THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI is celebrated virtually worldwide on October 4th - Francis was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church, all Christians, Believers and Non-Believers by taking the Gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Christ said and did, joyfully, without limit, and without a sense of self-importance. He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evoking sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. Francis’ first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no intention of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church’s unity. During the last years of his relatively short life, he died at 44, Francis was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. On his deathbed, Francis said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, “Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death.” Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be like The Lord. He recognized creation as another manifestation of the beauty of God. In 1979, he was named the Patron Saint of the Environment. He did great penance–apologizing to “Brother Body” later in life–that he might be totally disciplined for the will of God. Francis’ poverty had a sister, Humility, by which he meant total dependence on the good God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the gospel life.