Francis Of Assisi

, a celebrated saint of the Romish church, and founder of one of the four orders of mendicant friars, called Franciscans, was born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1182. He was the son of a merchant, and was christened John, but had the name of Francis added, from his facility of talking French, which he learned to qualify him for his father’s profession. He was at first a young man of dissolute manners, but in consequence of an illness about 1206, he became so strongly affected with religious zeal, that he took a resolution of retiring from the world. He now devoted himself so much to solitude, mortified himself to such a degree, and contracted so ghastly a | countenance, that the inhabitants of Assisi thought him distracted. His father, thinking to make him resume his profession., employed a very severe method for that purpose, by throwing him into prison; but finding this made no impression on him, he took him before the bishop of Assisi, in order to make him resign all claim to his paternal estate, which he not only agreed to, but stripped off all his clothes, even to his shirt. He then prevailed with great numbers to devote themselves, as he had done, to the poverty which he considered as enjoined by the gospel; and drew up an institute or rule for their use, which was approved by pope Innocent III. in 1210. The year after, he obtained of the Benedictines the church of Portiuncula, near Assisi, and his order increased so fast, that when he held a chapter in 1219, near 5000 friars of the order of Minors (so they were called) were present. Soon after he obtained also a bull in favour of his order from pope Honorius III. About this time he went into the Holy Land, and endeavoured in vain to convert the sultan Meledin. It is said, that he offered to throw himself into the flames to prove his faith in what he taught. He returned soon after to his native country, and died at Assiai in 1226, being then only fortyfive. He was canonized by pope Gregory IX. the 6th of May, 1230; and Oct. the 4th, on which his death happened, was appointed as his festival.

His order soon rose to great splendor, and has done great services to the Roman pontiffs. Some popes, several cardinals, and a great number of prelates, and celebrated authors, have been of it. It is divided into several bodies, some of which are more rigid than others; and all strongly inherit the ancient emulation, which soon broke out between the children of St. Francis and those of St. Dominic. Before the reformation, the Franciscans had in England about eighty convents, besides some nunneries. Those who are desirous to know more of St. Francis and his order, besides our authorities at the bottom of the page, may be referred to his life written by Bonaventure. But perhaps the most ample and circumstantial accounts are given by Luke Wadding, in the first volume of his “Annales Ordinis Minorum,” which contains a complete history of the Franciscan order, confirmed by a great numbep of authentic records. The best edition of this work is that published at Rome in 1731, and following years, in 18 vols. fol. by Joseph Maria Fonseca ab Ebora. It is to the | same Wadding that we are indebted fur the “Opuscula S. Francisci,” and the “Bibliotheca ordinis Minorum,” the former of which appeared in 4to, at Antwerp, 1625, and the latter at Rome in 1650. The history of these orders will, it is hoped, be of less consequence hereafter, when a more enlightened state of society has shown their insufficiency in the advancement of real religion, but it can never be uninteresting to know the early rise of those formidable bodies of ecclesiastics which once held the world in awe. The life of St Francis, like that of most of the Romish saints, is rendered incredible and ridiculous by the addition of miracles and prodigies, the fictions of after-times, but could they be separated from what is genuine, he might probably appear an enthusiast, yet sincere in what he believed and practised. 1

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Gen. Dict.—Mosheim and Milner’s Church Hist.—Fabric. Bibl. Lat. Med. —Butler’s Lives of the Saints.