Chapter Seven

The Final Years

Lesson Forty-five—Explosion of the Order

Lesson: In 1220, after Francis completed his trip to convert the sultan, he returned to Assisi to help his order that was experiencing internal problems. When the Order of Friars Minor began in 1209, there were only 12 brothers. By 1220, the friars numbered about 5000. As a result of this rapid growth, there was dissension among the friars on how they should live, especially regarding the radical poverty Francis loved so dearly. For the first decade, the original rule of life was continually upheld by the witness and teaching of Francis himself. But now, with so many brothers, Francis’s personal influence and inspiration could not always prevail. Though this was partly a challenge to Francis’s vision of poverty, it was also in part due to the expansion of the friars’ various ministries and their many new establishments in different countries and climates. For example, some of the friars were becoming more actively involved in the urban scene, including parishes and the academic life of universities, and some of the new hermitages were in colder countries, making it more difficult to go without shoes.

At the first General Chapter meeting of the Friars Minor, held in the year 1217 at the Portiuncula, the order was split into two provinces for more efficient governing. These two provinces oversaw several missions; among them were missions in Tuscany and Lombardy in Italy; Provence, France; Spain; and Germany. Around the year 1221, the friars held a General Chapter meeting that came to be called the “Chapter of Mats.” At this meeting, more than 5,000 brothers gathered, taking up dwelling in small mud huts and tents made of mats, hence the name Chapter of Mats. They were generously provided food by the townspeople and those in the neighboring villages.

At that meeting, Francis resigned his position as the order’s Minister General, humbly turning over the leadership to one who was more administratively qualified. Francis also presented to the order a new rule of life that gave more details than the Rule of 1209. Though the rule was initially approved by the friars, it was never presented to the Holy Father because of concerns that arose the following year among some in leadership within the order and the wider Church. Therefore, for the next two years, Francis retreated into much prayer, working also to form a new and final rule. Though he was no longer the General of the Order, he was often treated as such, being the founder and central source of inspiration for all.

Reflection: Saint Francis, like all of us, had to accept change. With the growth of his order, he discerned that it was time for him to trust God more than he trusted himself. He could no longer administer the order and he knew it, so God inspired him to give up the role of the order’s Minister General and assume the responsibility of a humble brother.

Even though he gave up the office of Minister General, he was still the founder of the order and the primary source of inspiration to his brothers. Therefore, in his humble role, God continued to use him in new and varied ways, including in the ongoing formulation of the Rule of the Friars Minor.

In each of our lives, change is inevitable. In family life, parents will often struggle as their children grow and begin to make decisions for themselves. In work environments, within friendships, and in almost every part of our lives, change will be necessary as the will of God unfolds.

For Saint Francis and his brothers, the changes they experienced were the result of something very good. They were growing more rapidly than anyone could have ever imagined. Their missionary activity was expanding, their common life together encountered challenges, and God was using the Friars Minor in many new ways. Change was necessary, but trust in God’s guiding hand through those changes was even more necessary. Saint Francis followed the voice of God and embraced the changes he sensed God calling him to, so that God could continue the good work He had begun.

Reflect, today, upon anything in your life that requires change. Do you resist it? Do you try to hold onto the old ways when God is calling you to something new? Do not fear change. Instead, when change seems necessary, deepen your trust in God’s plan and open yourself to the new and glorious ways that God wants to use you.

Saint Francis, God did amazing things through you during your lifetime and beyond. As your order grew, you trusted God enough to surrender over to Him the care of your brothers. You did not fear change but embraced it with hope and confidence in God. Please pray that I will always trust God during the changes in my life. May I always be open to the many new ways God wants to use me for His glory. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Lesson Forty-six—The Second Rule is Approved

Lesson: As Francis prayerfully worked on writing the new Rule for the Friars Minor from 1221-1223, some historians suggest that it was a difficult period of time for him. The large growth, differing opinions within the order, and Francis’s own failing health became heavy crosses for him to bear, making the Cross of his Lord even more central in his life and prayer. Some believe that it was about this time that Francis entered into his discourse with Brother Leo about perfect joy. Recall that, according to Francis’s inspiration, perfect joy was ultimately found in enduring all sufferings, even rejection by his own brothers, all for the love of Christ so as to imitate Christ’s sufferings. It was clear that Francis was overwhelmed by the growing divisions he saw within his newly founded order, so he withdrew for these two years of prayer while he sought inspiration from God for the definitive Rule.

Eventually, in the year 1223, Francis finished the final Rule with the help of Cardinal Ugolino, and it was subsequently approved by the brothers. It was then submitted to Pope Honorius III and approved on November 29, 1223. Essentially, this Rule was the same as the original Rule with various additions that were found necessary over the previous decade to add clarity to the order as it expanded and took on new apostolic work. More technical and canonical language was also used in order to gain the approval of the Church. Francis believed that God had inspired the Rule, and that it was nothing other than a wholehearted embrace of the Gospels.

Reflection: Saint Francis persevered. When faced with new challenges, he continued his trust in God’s providence and allowed God to use him and to inspire him to fulfill His will. As the new Rule of the Friars Minor was approved by the Holy Father, Saint Francis must have truly rejoiced. God’s providence was confirmed to him in that act, and he saw the good fruit of his many labors.

In our own lives, serving the will of God is not always easy. But if we persevere and are faithful to the end, sometimes we see the good fruit of those labors. Other saints persevered throughout their lives, never seeing the good fruit that would come from their service to God until after they died. We must always be willing to work and serve, regardless of whether the good fruits of our labors are evident to us.

As you look at your life right now, is there some task that you sense God calling you to fulfill that seems to bear little or no good fruit? If so, press on. Don’t get discouraged. Be faithful to the will of God and know that your service delights the Heart of Christ. If there has been some daunting task you sensed God calling you to fulfill through toil and difficulty and then saw God bring forth good fruit as a result, rejoice that you were blessed to see the fruit of your labor.

Reflect, today, upon the fidelity of Saint Francis to the will of God as he cared for his growing order. Consider the difficult temptations he might have faced as he wrestled with the formulation of his more definitive Rule for his friars. Ponder his perseverance and give thanks to God for the good fruit that was borne of his labors. And if you find yourself struggling with some difficult endeavor, know that your fidelity to the will of God is all that matters.

Saint Francis, you went through a difficult period in your life as you encountered the many challenges your order endured in the formulation of your Rule. Through it all, you persevered and remained faithful to the will of God. That fidelity bore a tremendous amount of good fruit. Please pray that I will also persevere through difficult times in my life and will always remain faithful to the will of God, even when I do not see the fruits of my labor. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Lesson Forty-seven—Greccio

Lesson: At the time that the Holy Father approved the definitive Rule that Francis submitted, Francis was staying in a hermitage in the town of Greccio. He remained there for the Advent and Christmas seasons in 1223. Upon learning of the approval of his Rule, Francis was overjoyed. One of the ways he celebrated this joy during that Advent season was by a celebration of the birth of the Child of Bethlehem in a very special way.

Francis always had a deep love for the Incarnation, since he saw it as an act of the greatest humility and poverty. The Son of God Himself, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, emptied Himself, being born as a poor babe in the town of Bethlehem. This poverty and humility of the Son of God was one of the most inspiring parts of the Holy Gospel for Francis. He saw his radical call to complete poverty as a true imitation of the poverty of Christ Himself.

To show his love for the Christ Child, Francis asked a friend to help create what would become the first living nativity set. To accomplish this goal, animals were gathered into a cave near the hermitage. Francis and his friend then placed a manger in the center of the scene and filled it with straw. Many people from the town gathered together on the eve of Christmas, bearing candles and torches to light up the night. They sang beautiful music, and then a priest celebrated the Mass over the manger. During that Mass, Francis himself—being a deacon—read the Gospel and preached the sermon with deep devotion and affection for the Child of Bethlehem. The manger was left empty because it was the Mass that provided the Child. The consecration of the bread and wine brought forth the Son of God. Thus, Bethlehem was truly made present to them in not only a symbolic way, but also in a real way. In the centuries to follow, this first nativity set became a prominent devotion throughout the world.

Once the Christmas celebration was completed, the straw that was used was said to have been the source of numerous miracles. Sick animals who ate it recovered, women who were enduring difficult childbirths touched the straw and were healed, and many other miracles were said to have happened on account of the sick touching that straw. 

Reflection: We must always rejoice in the working of God! Saint Francis, overjoyed at how he saw God provide for his brothers and him by the formulation of their definitive Rule, offered praise to God through a special celebration of the Nativity of Christ.

Too often in our own lives, when God’s providence is evident, we fail to properly rejoice and offer Him our praise and thanksgiving. One way of offering praise to God is by honoring Him through our devotions and prayers. For Saint Francis, that meant honoring the Incarnation with a live nativity. For us, it may take on varied forms.

As you look at the ways that God has blessed your life, ponder whether or not you have been truly grateful. If you have been grateful, have you expressed that gratitude in concrete ways? Though God is not in need of our praise, we need to praise Him. We need to honor Him and to show our affection and love to Him for all that He has done.

Reflect, today, upon this joyous celebration of Advent by which Saint Francis honored, praised, and thanked God for His fidelity to his friars and him. Ponder, also, Saint Francis’s love for the Incarnation and the humility of God Who entered into our human weakness in the form of a poor and humble Child. As you do, look back at the blessings of your own life. If there were times when you failed to properly thank and praise God for His goodness to you, work to resolve that through some concrete act of devotion and praise.

Saint Francis, you saw the good fruits of your labors come to fruition, and this filled you with much joy. As a result, you offered special thanks and praise to God by honoring His act of the Incarnation. Please pray that I will always have a heart filled with gratitude and praise and will always express that gratitude by honoring our Lord through my acts of love and devotion. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Lesson Forty-eight—Stigmata

Lesson: About nine months after the first Christmas nativity scene was created, Francis entered into the final two years of his earthly life. These final two years were marked with much prayer, illness, and suffering. In 1224, on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Francis began a forty-day retreat of fasting and prayer on Mount Alverna. The retreat ended on the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel.

Prior to the beginning of that retreat, Francis turned to the Gospels for inspiration and guidance on how he was to live out the remainder of his life. He opened the Gospels three times, and each time, he opened to one of the accounts of the Passion of Christ. Thus, Francis entered the retreat quite determined to more fully devote himself to meditating upon the Passion of his Lord.

During Francis’s retreat, he had a vision of an angel, a seraph, standing above him. The angelic creature had six wings and was fixed to a cross. The angelic creature was truly glorious and gracious to look at, but he was also sorrowful to look at since his great suffering was evident. Thus, Francis arose from that vision with a mixture of both sorrow and joy.

After the vision ended, something confounding took place on the body of Francis. Marks appeared on his hands, feet, and side. On his hands there appeared dark flesh in the form of nails, the heads of the nails being in the palms of his hands. On his feet the same appeared, with the heads of the nails on the tops of his feet. And on his side was a wound that had the appearance of one pierced by a lance. This wound often bled, staining his clothing with his own blood.

Francis guarded this gift of the stigmata very carefully, permitting only some of his closest companions to know about it. He kept the wounds covered for the final two years of his life as he prayerfully entered more deeply into the mystery of the Passion of Christ.

Reflection: Because Saint Francis had so completely given himself over to his Lord, being conformed interiorly to the sacrificial love of Christ, God also chose to conform him exteriorly by marking him with the wounds of His Passion. Saint Francis did not gloat over this gift; he did not use it for his own praise. Rather, he accepted it from God as a gift that enabled him to suffer more fully with his Lord.

Though we might not receive the physical wounds of the stigmata of Christ within our bodies, we must receive them on our souls. The primary goal of our lives must be to become conformed to Christ in every way. That especially means becoming conformed to His sacrificial love of the Passion.

Are there sufferings you endure in life? If so, how do you respond to those sufferings? Are you repulsed by them, seek a remedy, or try to run from them? Though sometimes God wants us to seek a remedy to our various forms of suffering, the gift of the stigmata given to Saint Francis should teach us that being marked with holy suffering is among the greatest gifts we could receive.

We take on the wounds of Christ’s Passion every time we patiently and joyfully embrace our sufferings and unite them to the sufferings of Christ. The mystery of the free embrace of the Cross is a confounding mystery to many. Why would anyone want to freely embrace suffering? Saint Francis understood the answer to that question and embraced all suffering with joy.

Reflect, today, upon every form of suffering you endure right now in your life. It might be bodily pains, or it might be something internal. Mortification that is self-imposed, such as fasting, is also an act of freely embracing the Cross. Pray for the wisdom of the Cross of Christ so that you will discover the same glorious mystery Saint Francis discovered and will become more fully conformed to the sacrificial love of God.

Saint Francis, you loved the Cross of Christ so deeply that God granted you the special gift of carrying His wounds within your own body. You embraced those wounds with love because you discovered their transforming power in your life. Please pray that I may also penetrate the great mystery of the Cross and patiently endure all things out of love so that I may become more fully conformed to Christ’s sacrificial love. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Lesson Forty-nine—Preparing for Death

Lesson: During the final two years of Francis’s life, he was in very poor health. His years of strict fasting, regular exposure to the cold and elements, and his numerous illnesses had finally caught up to him. He was almost blind at that time, could hardly walk, vomited blood regularly, and his whole body was in continuous pain. During these years, Francis’s brothers brought him to many doctors to find a cure, but none could be found. However, he never saw his many physical ailments as undesirable; rather, he referred to them as his sisters.

Since he knew he was dying, Francis asked his brothers to take him back to Assisi. It was not only Francis who wanted to return to his hometown, it was also the people of Assisi who wanted him back. At that time, the people knew that Francis would soon die and be canonized a saint. They greatly feared that he would die in another town and worried that his body would remain where he died. Therefore, when the people heard Francis was coming home, they sent a group of knights from the town to accompany him home safely so as to be certain that the saint of Assisi died and was buried in their town.

Upon his arrival in Assisi, the people rejoiced. Francis was brought to the bishop’s residence and cared for by the brothers. Though he could hardly move and could not see, he spoke lovingly to the friars, blessing each of them as they came to him. He asked for music to be played and for some sweet cake to be brought to him. Eventually, as his death quickly approached, Francis asked to be brought back to the church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula outside the walls of Assisi, the church that Francis repaired with his own hands. It was there that Francis asked to be stripped naked and laid on the ground so that he could fight off the enemy with one last act of humility and poverty, thus dying as our Lord did, stripped of His garments. After some time, one of the brothers, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, lent Francis a habit and cord to put on and ordered him to wear it in obedience, which Francis did with great joy, knowing that he had remained true to holy poverty and now had to remain true to holy obedience.

Reflection: Despite the many miracles that God performed through Saint Francis in his life, God permitted the last two years of Saint Francis’s life to be ones of great suffering. This was a gift from God. This final act of the free embrace of severe suffering enabled Saint Francis to unite himself more fully with Christ.

One of the key lessons we can take from Saint Francis’s life at the end came from his witness of perseverance. He persevered in his love of poverty. He persevered in his fidelity to holy obedience. And he persevered in his conformity to the sacrificial love of the Cross. Each one of us is called not only to fidelity to God, but fidelity to the end. Our mission is not over until we breathe our last breath and depart from our body to be fully with God. 

As you ponder Saint Francis’s fidelity to the end, reflect upon your own fidelity. Sometimes, at the beginning of our conversion, we are quite zealous and “on fire” with the love of God. But over time, it can be easy to begin to lose focus and become lax in our zeal.

Reflect, today, upon how well you are persevering at this moment in your life. If the end of your life on earth were today, would you be ready to meet your Lord? Are there areas of your life in which you have become lax and turned from the will of God? Call to mind those most central paths to holiness by which God has called you to love Him.

Saint Francis, after your conversion you fell in love with God and embraced a radical life of prayer, poverty, and apostolic zeal. You continued to be faithful to your vocation until the moment you entered into Heaven to receive your eternal reward. Please pray for me that I may also persevere in the mission God has given to me. May I imitate your fidelity and share, one day, in your reward. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Lesson Fifty—Falling Asleep in Christ

Lesson: As Francis prepared to depart from his body, the brothers continued to sing the praises of God with loud voices. The Gospel of John was also read aloud at Francis’s request, beginning with the part detailing Jesus’ return to Jerusalem, six days before Passover. Francis then asked that a hairshirt be put on him as a final act of penance and that ashes be sprinkled upon him to signify that his body was soon to become dust and ashes. On October 4, 1226, at the age of 44, just 20 years after his conversion, this holy man of God fell asleep in the Lord. As he did, one of the brothers saw his soul leave his body and be carried to Heaven on a white cloud. Though it was evening, flocks of birds circled the church, flying joyously in praise of God for such a great saint.

At the moment of Saint Francis’s death, he appeared to another holy friar in another town who was on his own deathbed. The friar called out to Francis to wait for him so that he could come with him. The saintly friar’s soul then left his body and went with Francis. Francis also appeared to the Bishop of Assisi who was out of town, announcing his departure from this world.

Though the brothers and townspeople were filled with sorrow at his passing, they were given a special consolation and confirmation of Saint Francis’s sanctity. The wounds on his hands and feet became brilliantly white, and the wound on his side was red and began to bleed. The nails in his hands and feet were visible to all and could be moved back and forth, dispelling all doubt in the hearts of those who witnessed it. His face became radiant, and his entire body became as fresh and lovely as a baby’s. As they looked upon his dead body, bearing the wounds of Christ, they prayerfully entered into the moment when Christ Himself was taken down from the Cross and placed in the arms of His Blessed Mother.

That night and the following day, the entire town rejoiced and wept at the same time. They carried Saint Francis through the town in procession, stopping by the church of Saint Damian so Clare and her sisters could pay their respects. They then celebrated his funeral and laid him to rest in the Church of Saint George.

Reflection: Saint Francis went to be with God forever after he lived a most glorious life. Every sacrifice he made, every suffering he endured, every sermon he preached, and every prayer he prayed was worth it. God used him in powerful ways, and now God was going to continue to use him from Francis’s place in Heaven.

After you depart from this life, what will be said of you? What will you be remembered for? Ideally, our lives will have affected many for the good, and those who love us will both mourn and rejoice at our passing. They will mourn because they will miss us but will rejoice because they were blessed by our lives.

Though death is not something most people enjoy contemplating, it’s always a good spiritual practice to keep your own mortality in the forefront of your mind. Do you do this? Are you frightened by the thought of death? Or do you look forward to it with a holy hope and anticipation of what is to come?

Reflect, today, upon your own death. Try to spend time thinking about the legacy you will leave behind. Ponder your funeral, what will be said of you, and whose lives will be affected forever from Heaven by you. Today is the day to continue building that holy legacy in anticipation of that glorious day to come for us all.

Saint Francis, the legacy you left was one of the most glorious legacies ever. You were wholly given over to the will of God, and God used you in the most powerful way to touch the lives of many. Your legacy was so great that even today God works powerfully through you. Please pray for me that I may also devote my life on earth to serving the will of God with all my heart. May all I do be done in preparation for that most glorious day of my passing from this life. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Lesson Fifty-one—Miracles after the Death of Francis

Lesson: Saint Francis was gone, but by God’s grace he was only gone in body, not in spirit. Even after his death, his ministry to the people of God continued. Miracle after miracle took place through his intercession, and heart after heart continued to be converted to God.

After Saint Francis’s death, there were some who began to doubt the authenticity of his stigmata by which Saint Francis became outwardly conformed to the crucified Christ, just as he was inwardly conformed to Him. Among those who began to doubt was the pope himself, Pope Gregory IX, who was a close friend of Saint Francis. One night, Saint Francis appeared to the pope in a dream and showed him his side, asking the Holy Father to place a cup next to his side to gather the blood as it poured forth. Once the glass was filled to the brim with blood, the pope’s heart was changed, and he regularly spoke of this vision. Others doubted the stigmata also, and their doubts were also removed by miraculous signs and visions.

Many other miracles also occurred. There was a man named John who was quite devoted to Saint Francis. One day, as this man was walking along the road, he was attacked by an assailant who mistook him for someone else. John received many wounds. The wounds were so serious that they eventually became infected and gave off an awful stench, leading everyone to believe he would soon die. But John continually called upon the intercession of Saint Francis. To his great joy, the saint appeared to him, touched his wounds, and healed him. When John got up and showed himself to his wife and neighbors, they were all amazed and gave praise to God.

On one occasion, a woman died and was being laid to rest. But during the ceremony, she sat up and called one of the priests to hear her confession. She said that in her life she had withheld a certain sin from confession and, as a result, upon her death was led to a dark dungeon. But she said that Saint Francis had prayed for her, and his prayers brought her to life so she could confess that sin. As soon as she made her confession, she lay down once again and died in the Lord.

On another occasion, a young girl had died of a serious illness. Her parents were devastated at the death of their only child and heir. However, at the burial, Saint Francis appeared to the girl’s mother and told her that he had prayed for the girl so that her life would be restored. The mother then announced this vision to all and forbade them to bury the girl. Instead, the mother took her daughter by the hand, prayed to Saint Francis, and the girl came back to life in the presence of all.

These are only a few of the numerous miracles that took place through the intercession of Saint Francis from his place of glory in Heaven. Others were raised to life, rescued from shipwreck, set free from prison, saved from difficult childbirth, healed of blindness, and healed of many other diseases.

Reflection: It’s quite amazing that God not only chooses to use us during our lifetimes, but also after our deaths. He uses us after our deaths by continuing to inspire those who knew us through the life we lived and also by prayers for us from Heaven.

The intercession of the saints is powerful. This is because God chooses to use them for this purpose. For this reason, it is important that we regularly rely upon the prayers of those who are in Heaven. Do you do this? Do you seek the intercession of the saints?

The many miracles and answered prayers obtained by Saint Francis after his death should motivate us to turn to him and every other saint in prayer. It is humble to pray to God through the mediation of the saints and is something we should all practice. It’s also an act of faith to pray to God through the saints because it’s a way of acknowledging that God has chosen to use them.

Reflect, today, upon how often you turn to the intercession of the myriad of saints and angels in Heaven. If this is not a regular practice in your life, resolve to change that. Humble yourself before God by turning to His mediators in Heaven. We are unworthy of God’s mercy, and asking the saints to pray for us is one way of admitting that we are unworthy to stand before God Himself. Pray, especially to Saint Francis, and ask him to pray for you so that you can fulfill God’s will. This is a prayer that gladdens the Heart of God and one He always desires to grant.

Saint Francis, as you now stand before the glorious throne of God in Heaven, I come to you with humility and trust and ask you to pray for me. Please pray to God that I will always be faithful to the fulfillment of His holy will in my life. May I not only learn from the glorious example you gave but also benefit from your ongoing prayers to God. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

Lesson Fifty-two—Canonization

Lesson: The miracles performed by the intercession of Saint Francis after his death were numerous. For that reason, the Holy Father himself, Pope Gregory IX, quickly learned of these many testimonies. The Holy Father instructed the cardinals in the curia to investigate these miracles to determine their authenticity. Though some of the cardinals initially doubted, they were all fully satisfied after their investigation.

Upon learning of the support of the cardinals, Pope Gregory decided to move forward with the canonization of this saint. Normally, the process of canonization required many witnesses who knew the saint personally to give testimony. However, Pope Gregory was a personal friend of Saint Francis for many years. As a cardinal, he was made Cardinal Protector of the order and assisted Saint Francis with the final Rule that was approved in 1223. Then, a year after Saint Francis’s death, Cardinal Ugolino was elected the Supreme Pontiff, something Saint Francis had prophesied to him years earlier. Therefore, upon authenticating the many miracles that took place through the intercession of Saint Francis, coupled with the Holy Father’s own personal relationship with Francis and the incredible devotion that so many had toward him, the Holy Father decided to canonize Saint Francis only two years after his death. No one had ever been canonized more quickly.

On July 16, 1228, Pope Gregory IX made a personal pilgrimage to the town of Assisi and declared Saint Francis a saint. The next day, the Holy Father laid a foundation stone for what would become the Basilica of Saint Francis. The church was completed in 1230, and the saint’s remains were transferred to his final place of rest where his earthly body remains today.

Reflection: Francis of Assisi was now a canonized saint! What a day of rejoicing that was. There is no greater title one can obtain than that of “saint!” Men and women are formally canonized in the Church for two primary reasons: first, so that the whole world will know that their lives are worthy of imitation. Second, saints are canonized to invite us to turn to them for their prayers.

Of course, there are many men and women in Heaven who are saints but are not formally canonized by the Church on earth. Try to imagine this unknown cloud of holy witnesses who all stand before the throne of God for eternity. It’s amazing to think of the mothers and fathers, the priests and religious, the hermits, and all those who lived for God and died in His grace. Saint Francis was a true inspiration to all and continues to be so. His witness will continue to affect people’s lives until the end of the world. 

As you conclude this short book of reflections on the life of Saint Francis, prayerfully ponder the calling you have been given to be a saint. Becoming a saint might appear difficult. It might seem to be an unattainable goal. But it’s not. It’s your calling. It’s your central mission. Whether or not you become canonized one day, it is God’s will that you be among the cloud of witnesses in Heaven for all eternity.

Reflect, today, upon your eternal destiny. Consider the fact that eternity is neverending. The short span of life we live here on earth is nothing compared to the eternity that awaits. Reflect upon whether you spend more time worrying about your momentary life on earth or your eternity in Heaven. Seek ways to add to your glory in Heaven by living a saintly life here and now. This must be the central objective of everything you do today and until the day of your death.

Saint Francis, your eyes were always turned toward Heaven. You loved God, loved His holy will, and sought to embrace it with all your might. Please pray for me that I will always keep eternity in perspective. May I work diligently every day of my life toward the glorious goal of adding to the glory in which I am called to share in Heaven. Saint Francis, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.

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