St. Francis – 803 Years of Unceasing Conversion
Grace and peace to you after the glorious solemnity of our Holy Father, St. Francis! Every year, the friars and sisters and our friends gather on October 3rd to pray the Transitus, or the “crossing” of St. Francis from life to death. Over the last few years, the novices, postulants, and sister candidates, under the direction of Father Agustino, put on a dramatic production of Francis’ life from before his conversion until his death. Each year brings new laughs and new tears while stirring in us a renewed love for our founder and a reinvigorated desire to live more faithfully the live he has set before us, which is nothing other than the Gospel.
Our culture can have a pretty inaccurate idea of who was this “most Catholic of men.” St. Francis was not a sissy, but was of Assisi! He did love animals, but more so through his admonition to the brothers that, “God created you according to His image and likeness, and yet all creatures under heaven, each according to his own nature, serve, know, and obey their Creator better than you.” His brothers certainly inherited his love for animals as one of our friars once said during an EWTN interview, “We love animals – they’re delicious.” Furthermore,St. Francis never wrote the popular “Peace Prayer.” We don’t have any recorded writings of him saying, “Preach the Gospel; use words when necessary,” but we do have, “Give praise to Him since He is good and exalt Him by your deeds for He has sent you into the entire world for this reason that in word and deed you may give witness to His voice and bring everyone to know that there is no one who is all powerful except Him.” Francis never dissented from the teaching authority of the Church nor disrespected, ignored, disobeyed, or undermined Her hierarchy, but instead wrote in his rule, “I command the ministers, through obedience, to petition the Lord Pope for one of the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, who would be the governor, protector, and corrector of this fraternity, so that, always submissive and prostrate at the feet of the same holy Church, and steadfast in the Catholic faith, we may observe the poverty and the humility of the holy Gospel.”
Br. Isaiah Hoffman, CFR Novice, plays the part of St. Francis
Being this the “Year of the Priest”, this year’s Transitus production featured a new scene that demonstrated the great love Francis had for priests - even the most sinful. As the stage lights came on, one of our postulants, dressed as a priest, was celebrating Mass while his people were off to the other side of the stage with their backs turned and their arms crossed. Francis, played by one of the novices, appears and asks them why they are not attending Mass. They claim that the priest of their parish is a public sinner; that he is out all night drinking and visiting the local brothel. Francis tells them that no matter how sinful of a priest he may be, God still uses his hands to turn the bread and wine he offers into the Body and Blood of Christ. He enters the church, and as the priest finishes the Mass, Francis kneels before him and kisses his hands and feet. Francis’ kindness and reverence reminds the priest of his great dignity and, falling to his knees, he begs Francis to pray for him.
St. Francis and his companions (played by Br. Angelo LeFever and Br. Pierre Toussiant Guiteau) before his conversion
Francis said in several of his writings:
“We must venerate and show respect for the clergy, not so much for them personally if they are sinners, but by reason of their office and their administration of the most holy Body and Blood of Christ which they sacrifice upon the altar and receive and administer to others.” …
“Woe to those who look down upon the clergy; for even though they may be sinners, nonetheless no one is to judge them since the Lord alone reserves judgment on them to Himself. …Those who sin against them commit a greater sin than if they sinned against all other people of this world.” …
“Let the whole of mankind tremble, the whole world shake, and the heavens exalt when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest.”
For the Solemn Mass of St. Francis, the Church gives Franciscans a sequence that is sung after the second reading and before the Gospel. It is a prayerful testament to his conversion, life and stigmatization. Please pray for us, that we might become less unworthy sons and daughters of our Holy Father Francis.
May Jesus and Mary reign in our hearts! Ave Maria!
Br. Aloysius Marie Mazzone, CFR
St. Joseph Friary
New York, NY
Lo, new signs of sanctity,
Deserving praise in high degree,
Wonderful and fair to see,
In Francis now behold!
To this newly-gathered band
Francis gives the King’s command,
And guided by his mighty hand,
The New Law does unfold.
Before the world’s astonished view
Arise the life and Order new
Whose holy rules again renew
The evangelic state.
Francis to Christ’s law conforms,
The life monastic he reforms
And all the apostolic norms
He keeps inviolate.
Scant the measure of his food;
Scant his raiment, coarse and rude;
A cord his girdle plain and rude;
He goes with feet unshod.
For naught but poverty he yearns;
From money he in loathing turns;
All earthly things now Francis spurns,
Despising all for God.
He seeks a place to weep apart,
And mourns in bitterness of heart
The time he lost while taking part
In earthly things so vain.
Within a mountain cavern lone
He hides to weep, and lying prone;
Prays aloud with sigh and groan;
Then peace returns again.
There in that rocky cave’s retreat,
Enrapt in contemplation sweet,
The wise judge spurns the earth beneath,
To heaven he aspires.
His flesh by penance is subdued,
Transfigured wholly and renewed;
The Scriptures are his daily food;
He scorns all base desires.
Then like a seraph from the height
Of Heaven, comes the King of might;
The patriarch, in deep affright,
Beholds the vision dread.
It bears the marks of Christ, and lo!
While Francis stands in speechless woe
It pierces him, and blood does flow
From out the wounds so red.
His body, like Christ’s crucified,
Is signed on hands and feet.
Pierced through and through, is slowly dyed
In crimson streams of blood.
Prophetic secrets now are heard;
Great wisdom has the Lord conferred
Upon the saint; the mystic word
His soul with light does flood.
Now in those bleeding wounds, behold!
Black nails appear, cause pain untold.
Sharp are the points, and manifold
The anguish and the woe.
No human instrument did aught
To make those wounds; they were not brought
To him by nature’s hand, nor wrought
By cruel hammer-blow.
We pray you, by the cross’s sign
Marked on your flesh, whereby ‘twas yours
The world, the flesh, all things malign,
To conquer gloriously:
O Francis, take us to your care,
Protect us here from every snare,
That we your great reward may share
In heaven eternally.
O holy Francis, Father sweet,
Devoutly we your aid entreat.
May we and all your children meet,
Crowned victors in the strife.
In virtue’s path our footsteps train
And guide us where the saints now reign,
That we, your children, may attain
The joys of endless life. Amen. Alleluia.