05 May, 2009
St. Francis of Assisi
Once up on a time there was a young man by the name of Giovanni Francesco
Bernardone, or more commonly known today as Saint Francis of Assisi and the founder of the
Order of Friars Minor (Short, 21). His life was already planned out for him before the day he was
born. Pietro di Bernardone¸ Francis’ father, was a wealthy cloth merchant and wanted Francis to
enjoy the life that he made for his family and hopefully eventually take over the family business.
Francis enjoyed the life that his father worked so hard to build, but only for a little while. But
like all good things in life, it must come to an end at one point or another. After having read a
few books, articles, and after watching a documentary film about St. Francis, I got to know what
kind of person St. Francis was and what events and other people helped shape St. Francis to the
man that I know him as today. Some of the dramatic events that formed St. Francis’ life to me
were when he got captured during the civil war in Assisi, the first calling from God, and then
renouncing his family’s trade. All of these events have helped St. Francis become the man that
we all love and admire to this day.
Before I get started about St. Francis’ life and his effect on me, I would first like to talk
about a couple of similarities between Siddhartha, a book written by Hermann Hesse and Francis
of Assisi by Lawrence Cunningham. After reading the book Siddhartha in Religion 200, I started
to understand how to accept religion and how to allow religion into my life a little bit more. The
character Siddhartha in Hesse’s book was probably the main reason why I started accepting
religion more as a personal belief instead of a community belief that is usually passed down from
generation to generation and/or currently is being preached. I never really thought about religion
as many made up parts, but more as a whole. I can choose what rules or guidelines I want to
accept from this or from that religion, as long as I am helping out mankind and respecting the
environment around me. In a lot of ways Siddhartha and St. Francis’ lives are similar.
Siddhartha and St. Francis both grew up in a family where their fathers had already planned out
their lives for them. They both were wealthy and arrogant in some point of time. The two of
them had many obstacles that they had to overcome, such as other kinds of religion and people
who did not value their teachings. After having read both books, my belief about religion was
supported by Hesse and St. Francis. I can choose what beliefs and values I want in my life if I
doing it for my Lord.
In 1202, Assisi and the city of Perugia went to war (Cunningham, 7). Francis joined his
fellow soldiers in the war, fighting for Assisi. Unfortunately he was captured and spent a year in
the prison in Perugia’s city hall. Thanks to Francis’ father, Francis got a “Get out of jail card”.
However, while Francis was in prison, he really started to contemplate and think about his life
and his future. I found this part very realistic and insightful. Just imagine yourself in Francis’
shoes. You are captured and sent to jail. You have no idea when you will be let go or be killed.
The days start to turn into weeks, the weeks turning into months, and the months soon added up
to a year. The time would seem to go by in a blink of an eye at first, but once a person has been
in the same routine for “x” amount of days, you would probably start to get bored and begin
wondering about or try other things in life. After watching the movie in class about St. Francis
and reading several books, I got the feeling that St. Francis had an epiphany about his life during
his unpleasant stay in prison. I am not sure if the illness helped Francis become more in touch
with himself or not. Francis must have thought about his recent, most plentiful, material world
that he lives in and how that was going to look in the next couple of years or longer.
Cunningham explains, “One could fill a small library with books written by persons who were
imprisoned for a long period of time who use their silence and solitude to map a new way of life”
(7). We may never really know exactly what Francis thought when he was in jail, but I think we
can all agree that during his time of imprisonment, he started to grow up and become less selfish
and wanted a more meaningful life.
Shortly after Francis’ release from prison, Francis had a divine experience that will
change his life forever. From the movie shown in class, there was a scene when Francis was
walking alone along a semi-forested trail, and he suddenly came upon a run-down church that
was abandoned. Francis went inside the church and found a cross of Jesus on the wall. Seconds
later, Francis heard a calling from God to rebuild his church. Without hesitation, Francis took
this calling literately and dropped to his knees and started scrubbing the floors. In my personal
opinion, the divine calling did not literally mean Francis should start by rebuilding the church,
but in more of a figuratively meaning that Francis should preach the life of Christ. In Francis’
testament he writes, “I worked with my hands, and I desire to work”. To me, this is how St.
Francis first interpreted the calling from God.
By now, Francis has had a calling from God and realizes that he has to change his way
of life. Brad Holt says, “We may not know what we need, and may try to satisfy our needs with
possessions, food, or relationships that do not satisfy and that may bring dangerous side effects”
(1). I strongly feel that this quote appropriately sums up St. Francis’ earlier life experiences.
Francis did enjoy the rich life and had a good time while it lasted, but he really got nothing out of
it in the long run. People, just like you and me, have been known to look at life by this saying,
“Enjoy every moment of your life”. I assume St. Francis would agree that life is to be enjoyed
whenever possible, but a person must also suffer emotionally and physically during the process
of happiness. Happiness is not a gift, it must be earned.
From Thomas of Celano, “He would gladly suffer anything for the name of Christ”
(Celano 193). During this quote, Francis was in to process of renouncing his father’s business of
being a wealthy cloth merchant and becoming a servant for God. I thought this was interesting:
from the movie that was shown in class about St. Francis, there was a scene when St. Francis
took his father’s cloth without his permission and sold them for money to buy tools so he could
fix up the abandoned church. St. Francis’ father accused him of using stolen money to perform a
task that God asked of him. St. Francis reacted to this by going in front of the bishop, outside of
the town church and without hesitation, took off and threw down all of his clothes (Celano, 193).
To me, this was merely an obvious statement that represented his reborn and repentance to God
and to his father for the sins that he has done in life. Cunningham states that Francis was
“nakedly following the naked Christ” (20). St. Francis knew Christ as coming into this world
naked, just like all human being babies to this day, and coming out of this world naked. In the
scene when Francis stripped naked, I understood this as his rebirth into God’s way of life; and
when St. Francis is about to pass over to the other side, he is asked to be stripped naked as well.
After hearing and reading these two events that occurred in St. Francis’ life, I was shocked, but
at the same time idolized St. Francis for having the courage and the will to want the same
experience that Christ went through. If you think about it, St. Francis did something that was out
of the ordinary. That takes a lot of courage and devotion. This experience that St. Francis went
through, in more recent times is like when Rosa Parks sat in front of the city bus. They both did
something out of the norm that was forbidden or not done before.
Holt says, “How one understands spirit will determine how one understands spirituality”
(5). For St. Francis, when he heard the divine calling from God, he came up with his own
interpretation and understanding of what God was asking of him. If someone else heard this
calling, they possibly could have acted on God’s calling in a different way, but it is all based on a
person’s background, their experience with religion, and what values they may have and hold
about religion. In summary, I think the scene when St. Francis was a prisoner, and now getting
the calling from God, and in his near future, renouncing the material world to serve God did have
a significant influence on St. Francis’s life in becoming the Saint who we all admire and respect
to this day. I would like to end this paper by saying “People will not always remember what your
name or how they came to know you, but they will always remember the way you made them