St. Francis Church
Built in 1951, this small attractive church is attached to an old people’s
home, near the hill of Mong-Ha.
The interior is simple and tranquil with a modernist black marble altar.
High louvred shutters along the walls open to pleasant courtyards and gardens.
Avenida Xavier Pireira
”’Saint Francis of Assisi”’ (born in Assisi, Italy, ca. 1182; died there
on October 3, 1226) founded the Franciscan Order or “Friars Minor”.
He is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
Boyhood and early manhoodBorn ”’Giovanni Bernardone”’, commonly known as
Francesco. His father, Pietro, was a wealthy cloth merchant. Of his mother,
Pica, little is known. Francis was one of several children.
The name of Francesco (“the French-man”), by which his baptismal
name was soon altogether replaced, has many conflicting explanations to its
origin. One claims it to have been given him soon after his birth by his father,
returning to Assisi from a trip to France; according to another account it was
due to his early acquisition of the French language (possibly because his mother
is believed to have been French). But perhaps the most probable explanation
comes from his infatuation with French literature, particularly with the Troubadors.
It is interesting to note the similarity between the lifestyle of the troubadors,
free of all worldly possessions, the antithesis of the life his father wanted
for him–and that which he would one day follow himself in his ministry.
Rebellious toward his father’s business and pursuit of wealth, Francis would
spend most of his youth lost in books (ironically his father’s wealth did afford
his son an excellent education, and he became fluent in reading several languages
including Latin). He was also known for drinking and enjoying the company of
his many friends, who were usually the sons of nobles. His displays of disillusionment
toward the world that surrounded him became evident fairly early, one of which
is shown in the story of the beggar. In this account, he found himself yet again
out having fun with his friends one day when a beggar came along and asked for
alms. While his friends ignored the beggar’s cries, Francis gave the man everything
he had in his pockets. His friends quickly chided and mocked him for his stupidity,
and when he got home, his father scolded him in a rage.
In 1201 he joined a military expedition against Perugia, was taken prisoner,
and spent a year as a captive. It is probable that his conversion to more serious
thoughts was a gradual process relating to this experience.
It is said that when he began to avoid the sports of his former companions,
and they asked him laughingly if he was thinking of marrying, he answered “Yes,
a fairer bride than any you have ever seen” – meaning his “lady poverty”,
as he afterward used to say.
He spent much time in lonely places, asking God for enlightenment. By degrees
he took to nursing the most repulsive victims in the lazar houses near Assisi.
After a pilgrimage to Rome, where he begged at the church doors for the poor,
he had a vision in which he heard a voice calling upon him to restore the Church
of God which had fallen into decay. He thought this to mean the ruined church
of St. Damian near Assisi and sold his horse together with some cloth from his
father’s store, giving the proceeds to the priest for this purpose.
Pietro, highly indignant, attempted to bring him to his senses, first with
threats and then with corporal chastisement. After a final interview in the
presence of the bishop, Francis renounced all expectations from his father,
laying aside even the garments received from him, and for a while was a homeless
wanderer in the hills around Assisi.
Returning to the town where he spent two years this time, he restored several
ruined churches, among them the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, just
outside the town, which later became his favorite abode.
The beginning of the BrotherhoodAt the end of this period (according to Jordanus,
in 1209), a sermon which he heard on the Gospel of Matthew 10:9, where Christ
tells his followers that they should go forth and proclaim that the kingdom
of heaven is upon them, and that they should take no money with them, that they
should take no walking stick for the road, and that they should wear no shoes
— made such an impression on him that he decided to devote himself wholly to
a life of apostolic poverty.
Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Evangelical precept, without
staff or scrip, he began to preach repentance. He was soon joined by a prominent
fellow townsman, Bernardo di Quintavalle, who contributed all that he had to
the work, and by other companions, who are said to have reached the number of
eleven within a year, whom he called the “fratres minores”, in Latin,
“the little brothers”. The Franciscans are sometimes called Friars,
and this is a term derived from “fratres”, or “brothers”
The brothers lived in the deserted lazar house of Rivo Torto near Assisi;
but they spent much of their time traveling through the mountainous districts
of Umbria, always cheerful and full of songs, yet making a deep impression on
their hearers by their earnest exhortations.
Their life was extremely ascetic, though such practises were apparently not
prescribed by the first rule which Francis gave them (probably as early as 1209),
which seems to have been nothing more than a collection of Scriptural passages
emphasizing the duty of poverty.
In 1209 Francis led his followers to Rome and asked the Pope’s permission
to found a new religious order. In spite of the obvious similarity between Francis’
principles and the fundamental ideas of the followers of Peter Waldo whose similar
request had previously been rejected by the Pope, the brotherhood of Assisi
succeeded in gaining the approval of Pope Innocent III. The reason for this
unlikely approval is because after the Pope’s rejection of Waldo, his group
had paradoxically become more popular than ever. Realizing this, the Pope wished
to avoid repeating that mistake in an attempt to fight heresy, which had become
an increasing problem for the Church. Therefore, the Pope believed he could
prevent the spread of the Franciscans, or at least control it, by granting them
Many legends have clustered around the decisive audience of Francis with the
Pope. The account in Matthew of Paris, according to which the Pope originally
sent the shabby saint off to keep swine, and only recognized his real worth
by his ready obedience, has, in spite of its improbability, a certain historical
interest, since it shows the natural antipathy of the olderBenedictine monasticism
to the plebeian mendicant orders.
Work and extension of the BrotherhoodIt was not, however, a life of idle mendicancy
on which the brothers entered when they set out in 1210 with the papal approbation,
but one of diligent labor. Their work embraced devoted service in the abodes
of sickness and poverty, earnest preaching by both priests and lay brothers,
and missions in an ever widening circle, which finally included heretics and
They came together every year at Pentecost in the little church of the Portiuncula
at Assisi, to report on their experiences and strengthen themselves for fresh
There is considerable uncertainty as to the chronological and historical details
of the last fifteen years of the founder’s life.
But to these years belong the accounts of the origin of the first houses in
Perugia, Cortona, Pisa, Florence, and elsewhere (1211-1213); the first attempts
at a Muslim mission, in the sending of five brothers, soon to be martyrs, to
Morocco, as well as in a journey undertaken by Francis himself to Spain, from
which he was forced by illness to return without accomplishing his object; the
first settlements in the Spanish peninsula and in France; and the attempts,
unsuccessful at first, to gain a foothold in Germany. The alleged meeting of
Francis and St. Dominic in Rome at the time of the Fourth Council of the Lateran
(1215) belongs to the domain of legend; even Sabatier’s argument to show that
such a meeting actually took place in 1218 is open to serious objection.
Historical in the main are the accounts relating to the journey of Francis
to Egypt and Palestine, during the Fifth Crusade, where he attempted to convert
the Sultan Al-Kamil and gave fearless proofs of his readiness to suffer for
his faith; the internal discord, which he found existing in the order on his
return to Italy in 1220; the origin of his second and considerably enlarged
rule, which was replaced two years later by the final form, drawn up by Cardinal
Ugolino; and possibly the granting by Pope Honorius III (in 1223) of the Indulgence
of the Portiuncula – a document which Sabatier, who formerly rejected it, later
The last yearsFrancis had to suffer from the dissensions just alluded to and
the transformation which they operated in the originally simple constitution
of the brotherhood, making it a regular order under strict supervision from
Especially after Cardinal Ugolino had been assigned as protector of the order
by Honorius III – it is said, at Francis’ own request – he saw himself forced
further and further away from his original plan. Even the independent direction
of his brotherhood was, it seems, finally withdrawn from him; at least after
about 1223 it was practically in the hands of Brother Elias of Crotona, an ambitious
politician who seconded the attempts of the cardinal-protector to transform
the character of the order.
However, in the external successes of the brothers, as they were reported
at the yearly general chapters, there was much to encourage Francis. Caesarius
of Speyer, the first German provincial, a zealous advocate of the founder’s
strict principle of poverty, began in 1221 from Augsburg, with twenty-five companions,
to win for the order the land watered by the Rhine and the Danube; and a few
years later the Franciscan propaganda, starting from Cambridge, embraced the
principal towns of England.
But none of these cheering reports could wholly drive away from the mind of
Francis the gloom which covered his last years.
He spent much of his time in solitude, praying or singing praise to God for
his wonderful works. The canticle known as ”’Laudes creaturarum”’, with its
childlike invocations to Brother Sun, Sister Moon with the stars, Brother Wind,
Sister Water, Brother Fire, and finally Sister Death, to raise their voices
to the glory of God (influenced by The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three
Holy Children), dates from this period of his life.
The hermit stage which opened the career of many monastic founders was reserved
for the end of his who had once been so restless in his activity.
He spent the short remainder of his life partly on Monte Alverno on the upper
Arno, where he fasted forty days and longed for union with God, to be demonstrated
by the impression on his body of the wounds of Christ (see Stigmata); partly
at Rieti under medical treatment; and partly in his beloved Portiuncula at Assisi
waiting for his deliverance from the flesh. It is believed by some historians
that his last days drew huge crowds of people wanting to bask in his presence,
as well as those who awaited his death for the dividing up of his body for the
purpose of relics.
He died October 3, 1226, at Assisi, and was canonized two years later by Pope
Gregory IX, the former cardinal-protector of the order.
As patron saint of the environment
Legend has it that St. Francis preached to the birds and other creatures,
as well as preaching to humans. He is known today as the patron saint of animals
and the environment. His image is often placed in gardens in respect for his
interest in all things natural. His feast day is October 4.
The so-called ”’Prayer of Saint Francis”’ is a Christian prayer widely attributed
to the 13th-century saint Francis of Assisi, although it cannot be traced back
further than the 19th century.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”