Thursday, October 5, 2006

St. Francis and the Sultan

St. Francis before the Sultan

There is considerable uncertainty as to the chronological and historical details of the last fifteen years of the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Among the events of these years was the first attempt at a mission to Muslims. Brother Francis sent five brothers, soon to be martyrs, to Morocco. He also undertook, himself, a journey to Spain. But, illness forced him to return without accomplishing his objective, which was the establishment of his order of friars on the Iberian peninsula and in France.
One interesting note for today, when, in the light of the Holy Father’s Regensburg lecture, relations between Christians and Muslims are center stage, is St. Francis’ journey to Egypt and Palestine. This occurred during the Crusades and was undertaken with the intention of converting the Sultan Kameel and bringing fighting to an end. To this end, Francis gave fearless proofs of his readiness to suffer for his faith. Upon his return to Italy, in 1220, he found the Franciscans in discord. In response to this disorder within his order, with a broken heart, he issued his second, expanded, rule, which was replaced two years later by the revised rule, drawn up by Cardinal Ugolino, which Francis reluctantly accepted out of obedience.

For a Franciscan perspective on Francis' journey to Egypt and its relevance now, please follow the link to Fr. Jack Wintz, OFM’s St. Francis, the Sultan and the Quest for Peace.

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