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Francis of Assisi

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« on: October 03, 2007, 03:20:23 pm »

At Saint Jean d'Acre, the capital of what remained of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, he rejoined the brothers Elia and Pietro Cattini. Francis then most probably visited the holy places in Palestine in 1220.

Although nativity drawings and paintings existed earlier, St Francis of Assisi celebrated Christmas by setting up the first known three-dimensional presepio or crèche (Nativity scene) in the town of Greccio near Assisi, around 1220. He used real animals to create a living scene so that the worshipers could contemplate the birth of the child Jesus in a direct way, making use of the senses, especially sight. Thomas of Celano, the biographer of Francis tells how he only used a straw-filled manger (feeding trough) set between a real ox and donkey. According to Thomas, it was beautiful in its simplicity with the manger acting as the altar for the Christmas Mass.

When receiving a report of the martyrdom of five brothers in Morocco, he returned to Italy via Venice. Cardinal Ugolino di Conti was then nominated by the Pope as the protector of the order. When problems arose in the order, a detailed rule became necessary. On 29 September 1220 Francis handed over the governance of the order to brother Pietro Cattini at the Porziuncola. However, Brother Cattini died on 10 March 1221. He was buried in the Porziuncola. But when numerous miracles were attributed to the late Pietro Cattini, people started to flock to the Porziuncola, disturbing the daily life of the Franciscans. Francis then prayed, asking Pietro to stop the miracles and obey in death as he had obeyed him during his life. The report of miracles ceased. Brother Pietro was succeeded by brother Elia as vicar of Francis.

During 1221 and 1222 Francis crossed Italy, first as far south as Catania in Sicily and afterwards as far north as Bologna.

On 29 November 1223 the final rule of the order (in twelve chapters) was approved by Pope Honorius III.

While he was praying on the mountain of Verna, during a forty day fast in preparation for Michaelmas, Francis is said to have had a vision on or about 14 September 1224, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, as a result of which he received the stigmata. Brother Leo, who had been with Francis at the time, left a clear and simple account of the event, the first definite account of the phenomenon of stigmata. "Suddenly he saw a vision of a seraph, a six-winged angel on a cross. This angel gave him the gift of the five wounds of Christ."

Suffering from these Stigmata and from an eye disease, he had been receiving care in several cities (Siena, Cortona, Nocera) to no avail. In the end he was brought back to the Porziuncola. He was brought to the transito, the hut for infirm friars, next to the Porziuncola. Here, in the place where it all began, feeling the end approaching, he spent the last days of his life dictating his spiritual testament. He died on the evening of 3 October 1226 singing Psalm 141. His feast day is observed 4 October.

On 16 July 1228 he was pronounced a saint by the next pope Gregory IX, the former cardinal Ugolino di Conti, friend and protector of St. Francis. The next day, the pope laid the foundation stone for the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.

St. Francis is considered the first Italian poet by literary critics. He believed commoners should be able to pray to God in their own language, and he wrote always in dialect of Umbria instead of Latin. His writings are considered to have great literary value, as well as religious.

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(Psalms) 31:5,
"Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth."


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