Life of St. Francis of Assisi | St. Bonaventure
Life of Saint Francis of Assisi.
by Saint. Bonaventure
This is the holy life-story of Saint Francis of Assisi (Italian: San Francesco d'Assisi), born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco (1181/1182 – 3 October 1226), one of the most venerated Saints in history of the Catholic Christian Church.
Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian Roman Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the men's Order of Friars Minor, otherwise known as Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land.
Pope Gregory IX canonised Francis on 16 July 1228. Along with Saint Catherine of Siena, he was designated Patron saint of Italy. He later became associated with patronage of animals and natural environment, which became customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of October 4.
What follows in the following pages in 16 chapters – is the story of his life written by another great man and almost contemporary of St. Francis – by Saint Bonaventure (1221 – 15 July 1274) - an Italian medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher:
The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was canonised on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the Church in the year 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. Saint Bonaventure is also known as the "Seraphic Doctor."
The grace of God our Saviour has appeared in these our latter days in His faithful and devout servant Francis, and has been manifested through him to all those who are truly humble and lovers of holy poverty;
who, honouring and devoutly adoring the superabundance of the Divine mercy, which was so bountifully poured forth upon him, have been taught by his example
to forsake all impiety and worldly desires, to conform their lives to the life of Christ, and with intense and burning desire to thirst after the hope of heavenly beatitude.
For so graciously did God look upon this truly poor and contrite man, that He not only raised the poor and needy from the vile dust of worldly conversation,
but also set him to be a light to the faithful, making him to become a true professor, leader, and herald of evangelical perfection, that, bearing witness to the light, he might prepare before the Lord a way of light and peace in the hearts of the faithful.
For, shining like a morning star in the midst of a dark cloud, he enlightened by the bright rays of his pure doctrine and holy life those who lay in darkness and in the shadow of death, and thus guided them onwards by his bright shining to the perfect day.
And like the glorious rainbow set in the darkness of the clouds, he came forth as the angel of true peace and the sign of the covenant between God and man, bringing glad tidings of peace and salvation;
being sent by God, like the Precursor of Christ, to prepare in the desert of this world the highway of holy poverty, and by word and example to preach penance to men.
Thus prevented by the gifts of heavenly grace, enriched with the merits of invincible virtue, filled with the spirit of prophecy,
and ordained to the angelic office of declaring good tidings, burning with seraphic fire, and raised above all human things in the fiery chariot of Divine love,
it may be reasonably affirmed from the clear testimony of his whole life that he came in the spirit and power of Elias
We may also say that he was truly shadowed forth by that other friend of Christ, the Apostle and Evangelist St. John, under the similitude of the angel whom he saw ascending from the east with the sign of the living God.
Under this figure we may assuredly discern Francis, the servant, herald, and messenger of God, the beloved of Christ, the pattern for our imitation, the wonder of the world,
if we carefully observe and mark the excellency of his marvellous sanctity, by which, during his life, he imitated the purity of the angels, so that he may be set forth as an example to all the perfect followers of Christ.
And we are not only moved firmly to believe this, and confidently to affirm it by that office which he exercised in his own person, inviting all men to tears and penance, clothing himself in sackcloth, girding himself with a cord, shaving his head,
and signing, with the salutary sign of the cross, the foreheads of those who mourned over their offences against God, even as the angel was wont to mark the foreheads of men with the mysterious character of Tau:
we recognize him, indeed, by the habit which he wore, bearing the outward semblance of the cross, but far more certainly by the seal of the likeness of the living God,
even of Jesus Christ crucified, which was impressed upon his body, neither by natural power nor artificial contrivance, but by the marvellous efficacy of the Spirit of the living God.
I know myself, then, to be most unworthy and unequal to describe the life of this most venerable man, thus set forth for the imitation of the faithful;
nor should I ever have attempted such a task, but for my ardent love for my brethren; being moved thereto by the urgent request of our General Chapter,
and no less by the devotion which I am bound to bear to this our holy Father, by whose merits and invocation I was (as I well remember), while yet a child, delivered from the jaws of death.
- Were I then to be silent in his praise, I should fear justly to incur the charge of ingratitude!
Good reason, indeed, have I to undertake this labour, that so, in return for the bodily and spiritual life preserved to me by God for the sake of his merits and virtues,
I, on my part, may preserve as best I may (albeit imperfectly), the acts, words, and virtues of his life, which are scattered and dispersed in various places, and so gather them together, that they may not perish with the lives of those who lived and conversed with him on earth.
Having, therefore, to set forth the life of so holy a man, that I might obtain certain knowledge of all things relating to it, I went to the place where he was born,
and learned, from many who had been familiar with him whilst he was yet on earth, the manner of his life and conversation, and of his departure out of this world.
I examined all these things with great diligence, and conferred thereupon with some who, having been his chief disciples, had full knowledge of his marvellous sanctity, and who are worthy of all credit for their approved virtue and perfect knowledge of the truth.
Now, in describing all these things, and the sublime and wonderful deeds which God was pleased to work by this His servant,
I have judged it fitting to avoid all curious ornaments of style and vain eloquence of words—believing that the devotion of the reader will be enkindled rather by a pure and simple idiom than by an ornamented phraseology.
Neither have I been careful, in weaving the web of my story, to follow the order of time; but, to avoid the confusion of subjects which might thence arise,
I have rather studied to follow such an order as would string together facts of the same class and kind, although they may have taken place at different times.
The beginning, therefore, and course of this life, and finally the end of it, shall be related in 16 chapters, the contents of which, for greater clearness and distinctness, are set down below.