The title of this post is deliberately misleading. We all know the Prayer of St. Francis, don’t we? We have read it in greeting cards, seen it on inspirational plaques, even sung it at Mass. It’s a lovely prayer, lovely poem, lovely song.
But St. Francis didn’t write it. Some research shows shows that the prayer actually originated with a French Protestant movement known as The Knights of the Prince of Peace.
So let’s ignore that nice prayer, and lots of other stories attributed to St. Francis. Let’s talk about who the man was.
This is a portrait of St. Francis. In fact, it is the only known portrait of St. Francis. It is a fresco done sometime before 1224, as we can see that he has not been given the gift of the stigmata at this point. This amazing painting can be viewed in Subiaco, Italy, in the church at the Monastery of St. Benedict. The monastery is built around the Sacro Speco, Sacred Space, a cave where St. Benedict lived as a hermit for three years in the beginning of the 6th century.
700 years later, Brother Francis traveled to Subiaco and stayed at the monastery, where his likeness was committed to paint and plaster.
This is the San Damiano cross, which spoke to Francis and told him to rebuild the Church. It hangs over the altar of the Chapel of the Crucifix in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assissi.
Francis took the command literally. He was to rebuild a Church that had lost its way, and he was to rebuild a church for him and his friars. He was given a small chapel built by the Benedictines in the 9th century, and he refurbished it with his own hands.
The story of the Porziuncola, the little church, is that Francis was awakened with a strong impulse to pray at its altar. While praying, Jesus and Mary appeared to Francis and asked him what he wanted. He asked for a full pardon of all sins to all who have repented and confessed their sins and visited the church. Jesus granted the request, and Pope Honorius III ratified it. The chapel is inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, St. Mary of the Angels.
Francis was a man entirely devoted to God. He never stopped praying, and he considered everything he had as a gift from God. He considered his poverty to be a gift from God, too.
That is the true message of stewardship. That’s the message we should carry with us every minute of every day. All that we have comes from God, and everything belongs to him. We are the caretakers of those gifts – their stewards.
Happy memorial of St. Francis. Go ahead and sing that song. Even though St. Francis never wrote it, it’s still a very nice message attached to soothing music. Just know that Francis was truly devoted, and that his prayer would be for us to be devoted to God as well.