Wednesday, October 3, 2007

October 3: The Transitus of Saint Francis of Assisi

From: The Major Life of St. Francis by Brother Bonaventure

“When the hour of his passing was approaching, he had all the brothers staying in the place called to him and, comforting them about his death with words of consolation, he exhorted them to divine love with fatherly affection. He spoke at length about preserving poverty and patience and the faith of the holy Roman Church, placing the holy Gospel ahead of other observances.

"As all the brothers sat around him, he stretched his hand over them, crossing his arms in the form of a cross, for he always loved this sign. And he blessed all the brothers, both present and absent, in the name and power of the Crucified. Then he added: 'Goodbye, all my sons, in the fear of the Lord! Remain in Him always! Because a trial and tribulation is coming in the future, happy are thye who will persevere in those things they have begun. I am hurrying to God, to whose grace I entrust all of you.'

"When he finished this gentle admonition, the man most beloved of God ordered the Book of the Gospels brought to him and asked that the Gospel according to John be read to him from the place that begins: ‘Before the feast of Passover.’ He, as best he could, broke out in this psalm: ‘With my voice I cried to the Lord; With my voice I beseeched the Lord;’ and he finished it to the end. ‘The just,’ he said, ‘will await me until you have rewarded me.’” (Chap. XIV)

On the evening of October 3, 1226, Francis of Assisi died at the age of 44. After spending three days in the humble hut that his brothers had built as an infirmary, Francis had himself placed naked on the bare earth, and he died just as the friars were singing the verse of his "Canticle of the Creatures":

"Be praised, my Lord, for our sister Bodily Death, whom no living man can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are those whom she will find doing your holy will, for to them the second death will do no harm".

Each year, members of the Franciscan family around the world gather to remember the passing of Saint Francis: his transitus, into eternal life. This simple service of songs, readings, and prayers is a very poignant experience for all Franciscans. It is a time for all of us to remember our roots, to reflect upon our call, and to give thanks for the great gift of this extraordinary little poor man of Assisi (“Il Poverello”) , whose dream and struggle nearly 800 years ago to become a “living gospel” continue to inform and inspire people everywhere.

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