St. Francis of Assisi
Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-10/4/1226) is the co-founder of the Franciscan Order. The son of a rich merchant named Pietro di Bernardone, he was very worldly in his early years. He was held prisoner for several months in 1202 during a dispute between Assisi and Perugia. This was followed by a period of illness. Dissatisfied with his life, he turned to prayer and service to the poor, and in 1206 he publicly renounced his father's wealth.
Francis began to live as a hermit and soon attracted followers. He preached the necessity of a poor, simple life-style based on the ideals of the Gospels. Pope Innocent III approved his way of life, gave him and his disciples permission to preach on moral topics, and had Francis ordained a deacon. The followers increased and were called Friars Minor by Francis, that is, the lesser brethren.
With the collaboration of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-8/11/1253), Francis founded (1212) a branch of his order for women, called the Poor Clares. Later, he established (1221) another branch for lay men and women, called the Third Order. In 1219, during the Fifth Crusade, Francis made his famous but fruitless attempt to convert the sultan al-Kamil while the crusaders laid seige to Damietta in Egypt.
Upon returning from the Crusades, Francis retired from the government of the order to a life of contemplation, during which he received the Stigmata (the imprint of the wounds of Christ in his own body) and composed his famous poem, the Canticle of Brother Sun. He died on October 3, 1226 and was canonized in 1228. Francis's feast day is October 4.
Clare, a close friend of St. Francis of Assisi, lived in the 13th Century. Her reputation was like that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "a saint in our midst".
Clare was born into a wealthy family, educated in the domestic arts of spinning and needle work, reading and writing. She knew about St. Francis because of his love for the poor. Francis' father was a successful cloth merchant. In 1204 Francis enlisted in Assisi's war with Perugia. After a year as a prisoner of war, his view of society and its social structures was forever altered.
During this time, urban development was beginning and capitalism was in its infancy. Goods were created through cheap labor and poor working conditions. Francis could see that the poor were most harmed by capitalism and urbanization. He left his father's business and began a simple life dependent on God. He begged and preached in the streets of Assisi and ultimately formed the community of Friars Minor. In 1210 Clare heard Francis preach detachment from things and money, to live in faith, that God will provide as God cares for the birds of the air (Matt 6).
In 1212 Clare left her family and joined Francis. Inspired by Francis' faith, Clare lived and believed in Divine Providence. She depended on God to supply what she and the community needed. Her small group of followers became known as Poor Clares.
In the document on her canonization in 1255, a number of miracles are re-told. Once, finding an empty jar of oil filled when they were in need, Clare believed God had filled it as "a gift of divine generosity". Clare accepted all things and people as a gift from God. She lived among her community as an equal doing daily works with everyone else. She was attentive to the well-being of each sister. Once Clare suspected a sister was suffering from depression and gave her extra sensitivity and care. The nun was restored to health and peace of heart, the canonization document says. The "Legend of Clare" tells us she healed a young boy with an emotional disorder.
Clare was canonized two years after her death and thousands of women still follow her inspiration as Poor Clares around the world.
St Francis Xavier
St Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Born in the family castle of Xavier, near Pamplona in the Basque area of Spanish Navarre on Apr. 7, he was sent to the University of Paris 1552, secured his licentiate in 1528, met Ignatius Loyola and became one of the seven who in 1534, at Montmartre founded the Society of Jesus.
In 1536 he left Paris to join Ignatius in Venice, from whence they all in tended to go as missionaries to Palestine (a trip which never materialized), was ordained there in 1537, went to Rome in 1538, and in 1540, when the pope formally recognized the Society, was ordered, with Fr. Simon Rodriguez, to the Far East as the first Jesuit missionaries. King John III kept Fr. Simon in Lisbon, but Francis, after a year's voyage, six months of which were spent at Mozambique where he preached and gave aid to the sick eventually arrived in Goa, India in 1542 with Fr. Paul of Camerino an Italian, and Francis Mansihas, a Portuguese. There he began preaching to the natives and attempted to reform his fellow Europeans, living among the natives and adopting their customs on his travels.
During the next decade he converted tens of thousands to Christianity. He visited the Paravas at the tip of India. near Cape Comorin, Tuticorin (1542), Malacca (1545), the Moluccas near New Guinea and Morotai near the Philippines (1546-47), and Japan (1549- 51). In 1551, India and the East were set up as a separate province and Ignatius made Francis its first provincial. In 1552 he set out for China, landed on the island of Sancian within sight of his goal, but died before he reached the mainland. Working against great difficulties, language problems ( contrary to legend, he had no proficiency in foreign tongues ), inadequate funds, and lack of cooperation, often actual resistance, from European officials, he left the mark of his missionary zeal and energy on areas which clung to Christianity for centuries.
He was canonized in 1622 and proclaimed patron of all foreign missions by Pope Pius X. F. . Dec. 3.