Monday, October 4, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi

In addition to being a month we dedicate to praying the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary more fervently, October is also a month for celebrating great saints. Following closely on the heels of Friday's Memorial of St. Thérèse, is today's Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, my brother deacon, who is likely the church's best known saint. There are so many stories about St. Francis that it boggles my mind. Often St. Francis is seen as something of a proto-hippie. This image of Francesco di Bernardone was popularized by Michael Curtiz's film adaptation of Louis de Wohol's novel about St. Francis, The Joyful Beggar- Brother Sun, Sister Moon, which is my least favorite film about St. Francis.


My favorite film about St. Francis remains Roberto Rossellini's The Flowers of St. Francis, released in 1950. Rossellini's film is based on a fourteenth century book, Little Flowers of St. Francis (I guess it is a good thing the Little Flower wrote her autobiography and entitled it The Story of a Soul instead of having her Carmelite sisters collect Little Flowers of the Little Flower- maybe Pedals of the Little Flower!). The original book is a collection of stories handed down about the life of St. Francis and his early followers. Rossellini's film is a masterpiece of Italian neo-realism. With the exception of actor Aldo Fabrizi, who plays a small, but very entertaining, supporting role, the entire cast is comprised of regular people. Of course, this is what makes it post-war Italian neo-realism. St. Francis and his early followers are played by actual Franciscan friars.

At least for me, this scene in which St. Francis encounters a leper and embraces him as he would Christ, is the most moving scene of the entire film:


With St. Francis we pray, "Let everyone be struck with fear, let the whole world tremble, and let the heavens exult, when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest. Oh stupendous dignity! O humble sublimity, that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation he hides himself under an ordinary piece of bread" (From the Wednesday catechesis of PP. Benedictus XVI on St. Francis of Assisi, 27 January 2010).

Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam

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