Renouncing a life of privilege and wealth for a life of poverty and humility among the lepers and the impoverished he served, Saint Francis of Assisi offers a model of Gospel living that has transcended time. His spirituality not only revolutionized the medieval milieu in which he lived, but also gave birth to a Franciscan spirituality that is as profound and life-giving today as it was in the thirteenth century.
As Felician Sisters, we celebrate and embrace our Franciscan heritage and the humble spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi.
“Repair My House”
The son of a wealthy merchant, Francis broke with family tradition and expectations as well as his own profligate ways and turned to God living a life in poverty and selflessness, contemplation, and service to the poor. His conversion was gradual, thought to have begun when he was held captive as a prisoner of war in a battle against Perugia. After time spent in battle, in sickness, and in journeys far from Assisi, Francis experienced a spiritual epiphany when, upon his return to Assisi, he prayed before the crucifix in Assisi’s San Damiano Church, hearing the voice of God calling him “to repair my house.”
Francis accepted the call in the most literal sense, and began repairing this church that had fallen into dire disrepair. In time, Francis came to understand this calling as a more universal call—one that would prompt him to flee the trappings and opportunities of his wealthy upbringing, to seek spiritual guidance in the mountainous terrain high above Assisi.
Francis underwent a spiritual conversion that ultimately never ended. In fact, the notion of ongoing conversion is at the very core of Franciscan spirituality.
Life of Poverty and Humility
He embraced a live of poverty as he preached the Gospel message and served the poor and the lepers in the valley. He went where no one else would go, bringing the healing message of God’s love to all. Francis treated the impoverished and the marginalized with compassion and dignity, seeing the face of God in all whom he met. Likewise, he treated all of God’s creation with reverence and care, seeing in all things the reflection of God’s divine love.
Shortly before his death, Francis received the stigmata—the wounds of Jesus crucified—while he prayed in his beloved mountainside refuge of Mount La Verna high in the Tuscan Appenines.
Francis of Assisi was named to sainthood by Pope Gregory IX in 1228, two years after Francis’ death. The Church celebrates Saint Francis’ feast day on October 4, with an additional feast day celebrated on September 17 in honor of Saint Francis’ receipt of the stigmata.
Followers of Saint Francis
Francis’ followers became known as Franciscans, who today, more than nine centuries later, comprise thousands of vowed men and women religious in hundreds of communities and congregations worldwide devoted to the simple yet profound spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi.