About Saint Francis

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7. Pope Innocent III approves the Franciscan Rule

At an audience in the spring of 1209 Pope Innocent III must have been startled when he was approached by a group of barefooted men who called themselves 'The Pentinents of Assisi,' dressed in the coarse tunic worn by Umbrian peasants. The group was led by a young man 'short, thin, with burning eyes,' whose face bore the marks of penitential self-denial. The presentations were made by Bishop Guido of Assisi. The thin man with the burning eyes began to speak: he did not protest against anybody or anything. He asked only to be allowed to live in evangelical poverty, according to the Rule that he had presented 'written with few words, and making use above all of the texts of the Gospel.' Pope Innocent unexpectedly adopted a special procedure and verbally approved the Rule that Francis had presented to him. Many of the Pope's advisors objected that this Rule was too austere, but Cardinal Giovanni di San Paolo told the Pope, 'If we reject the petition of this poor man on the grounds that the Rule is new and too austere when he petitions us to approve a form of life which is in keeping with the Gospel, we must fear that we may displease the very Gospel of Jesus Christ.' So was born the Franciscan Order.

Cf. St. Bonaventure's Major Legend of Saint Francis, III:10

8. St. Francis, glorious in a chariot of fire, appears to the friars in Rivotorto

While the brothers were still staying in an abandoned hut near Assisi, one Saturday the holy man entered the city of Assisi to preach in the cathedral on Sunday morning, as was his custom. In a hut situated in the garden of the canons, away from his sons in body, the man devoted to God spent the night in his customary way in the prayer of God. About midnight, while some of the brothers were resting and others were persevering in prayer, behold, a fiery chariot of wonderful brilliance entering the door of the house moved here and there through the little house three times. On top of it sat a bright globe that looked like the sun, anf it made the night bright as day. Those who were awake were dumbfounded, while those sleeping were disturbed and, at the same time, terrified: they sensed the brightness with their hearts as much as with their bodies, while the conscience of each was laid bare to the others by the power of that marvelous light. As they looked into each other's hearts, they all understood that the holy father, while away from them in body, was present in spirit, like a second Elijah, that they might follow him as true Israelites.

Cf. St. Bonaventure's Major Legend of St. Francis, IV:4

9. A Brother sees a precious throne in heaven destined for the humble Francis

A certain brother, a man of outstanding virtue and devotion, when he was in the company of the man of God and was praying fervently with him in a deserted church, passed into an ecstasy, and saw among the many thrones in heaven one more noble than the rest, adorned with precious stones and glittering with great glory. He wondered within himself at the splendour of the lofty throne, and thought quietly about whose it might be. Then he heard a voice saying to him: 'This throne belonged to one of those who fell, and now it is reserved for the humble Francis.'

As they went along the road, talking to one another about God, that brother, mindful of his vision, skilfully asked Francis what he thought of himself. The humble servant of Christ said to him: 'I see myself as the greatest of sinners.' When the brother protested that, to the contrary, he could not say or feel this with a good conscience, Francis continued: 'If Christ had pursued a great criminal with such mercy, I surely think he would be much more grateful to God than I.' At hearing such remarkable humility, the brother was convinced of the truth of his vision, knowing from the Gospel that the truly humble will be exalted to the height of glory from which the proud have been cast out.

Cf. St Bonaventure's Major Legend of Saint Francis, VI:6

10. Francis, through Fra Sylvester, expels the demons of civil war from Arezzo

It happened once that he came to Arezzo at a time when the whole city was shaken by a civil war that threatened its destruction. From the outskirts he saw demons over the city leaping for joy and arousing the troubled citizens to mutual slaughter. In order to put to flight those seditious evil spirits, he sent Brother Sylvester, a man of dove-like simplicity, before him as a herald, telling him, "Go in front of the city gate and, on behalf of Almighty God, command the devils to leave at once." The man obediently hurried to carry out his Father's orders and, caught up in praise before the face of the Lord, he began to cry out boldly in front of the city gate, "In the name of Almighty God and by the command of his servant Francis, get away from here, all you demons." At once the city returned to tranquillity and the citizens reformed their civil law peaceably.

Cf. St Bonaventure's Major Legend of Saint Francis, VI:9

11. Francis before the Sultan challenges his priests to a test of fire to prove which is the true faith

Although a cruel edict had been issued by the Sultan that whoever brought back the head of a Christian would be rewarded with a gold piece, Francis taking a companion with him decided to make the journey. After they had been maltreated in many ways, by divine providence they were led to the Sultan as the man of God had hoped. When that ruler inquired by whom, why, and how they had been sent and got there, Francis answered with an intrepid heart that he had been sent not by man but by the Most High God in order to point out to him and his people the way of salvation and to announce the Gospel of truth. The Sultan, perceiving in the man of God a fervour of spirit and a courage that had to be admired, willingly listened to him and invited him to stay longer with him. Francis urged the Sultan to have an enormous fire lit and offered to walk into it with his Moslem priests to test which of them preached the truth. The Sultan replied that he did not dare to accept this choice and offered Francis many precious gifts which the man of God spurned as if they were dirt. This aroused the admiration and respect of the Sultan all the more, so that he allowed Francis to go back safely to his own country.

Cf. St. Bonaventure's Major Legend of St. Francis, IX:8

12. The companions of Francis gaze in admiration at the Saint in ecstasy

The brothers who were devoutly observing him heard him on several occasions groan with loud cries, imploring the divine mercy for sinners and weeping over the Lord's passion as if it were before him. He was seen praying at night with his hands outstretched in the form of a cross, his whole body lifted up from the ground and surrounded by a sort of shining cloud, so that the extraordinary illumination around his body was a witness to the wonderful light that shone within his soul.

 Cf. St. Bonaventure's Major Legend of St. Francis, X:4