Catholic Church went to great trouble to take control of Francis's legacy. He was canonized within two years, and work was started on the basilica in Assisi — built supposedly in his honour. Francis, however, would never have endorsed the building of such a church. Joan Acocella has written of this in The New Yorker: "It is hard to think of a single important Franciscan principle that was not violated." Early writings about Francis were suppressed, in an attempt to rewrite his history. His own writings remain, including many inspiring poems, such as the following.

This post is inspired by a visit to Assisi my wife and I enjoyed earlier this month.

Prayer of St. Francis

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, and
Where there is Sadness, Joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.