About Saint Francis

Page 3

13. Francis celebrates Christmas of 1223, creating the first crib

It happened, three years prior to his death, that Francis decided to celebrate at the town of Greccio the memory of the birth of the Child Jesus with greatest possible solemnity, in order to arouse devotion. So that this would not be considered a type of novelty, he petitioned for and obtained permission from the Supreme Pontiff. He had a manger prepared, hay carried in and an ox and an ass led to the spot. The brethren are summoned, the people arrive, the forest amplifies with their cries, and that venerable night is rendered brilliant and solemn by a multitude of bright lights and by resonant and harmonious hymns of praise. The man of God stands before the manger, filled with piety, bathed in tears, overcome with joy. A solemn Mass is celebrated over the manger, with Francis, a levite of Christ, chanting the holy Gospel. Then he preaches to the people standing around him about the birth of the poor King, whom, whenever he means to call him, he called in his tender love the Babe of Bethlehem. Sir John of Greccio claimed that he saw a beautiful little child asleep in that manger whom the blessed father Francis embraced in both of his arms and seemed to wake it from sleep.

Cf. St. Bonaventure's Major legend of St. Francis, X:7

14. Francis causes a spring of water to flow from a rock for a thirsty man accompanying him

Another time as Francis wanted to go to a hermitage, because he was weak he rode on a donkey belonging to a certain poor man. That man climbed up the mountain following Christ's servant. Worn out from the journey and weakened by a burning thirst he began to cry out after the saint, "I'll die of thirst if I don't get a drink immediately!" Without delay the man of God leaped down from the donkey, knelt on the ground, raised his hands to heaven and prayed unceasingly until he understood that he had been heard. After he had finished his prayer, he told the man, "Hurry over there to the rock and you will find living water where at this hour Christ has mercifully brought forth water from the rock for you to drink."

The Saint is shown in an attitude of trustful prayer. The thirsty man is slaking his thirst with an eagerness that shows how he has suffered. The mystic attitude of Francis is made more expressive when contrasted with the well-fed group which stands to one side on the left of the picture.

Cf. St. Bonaventure's Major Legend of St. Francis, VII:12

15. Francis preaches to the birds near Bevagna

When he was approaching Bevagna, he came upon a place where a large flock of birds of various kinds had gathered. When Francis saw them, he ran to the spot and greeted them as though they had human reason. They all became alert and turned towards him, and those perched in the trees bent their heads as he approached them and in an uncommon way directed their attention to him. He approched them and intently encouraged them all to hear the word of God, saying, "My brother birds, you should greatly praise your Creator, who clothed you with feathers, gave you wings for flight, entrusted to you the pure air. and governs you without your least care." The birds began to stretch their necks, spread their wings, open their beaks, and look at him. None of them left the place until the man of God made the sign of the cross and gave them a blessing and permission to leave. Upon returning to his companions, the simple man began to accuse himself of negligence because he had not previously preached to the birds.

Cf. St. Bonaventure's Major Legend of St. Francis, XII:3

16. Francis foretells the imminent death of a knight of Celano who has invited him to dinner

At another time, after his return from overseas, he went with a companion to Celano to preach, and a certain knight invited him very insistently to dine with him. So they came to the knight's home and the whole family delighted at the arrival of the poor guests. Before they took any food, the man of God offered prayers and praise to God as was his custom, standing with this eyes raised to heaven. When he had finished his prayer, he called his kind host aside and told him in confidence, "Look brother host, overcome by your insistence I have entered your home to eat. Now heed my warnings immediately, because you shall not eat here but elsewhere. Confess your sins right now. The Lord will reward you today for receiving his poor servants with such devotion." The man agreed to the saint's words without delay, he did everything in his power to prepare for death. Then they went to the table, and while the others began to eat, suddenly their host breathed forth his spirit, carried away by sudden death according to the word of the man of God.

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

17. St. Francis improvises a sermon before Pope Honorius III

Once when he was to preach before the Pope and Cardinals at the suggestion of the Lord of Ostia, he memorised a sermon which he had carefully composed. When he stood in their midst to offer his edifying words, he went completely blank and was unable to say anything at all. This he admitted to them in true humility and directed himself to invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly he began to over flow with such effective eloquence and to move the minds of those high-ranking men to compunction with such force and power that it was clearly evident it was not he, but the Spirit of the Lord who was speaking.

Cf. St. Bonaventure's Major Legend of St. Francis, XII:7

18. Francis appears at Arles while St Anthony is speaking to the friars in chapter

The outstanding preacher Anthony was preaching to the brothers at the chapter of Arles on the inscription on the cross "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". As he glanced at the door of the chapter, a brother of proven virtue, Monaldo by name, moved by a divine reminder, saw with his bodily eyes blessed Francis lifted up in the air with his arms extended as if on a cross, blessing the brothers. All the brothers felt themselves filled with a consolation of spirit, so great and so unusual, that it weas certain to them that the Spirit was bearing witness to the true presence of the holy father among them. This was later confirmed by the external testimony of the words of the holy father himself.

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