The objective of this work in writing is to answer the questions of: (1) Who was Francis of Assisi? (2) What were some of his most significant accomplishments and insights? and (3) How did Francis actively perform the gospel life, and what exactly did this mean for him and for his understandings about Christianity?
According to the Christian History website, Francis of Assisi is often thought of as being a “gentle saint who preached to birds, tamed wolves, and padded about in flower-filled fields basking in the love of God” (2016, p.1). However, it is reported to be difficult to imagine that the individual carrying this description could make a difference in the time and world in which he lived. Assisi was born in the town of Assisi in Italy “as Giovanni Francesco Bernardone, son of a wealthy merchant” (Christian History, 2016, p.1). When Francis was a young individual his life was worldly and carefree and it has been reported that Francis was a squanderer of time who was more trivial than all his friends. (Christian History, 2016). However, when Francis was 23 years-of-age a vision changed his life (National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, 2016).
Active Performance of the Gospel Life
The work of Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr (2006) entitled “Little Flowers of Francis of Assisi: A New Translation” writes that in Francis of Assisi were specific factors in his life spiritually that were modeled according to the example lived out by Jesus. It is reported that the features of Francis of Assisi are such that present “models for our own spiritual practice: silent, contemplative prayer in communion with nature; the voluntary assumption of physical mortification…” (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006, p.27). Francis of Assisi is described as a “true servant of Christ” who conformed his own behavior to that displayed by Jesus in all areas of his life (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006, p.27). For example, modeling the example provided by Jesus, Francis of Assis made the choice of 12 companions (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006). The fasting during the Lenten season by Francis of Assisi is reported in regards to one specific occasion in the work of Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr (2006) who relate that Francis stayed at Lake of Perugia one Lent due to instructions given by God for him to do so and went by bot to an island that was not inhabited going there during the darkness so he would not be seen. Francis instructed the man whose boat he traveled in to leave him there for some days. Francis only took two very small bread loaves with him to the island. The only shelter on the island was thickly grown brush where he made a little hut staying there and praying and fasting. According to the report of Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr (2006) following Francis having stayed in this location praying as well as fasting “God began to perform miracles in this place” (p.28). The poverty life lived out by Francis was such that moved “toward spiritual perfection” and was utilized by Francis in the attempt to better no God (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006, p.42).
Significant Accomplishment & Insights
In another story of Francis, the work of Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr (2006) report that Francis of Assisi through modeling Christ’s example had two of his disciples to the towns and cities and that Francis went among those of the world and preached to them. On one occasion, it is reported that Francis of Assisi set out with Brother Masseo and headed down the road toward France and when they arrived into a town that was very small that they were exceedingly hungry and begged for food each to a different section of town (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006). It is reported that Francis of Assisi appearing as a person of the street and unknown upon sight did not receive any food excepting for some little pieces of bread that was stale. However, it is reported that Brother Masseo who was more of a striking figure managed to receive several bread loaves in his begging for food (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006). When Francis of Assisi saw that Brother Masseo had received the bread loaves he repeated over and again “Oh Brother Masseo, we are not worthy of such treasure (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006, p.43). However, Brother Masseo was confused and questioned Francis of Assisi how this constituted a treasure to which Francis of Assisi replied that it was a treasure because it had been provided to them by God (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006). After the two men ate they headed back down the road and went into a church where Francis of Assisi prayed on the altar praising poverty. Francis of Assisi then said they should pray to St. Paul and St. Peter to ask for their help in learning how to gracefully “embrace this immeasurable treasure of poverty” (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006, p.44). Upon the two men arriving in Rome and attending Saint Peter church it is reported that both Paul and Peter appeared to Francis of Assisi informing him that God would bless all those who followed him (Hopcke, Schwartz, and Rohr, 2006).
Summary and Conclusion
Francis of Assisi learned that complete and total surrender to God’s will over his own will and complete faith in God’s provisions to him of that which he needed and gratefulness to God for making those provisions combined with following the model of Jesus Christ resulted in his living out a satisfied life that was useful to and glorifying to God and His kingdom.
- Francis of Assisi: Mystical Founder of the Franciscans (2016) Christianity Today. Retrieved from: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/moversandshakers/francis-of-assisi.html
- Hopcke, RH Schwartz, P and Rohr, R (2006) Little Flowers of Francis of Assisi: A New Translation. Shambhala Publications. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=LcVNChuJYKsC&dq=Francis+of+Assisi:+accomplishments+and+insights&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi (2016) Retrieved from: http://www.shrinesf.org/life-of-st-francis.html