St. Francis and the Rose without Thorns By Letty Jacinto-Lopez

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When Father Dave Concepcion of Catholic Travel first organized a visit to the Marian apparition sites in Italy, France and Portugal, he threw in more spiritual and religious sites that heightened our interest plus of course filling us with delight.

In Italy, Father Dave included a visit to the region of Umbria and the charming town of Assisi, famous for its association with Saint Francis of Assisi. Our bus had to navigate the narrow streets filled with ancient buildings and alcoves and corners of interest for first-time pilgrims like us.

The center of activities was the Santa Maria degli Angeli, one of the largest Christian sanctuaries in the world. Part of this sanctuary is the original stone chapel, called the Porziuncola, which is where St. Francis lived and worked after founding the Franciscan Order. It is also where he had his vision in 1216, during which he witnessed the Virgin Mary. Following this vision, the church attracted many pilgrims, and thus the great Baroque church was also built.

Outside the basilica is the Roselo, or Rose Garden. Here, you will find a very special type of rose: one without any thorns. Unbelievable!

The legend said that Saint Francis was being besieged by the devil leaving him feeling inadequate and insecure about his faith and piety. He threw himself naked amongst the thorn bushes thinking that if the thorns will do its job and hurt him and make him suffer, the doubts and temptation will go away. It is then said that on contact with the Saint’s body, thorn-less roses began to bloom, and they still do to this day.

After hearing this story, we all tried to get a good view of the rose garden and snap photos of it. Not easy, for an amateur brownie like me. I decided to rest the lens of my camera on the glass and snapped photos without using the flash.

These special flowers can only be found in this particular rose garden, and are named Rosa Canina Assisiensis. On the wall of the courtyard you can see a mural of St. Francis, surrounded by the modest Porziuncola chapel, olive groves and the thornless red roses. There is also a bronze statue of St. Francis with his hand resting on a sheep, seemingly talking and soothing its anxiety. I thought it was a gentle image of St. Francis and Christ, the sacrificial lamb.

If you chance to be in Italy, include the Porziuncola in Assisi and don’t miss the thornless rose garden of Saint Francis of Assisi.

By the way, no one is allowed to throw oneself on it, anymore.

About Letty and her other articles.

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R A N D O M T H O U G H T S Voices from yesterday and today . . . by Peachy Maramba

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ST. FRANCIS of ASSISI: His Prayer
1181 – 1225
October 4

FIRST RECORDED WORDS of ST. FRANCIS

We have but a few pages of writing, which we can for certain be attributed to St. Francis, one of the most widely loved saints in the world and founder of the largest religious order.

It is interesting to note that his first words we have on record probably dates from 1205-6 when he was already twenty-three years old.

Fittingly his first words are prayers that he is said to have said over and over again.

Prayer of St. Francis
Most High, glorious God
Illumine the darkness of my heart,
Give me a right faith,
a certain hope and
a perfect charity
and grant me insight
and wisdom
so I can always observe your holy and true command.

Prayer

There is no activity that Francis liked better than prayer which became for him always his first concern. Thus Francis ordered his followers to pray regularly. He told them that when they spoke with God in prayer not only were their inner feelings purified but they could attain union with the one true and highest God and even actually hear Him.

Most High, Glorious God

Francis who remains a knight at heart begins his prayer in this chivalrous courteous address of praise. In fact it is said that his prayers almost always begins and ends in praise thus making his prayers one of adoration.

Because praise and adoration makes up the core of Francis’ prayer he is able in this way to unite prayer and love enabling him to put on the mind of Christ.

The words Most High recognizes the infinite distance between God and him and in typical Francis’ humility acknowledges his nothingness before the Most High God.

It is a true humility because Francis is neither looking down upon himself nor even demeaning himself for he knows he has been chosen by God to be simple and unlearned. Rather he is admitting that God is God and he, Francis, is not; so his prayer is for the Most High to take the initiative with him. In time this perspective will affect everything he will do and become.

This deep and earnest prayer of Francis is addressed to the “Most High”, a term that we find him using over and over again the rest of his life.

When he wrote the Rule for the Franciscan order he founded, he ended it saying:

“All powerful, most holy, most high and supreme God. . .
Let all of us. . . magnify and give thanks to the most
high and supreme eternal God. . .
glorious, exalted on high, sublime, most high. . .”
An excerpt from his famous “Canticle of the Sun,” the great poem of his life that he sings in ecstasy and gratitude when he was nearing death says:
“Most High, all-powerful Good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor
and all blessing.

Illumine the darkness of my heart

Francis loved to pray for the light which would shine through the darkness of his heart which would cleanse it and the rest would follow. Thus he was constantly asking God for enlightenment over the darkness and ignorance that causes him not see aright.

In a great moment of enlightenment Francis could put on the mind of Christ and finally see the world as God sees it: That poverty will ultimately bring him the greatest and sweetest joy and content.

Give me a right faith, a certain hope

When Francis dictated the memories of his youth to Brother Leo in the Porziuncula he said:
“And he the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would simply pray and say: We adore thee O Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the world. . . after that the Lord gave me and He gives me so much faith in priests . . . I am unwilling to see sin in them because in them I see the Son of God and they are my lords.”

a perfect charity

The priest translated the first passage that Francis had opened at random in the book of the Gospels: “If thou hast an eye to be perfect, go then and sell all that belongs to thee; give it to the poor and so the treasure that thou hast shall be in heaven, then come back and follow me.”

and grant me insight

The mind of Francis was preoccupied with the paradox that in detachment, poverty and penance were perfect joy to be found. True joy derives from seeking first the Kingdom of God.

God gave him also the insight to realize that it is not war that needs to be outlawed but the love of money, the greed of the human heart that is at the root of war.

and wisdom

Untrained, unlettered and with a minimum of knowledge of what a preacher normally should know, Francis prayed unceasingly and continually not trusting in his own strength or wisdom but relying wholly on God; so he was granted the wisdom to grasp that the love of neighbor can only be secured when the Gospel is lived sincerely, when the Word of God moves people to make decisions that radically changes their lives.

Thus Francis instructed all his followers:
“Make all of your time a holy leisure in which to inscribe wisdom in your heart.”

So I can always observe your holy and true command

All the things that Francis prays for in this prayer – light to the darkness of his heart; faith, hope, charity, insight and wisdom are – so he can observe God’s holy and true command.

Francis’ only desire was to be obedient to God’s will in everything. Thus placing God’s will above everything else is a gift of Francis to our world today. So is his simple but eloquent first words.

SOURCES of REFERENCE
ST. FRANCIS of ASSISI
October 4

Butlers Lives of the Saints – Vol. IV pp 22 – 32
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of SAINTS – pp 148 – 149
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp 195 – 196
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – pp 90 – 92
A Calendar of Saints – p 197
All Saints – pp 432 – 433
A Year With the Saints – October 4
Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp 469 – 412
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I pp 448 – 451
My First Book of Saints – pp 232 – 234
Saint Companions – pp 371 – 374
Saints for Our Time – pp 371 – 374
Saints of the Day – pp 266 – 267
Children’s Book of Saints – pp 205 – 210
Saints – A Visual Guide – pp 214 – 215
Voices of the Saints – pp 360 – 361
Ordinary People Extraordinary Lives – Group 7 Card 2
The Everything Saints Book – pp 90 – 91
The Lion Treasury of Saints – pp 140 – 141
The Flying Friar – pp 74 – 77
Servants of God – pp 28 – 29
Best-Love Saints – pp 74 – 79
The Way of the Saints – pp 172 – 173
Book of Saints – Part 6 – pp 20 – 21
Novenas – pp 58 61
Saints Ancient and Modern – p 80 – 87
Francis of Assisi and Teresa Kolkata – pp 13 – 15; pp 22 – 25