This Day in History: February 24th

Today in History: February 24, 1208

saint-francisSt. Francis of Assisi didn’t always live what one would consider a saintly life. His dad was a wealthy merchant, and Francis was very fond of wearing expensive duds, getting into street fights and hanging out with other privileged kids. Even so, he showed a concern for the poor and sick that was highly unusual for a young man of his means.

On one occasion, young Francis was selling velvet for his dad in the marketplace. A beggar approached him asking for a coin or two, but Francis was unable to respond to his pleas as he was in the middle of a transaction.

The beggar wandered off into the crowd, and when Francis had conducted his business he abandoned his merchandise to search for him. When Francis found him, he gave the beggar everything he had in his pockets, which earned him a thorough razzing from his buddies, and a serious dressing-down from his old man.

With each passing year, it became evident that Francis was moving farther from a life of carefree decadence, and closer to dedicating himself to the ideals of poverty, charity and love of the natural world.

After returning to Assisi from a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis was praying in the crumbling wayside church of St. Damian’s when a voice reportedly called to him, saying, “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.”

If that wasn’t a big enough celestial hint, when Francis attended Mass on February 24, 1208, his life changed forever. The sermon was based on Matthew 10:9,

Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; [10] take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Francis felt that God was speaking directly to him, and, knowing in his heart he had found his vocation, got rid of his possessions and began his new work.  From that day on, he spent his life preaching repentance as well as caring for the sick, poor and disenfranchised. He advocated for peace and the brotherhood of man. His love of animals was well-known (“All praise to you, Oh Lord, for these brother and sister creatures.”) He believed humans were duty-bound to protect the earth as stewards of God’s creation, and also as its inhabitants.

If you think this sounds a lot like the current Roman Catholic Pope Francis, it’s not a coincidence. The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s choice of name as pontiff was a very deliberate and symbolic one. He chose to honor “a saint that transcends the Catholic Church and is loved by all people, a saint who reached out for simplicity, poverty and care for the poor,” Vatican spokesman Rev. Thomas Rosica explained shortly after Francis ascended the Papal throne in 2013.

A Pope that refuses to sit on a gold throne, wears simple garments, lives in modest apartments and is making strides to address some of the excesses so prevalent in the Church (also a pet peeve of St. Francis,) is perfectly suited to carry on his legacy.

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One comment

  • Quoting the above article: “A Pope that refuses to sit on a gold throne, wears simple garments, lives in modest apartments, and is making strides to address some of the excesses so prevalent in the Church (also a pet peeve of St. Francis,) is perfectly suited to carry on his legacy.”

    How tiresome it is for well-informed readers to come across such examples of anti-Catholic semi-ignorance!

    1. In Vatican City, there is no “gold throne” upon which anyone expects popes to sit. The popes of our lifetimes (Benedict XVI, John Paul II, et al) did not sit on a “gold throne.”

    2. Pope Francis wears the same kind of garments as did his predecessor (except for the color of shoes). The previous popes of our lifetimes were/are not hated (by current admirers of Pope Francis) for any show of ostentatious wealth, but rather because they more openly spoke about deadly sins (such as abortion) than Pope Francis does. [Those who criticized Pope John Paul II and/or Pope Benedict — but who now admire Pope Francis — would also criticize Pope Francis if they could read all the transcripts of the homilies and televised lectures that he delivered before he became pope. The totality of his (pre-papal) words show that he is, as he has said, a “true son of the Church,” believing and teaching everything that the Church holds concerning deadly sins.]

    3. As Pope Francis has made clear (unbeknownst to the writer of the above article), the papal apartment used by his predecessor was ALSO not opulent. When Pope Francis chose not to use it, he stated that it was NOT to avoid opulence, but rather because he is so gregarious that he feels a psychological need to live in a shared building with other priests and bishops.

    4. There are not “excesses … prevalent in the Church.” Instead, there are sins of excess committed by various Catholic people, in every part of the world. Such sins have always been committed by people of every religion, and they always will be. It is not “the Church” that is to be blamed or criticized for this, but rather the individual sinners themselves! The Church has always taught AGAINST such sins. Living side by side with Catholic sinners there have always been countless tremendous saints, noted for their generosity (not “excesses”), St. Francis of Assisi being just one of them.

    5. That which is justly admired in St. Francis and Pope Francis is not the “legacy” of St. Francis, but rather the legacy of Jesus Christ — a legacy that has been inherited and imitated by hundreds of millions of Catholics for almost two thousand years.