Thursday, October 4, 2007

October 4: Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

From St. Francis of Assisi, Letter to the Faithful (1215)

Since I am the servant of all I am obliged to serve all and to carry out the fragrant words of my Lord, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word of the Father. I must also bring to your attention the words of the Holy Spirit which are spirit and life. Although all the world’s riches were his, Christ and his blessed mother chose poverty. He subjected his will to the will of his Father saying: Father, your will be done; not as I will but as you will. Now this was the will of his Father that his blessed Son, whom he gave us and who was born for us should offer himself by shedding his blood as a sacrifice and victim on the altar of the cross. This sacrifice was not for himself through whom all things were made, but for our sins thus leaving us an example that we should follow in his footsteps. He wants us all to be saved through him and to receive him with pure heart and sinless body. How happy and blessed are they who love the Lord and do what he says in the Gospel: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your neighbor as yourself. Let us therefore love God and adore him with pure heart and soul since he says that he is especially seeking authentic worshippers who will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Let us sing his praises and pray day and night because we must pray always without losing heart.

We must also fast and abstain from vices and sins and from excess in food and drink, and be Catholics. We must visit churches frequently and show reverence to clerics not only for their own sake, even though they be sinners, but because of the office they hold and because of the ministry of the holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which they offer on the altar and which they receive and administer to others. Let all firmly believe that no one can be saved except through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord’s holy words which clerics proclaim and administer. Religious, however, who have renounced the world are obliged to do more and greater things while not neglecting these. We must love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. We are to observe the commandments and counsels of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must also deny ourselves and submit our bodies to the yoke of service and of holy obedience just as each one promised the Lord.

We are not to be wise and prudent according to the flesh, but rather simple and humble and pure.

We must never wish to lord it over others but must rather seek to be servants and subject to every human being for God’s sake. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon all who have done this and persevered till the end, and this spirit will make his dwelling place and above in them and they shall be children of their Father in heaven whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I, friar Francis, your least servant, by the love that is God beg and implore all whom this letter may reach to receive these fragrant words of our Lord Jesus Christ with humility and love and to fulfill them in love and observe them to the letter. May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless all who accept them with love and understand the m and persevere to the end in putting them into practice. Amen.

This reading is taken from the Office of Readings for the Liturgy of the Hours for the solemnity of Our Holy Father, Francis of Assisi, Deacon, Founder of the Three Orders. (Ed. Quaracchi, 1941). Artwork: Michael D. O'Brien

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