Perhaps in a nod to the simplicity of lifestyle led by him, and the fact that I have spotty internet service in this corner of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville, Virginia, I could not post yesterday on the Feast of Francis, who was born in 1182 and died on 4 Oct 1226. But I could not let the commemoration of this man pass by without a tribute here.
He is perhaps best known for his legendary relationship with the animals, with whom he reportedly could communicate. Hence, the reason for churches across the world hosting their annual Blessings of the Animals this week. While Francis died nearly a millenium ago, we actually have a great deal of his biographical detail preserved both in his writings and in the Church's historical documents, and it is probably more accurate to say he was a joyful man, with a generosity of spirit and forbearance, who had the gift of discovering the beauty in all of creation.
He was born into a wealthy Italian family, but as a young man heard the voice of Christ calling him to repair the delapidated Church of San Damiano. He sold a bale of precious silk out of his father's warehouse and gave the money to the church--which infuriated his father. They reportedly had a public dispute in which his father disowned him, and Francis renounced his claim as heir, demonstrably taking his fine linen clothes off, handing them to his father, and then walking away naked.
In time, the Pope granted him permission to establish the Order of Friars Minor (known since then as Franciscans), whose vow of poverty arose from a literal interpretation of Matthew 10:7 in which Christ commands: