Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis receives the Stigmata (fresco attributed to Giotto)

This week is the week of Feast Days - we had St. Wenceslaus on the 28th (sang his song once or twice), celebrated Michaelmas, the Feast of the Archangels, all out with a feast on the 29th, read about St. Jerome yesterday (30th), and today (Oct. 1st) we'll be reading about St. Therese of Lisieux. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Guardian Angels, and although I won't be writing a special post about it, you can see some ideas shared on the Two Os Plus More Facebook Page and my Pinterest board, Learning: Our Faith.

A special one for me is coming up this Friday though: the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Although I grew up Protestant, St. Francis was well known in our house as my mama always had a special love for him. I remember my sister getting a copy of Tomie dePaola's book about him, and we all loved reading it and hearing about this saint who loved simplicity and serving the poor while living in poverty. So, on October 4th we'll be learning a little more about the Saint who loved animals, received the stigmata, and surrendered his worldly possessions to better serve Christ. He also is the patron of our Pope, so that makes him all the more special.

The stigmatisation of St. Francis
St. Francis was born in 1181 or 1182 to a rich Italian cloth merchant and his wife, who hoped Francis would become a prominent religious leader. In his young years, Francis embraced the rich lifestyle and lived it to the fullest, including a stint as a soldier for Assisi. When he was around 18, Francis had a vision that brought him home to Assisi, and he was dissatisfied with the life he'd been living up to that point.

Francis gave up all his worldly goods up to the cloak off his back. Francis received a word from Christ while praying in the Chapel of San Damiano: "Rebuild My Church." Taking this to mean 'physically,' Francis began to work to repair churches that were falling apart. He also began preaching on the streets, amassing a following that became an Order in 1210, after being authorized by Pope Innocent III. In his lifetime, Francis founded two more orders: The Order of St. Clare and the Third Order of St. Francis.

Other things that Francis is remembered for includes his love for all creation - he was known to preach to not only the least, the lost, and the lonely, but also nature itself. In 1224 Francis became the first recorded person to receive the stigmata, which is the wounds of Christ's passion. We can also thank St. Francis for the creche as he was the first to put together a living nativity to make real the Birth of Christ to those around.

Francis was declared a Saint less than two years following his death, and he is the patron saint of animals, the environment, and Italy. He preached actions over word and loving through serving those in need. St. Francis is known today as one of the most popular Catholic saints and even those who are not Catholic often know something about this great and humble man.

Painting by El Greco (1541-1614).


  There is only one recorded food that St. Francis is known to have loved: Mostaccioli, which is a form of almond cookie.  Here is a recipe for it that is found in A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family and Faith Throughout the Christian Year (by Evelyn Birge Vitz), which I highly recommend you add to your Domestic Church Library:

1 lb. blanched almonds
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon, or 1 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Approximately 1 cup flour 
Chop the almonds very fine or coarsely grind in a blender or food processor.  
In a bowl combine the nuts, honey, cinnamon, and egg whites. Mix thoroughly. Gradually stir in enough flour to form a thick paste.  
On a lightly floured surface, knead the paste until smooth and stiff. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut in to diamond shapes, about 2 1/2 inches long. Place the diamonds on a lightly buttered and floured baking sheet. Let dry for 1-2 hours. 
Bake in a preheated 250˚ F. oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until set. Do not let brown. 
Yields about 3 dozen
For our main dish at dinner, we are going to make a simple Italian vegetarian dish. St. Francis, although he loved animals, was not a vegetarian. However, he took great care to always thank the animals for their sacrifice they gave in giving up themselves as food. I would say he probably would not condone the fashion in which most of America's meat is obtained. My reasoning for vegetarian is more due to it also being First Friday, which we are attempting to stay meatless on all year. =)

Here are more food ideas from Catholic Cuisine

Crafts + Activities

  • If you have pets, many parishes do a blessing of the animals on this feast day. Consider taking them.
  • Try making one of these fantastic craft ideas from Catholic Icing - I especially love the spoon St. Francis doll.
  • Do something for someone less fortunate than you - buy canned food for a soup kitchen, have your kids do an extra service act or chore to earn money they can place in offering, give away toys or clothes to a shelter.

Watch this YouTube video that although a little off historically, gives the gist of St. Francis' mission and teaching.

To Read

These are two of my favorites; the first is the story of Francis' life, and the second a richly illustrated version of his Canticle, Brother Sun.

Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Paterson + illustrated by Pamela Dalton

Some others we have enjoyed:

I hope your St. Francis day celebrations help you to remember the simple joy and love of the legacy of the Poor Man of Assisi. I'd love to hear more about your plans or past ways you've observed this day - please share in the comments!

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This post Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi first appeared on Two Os Plus More on 1 October 2013 

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