ANST - FW: Musing on October 4th -- Patron Saint of the Environment

j'lynn yeates jyeates at
Wed Oct 4 20:39:58 PDT 2000

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- -----Original Message-----
From: Ellsworth Weaver [mailto:astroweaver at]
Sent: Wednesday, October 04, 2000 22:26
To: 2thpix at
Subject: Musing on October 4th -- Patron Saint of the Environment

Dear Folk,

On October 4, 1226 (I have also read October 3rd) the patron saint of
animals, hippies, the city of San Francisco, and maybe even the
environment (well, Al Gore hadn’t invented the term yet) died and
presumably went to Heaven. I am talking about the guy who threw away
everything to get closer to God, St. Francis of Assisi.

You probably already know that his name wasn’t Francis, it was
Francesco Bernardone. That’s okay, John Wayne’s real name was Francis
Marion. It all evens out. The Catholic Church now says he was called
Francis for his love of France. Could be. It was not because, as
earlier rumored, that he spoke French well.

He was born in Assisi in Umbria in 1182 to a wealthy cloth merchant,
Pietro Bernardone, and the daughter of a Provence noble, Pica. Daddy
tried to make him serious and straight by making him a partner in his
business. It did not work (does it ever?) for Giovanni loved to spend
money, drink, gamble and carouse. He was so free with his cash, his
friends nicknamed him "Leaky Palms." This was proven ironic later on.

At the age of twenty-five Francis was taken with a sudden violent
illness. When he recovered he vowed to become religious and never to
refuse alms to any poor person. He  had a dream in which God called
to his service, and he returned to Assisi and began to care for the
sick. In 1206, he had a vision in which Christ called him to repair
Church. Francis interpreted this as a command to repair the church of
San Damiano, near Assisi. He resolved to become a hermit, and devoted
himself to repairing the church.

He exchanged his rich brocades with a filthy beggar (probably
politically incorrect term; how about "natural living indigent street
person"?) and went around looking for lepers to hug. Lepers are now
known as Hansen’s Disease Survivors and probably would like to be
before being hugged, especially by a stranger. Now instead of
away money on riotous living, Francis was throwing it away on being
holy. It was enough to drive his father to drink.

Fact is, Francis got into mortification of the flesh. I am not
at that, there are those who do quite well in "being austere."
did everything to the maximum. His father thought Francis was
completely off the deep end -- well, he was – and so he tried to
"deprogram" the lad. Mr. Bernadone beat Francis pretty darned hard,
him in shackles and locked him up in a closet. I know some of you are
saying "Me next, me next!" Just quit that and right now!

Francis’ mother Pica let Francis out of the closet – will you stop
that! -- when dad was out of town on a business trip. Francis went
to giving away stuff and hugging lepers. When dad came home Mr.
Bernadone threw up his hands and offered to disinherit his only son.
Francis grinned through unbrushed teeth and said that it was fine
him. He had no father now except Jesus and no mother except Holy
Poverty. "I am the herald of the great King", he declared in answer
some robbers, who thereupon despoiled him of all he had, which wasn't
much, and threw him scornfully in a snow drift.

People around him were strangely affected by this Christian dervish.
They followed his example and threw away their possessions and
into the arms of Holy Mother Poverty with him. Eventually he was to
found an order of monks known as the "Friars Minor" which later
known as the Franciscans. They wore long, grey robes and no shoes.
Their leader slept on the ground using a stone for a pillow. He never
ate cooked food and sprinkled everything he ate with ashes. My point
about hippies. For the younger readers, trust me on this.

Francis also had a reversal about his love of women. He refused to
at women; although, he later made an exception for St. Clare whom we
have already talked. He is quoted as saying "To converse with women,
and not be hurt by it, is as difficult as to take fire into one’s
and not be burned." Did we have an issue here, Frank?

These new friars returned to Assisi after getting Pope Innocent II’s
blessing and settled in huts at Rivoreto near the Porziuncula. They
went "on the road" throughout central Italy and beyond, preaching for
people to turn from the world to Christ. In his life and preaching,
Francis emphasized simplicity and poverty, relying on God's
rather than worldly goods. The brothers worked or begged for what
needed to live, and any surplus was given to the poor.

Francis’ dad had wanted his son to become a knight or at least a
troubadour. Somehow he got his wish in a strange fashion. Francis
turned his skills as a troubadour to the writing of prayers and
He wrote a Canticle for the Animals. Knightly devotion? Francis was
full of that but gave up gunching folks with weapons. Yes, he had
training in that, too, and fought in several battles before his

In 1219 Francis joined the crusaders and preached to the Sultan of
Egypt. The Sultan was not very impressed: Francis smelled bad. Still
the Sultan did let some of the Christian prisoners go to make this
man happy.

He eventually gave up leadership of the Order and went to the
to live in secluded prayer. The crowning glory of Francis’ life came
then in a vision where he saw Jesus on the cross. When he came to his
senses there was a red wound on his side as though he had been
with a lance, nail holes on his feet and nail holes in his hands. See
what I meant about ironic? He had stigmata. The wound on his side was
there the rest of his life and periodically oozed blood.

It was during Christmastide of 1223 that Francis conceived the idea
celebrating the Nativity "in a new manner", by reproducing in a
at Greccio the praesepio of Bethlehem, and he has thus come to be
regarded as having inaugurated the population devotion of the manger
scene. Christmas appears indeed to have been the favorite feast of
Francis, and he wished to persuade the emperor to make a special law
that men should then provide well for the birds and the beasts, as
as for the poor, so that all might have occasion to rejoice in the
Lord.  See the connection to animals now?

He returned to visit the Franciscans, and Clara and her sisters, and
few of his followers remained with him. He died at the Porziuncula on
October 3 or 4th, 1226. His saint’s day is October 4th.

Francis called for simplicity of life, poverty, and humility before
God. He worked to care for the poor. Thousands were drawn to his
sincerity, piety, and joy. In all his actions, Francis sought to
fully and literally the way of life demonstrated by Christ in the
Gospels. His followers, unlike the Cathari and Savonarola, were
welcomed as no great threat to the Church.

What have we learned? The Holy Mother Church will not whack you if
do not call them Satan and tell them all to get rid of their finery?
Sometimes fathers get their wish for their children in strange ways?
you love the Baby Jesus in the manger, you have Francis to thank? How
about, we can all live on less than we think? Maybe that is my
lesson to myself.

If you are out there hugging lepers, disgusting a Sultan, throwing
heralds into snow banks or just mortifying your flesh in San
and want to forward this good news to someone else, pray do. Remember
to keep my name and sig. attached so they know whom to blame.

Continually taking fire into my bosom,
Ellsworth Weaver

SCA – Sir Balthazar of Endor
AS – Polyphemus Theognis
TRV – Sebastian Yeats

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