The Canonization of St. Francis
When Pope Gregory IX, coming in person in the city of Assisi examined diligently miracles, behind testimony of his brothers, canonized Blessed Francis and enrolled him among the saints. Legenda Maior XV,7
The universality of the cult of Francis is the theme of this scene from the Legenda Maior , where Giotto depicts the ceremony in which Pope Gregory IX canonized the Poverello of Assisi Sunday, July 16 1228. On the same day the pope laid the cornerstone of the lower basilica intended to accommodate the “sacred body”.
Unfortunately, serious damage to the fresco have deleted the figure of the pope, who was allegedly in the richly decorated stage towards which many of the onlookers turned their gaze. In front of the stage there is an altar enclosed by a balustrade with candles, and in fact the ceremony was the prelude to a Mass celebrated by Pope Gregory IX in person.
Bonaventure, aware of the risk of a canonization so soon after the death of the candidate, said that Gregory IX had entrusted the evaluation of the life and miracles of Francis “to those among the cardinals who seemed less favorable”, which, however, approved of all ‘ unanimity the proposal to raise the Poverello of Assisi to the catalog of saints. One of the functions of this scene in fact is to seal the cult of Francis with the highest authority of the Church.
Bonaventure, of a theological nature, does not offer details on the rite of canonization, speaking only of “a very great solemnity that would be long to tell.” But Thomas of Celano – in his Life Before drafted a few months after the event, in which the author had also been present – devotes several pages that Giotto fresco sums. According to Celano, July 16 “bishops, abbots and prelates flock and gather, coming from the most distant regions of the earth; there is also a king and great multitude of accounts and moguls … the Supreme Pontiff … with the crown on his head as a sign of glory and holiness. Adorn with ribbons and the papal vestments laced with gold buckles glittering with precious stones, the anointed of the Lord appears in the splendor of his glory … “.
The Pope speaks of Francis and is moved to tears; reads the miracles of the saint and Pope Gregory pours fresh tears and so other prelates present; then, “with their hands raised to heaven, Blessed Pope booming voice shouting words of canonization [“crying “because there were no microphones], and then together with the cardinals sing the Te Deum . “The crowd responds in unison singing the praises of the Lord. The land echoes of voices immense, the air is filled with hymns of glory, the soil becomes wet with tears, “and Gregory IX kisses the altar with joy at the saint’s tomb “, arranged, it is assumed, under the table on which the pope finally says Mass.
So Celano ends his account of the life of Francis, Bonaventure also ends with a reference to the canonization. In the cycle of Giotto, the four remaining scenes were actually the character of an appendix: narrate some miracles of the saint to demonstrate the legitimacy – indeed, the necessity – of his canonization. Assisi Website – Live Feed at the Tomb of St. Francis
How to Tell Francis to Modern Man
How to tell St. Francis to modern man! The question is both interesting and difficult. The application could be extended to any other man or woman of the past: a man or woman who have had their peculiar existence. Therefore, we should start from “Brother Francis”, rather than “St. Francis” by the man who lived before being declared a saint.
“Brother Francis” is the usual translation of the Latin “frater Franciscus”; but, Latin for “fraternal” means, first of all, brother, and brother refers to belonging: in his case, membership in the fraternity of “brothers” Minor. Francis is therefore the one who chooses to be “brother” of other men and be “brother” along with many decided to share his proposal to “live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel,” to bear witness to the “good news” of Jesus Christ in all its radicalism. In short, Francis is a man in the fullness of the human condition and is a man who has chosen to follow in the footsteps of the Son (the Second Person of the Trinity).
Francis is therefore the one who responded to the Christian vocation, bending action of Divine Grace. It is he who has understood and agreed to the total meaning of the Incarnation and of the way of salvation. He understood and accepted, not less, that the grace of God did not want him isolated and alone, instead of offering them “brothers / friars” to share the difficult journey of faith.
For him to understand and accept the meaning of the Incarnation is to understand and accept the meaning of man and of life, which is also revealed (or perhaps especially) where individuals are located in the most miserable conditions: ‘Divine Incarnation means proximity of the God who became man in poverty and self-sacrifice.
In one of the warnings of Brother Francis reads: “Consider, O man, how much excellence in the Lord God has placed you, since you created and formed according to the body in the image of his beloved Son and in the spirit in his likeness “.
These words, exalting man, I refer to his responsibility, just as the “son” of God, that everything must be to the Father who can boast of nothing except their “illness”, saying “every day the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In recognition of his own limitations and to support the cross there is the abandonment to the will of the Father, and in all that there is no sadness or gloom, but the “true joy and true virtue and salvation of the soul.”
The effort to translate in reality these beliefs leads Brother Francis to be considered holy, that is, to be an example and witness of Christian life, before he was the penalty in an institutional act, i.e. the sanctification rectory.
As you will understand, example and testimony are not reducible to a mere narrative, a tale fable and uplifting; instead involve the confrontation and constructive dialogue with oneself and with others. The human and religious experience of Brother / Saint Francis is only apparently distant and over. – Grado Giovanni Merlo – Professor at the University of Milan and President of the International Society for Studies Francesc