St. Francis of Assisi and The Human Skull He Carried — Suffering and Death Are Part of Our Journey

St Francis of Assisi stained glass window at St. Augustine Cathedral in downtown Tucson, Arizona

Art: St. Francis of Assisi and skull By Filippo Vitale

Children are taught about the St. Francis of Assisi that loves the birds, the deer and the bunny rabbits. But when we grow a little older, we often more clearly see the St. Francis of Assisi with a human skull nearby.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Saint Francis used to sometimes put his skull on the breakfast table before his brothers came to their morning meal. It is said he often stressed the temporary nature of our life on earth.

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

In “The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon,”  St. Francis wrote:

Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Death,’ and he sees in Sister Death the priestess of God because it’s the one that takes us to Him, the one that brings us into the fullness with Him. So for him, death is to be embraced because it is the one who takes us to the Lord…

Who on our earth today embraces death? Nobody.

But “death is part of life” people say. So what are we afraid of?

In the past few years I have been graced by a call to the bedside of the suffering and dying. One clear conclusion can be drawn: People working on their spiritual life struggle less, trust more and generally accept whatever is going to happen next. People not living or working on a spiritual life encounter problems — problems that often overwhelm the person suffering or dying, their families and even the care givers and medical staff nearby.

Bishop Fulton Sheen preached that we should live a life conducive to “peace of mind.” But he goes even a step further and suggests we seek peace of soul.

Padre Pio taught us: “When you are worried, pray. Once you are praying, why are you still worried?”

St. Francis of Assisi shared the suffering of Christ in a very obvious and real way: he received the stigmata; making him the first recorded person to bear the wounds of Jesus’ suffering and passion.

Most of us don’t get the stigmata, thank God, and most of us don’t get very real physical wounds very often.

But we need not run away from suffering either.

Many of us are awash in fears, anxiety, and internal conflicts, regrets and debates. Physicians in America speak often about the huge numbers of people they are faced with every day who suffer from depression, anxiety and a general feeling of hopelessness and despair.

St. Francis is one of our great examples of walking with suffering and even embracing hunger, poverty and suffering. St. Francis shows us that if we walk with god, our suffering goes away!  And we get hope for eternal life!

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis Looking Up To God with skull by Frnsisco De Zurbaran

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Pope Francis: his First Encyclical “Lumen Fidei”

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/encyclica
ls/documents/papa-francesco_20130629_enciclica-lumen-fidei_en.html

On Suffering
By Patrick Sullivan

Many people suffer in silence. Sometimes these people suffer quietly because they feel ashamed of the event that caused them to suffer. Some people blame themselves. Some people just think that if they never tell anyone about their suffering then it will go away. Other people suffer in silence because they believe the lie that they have no right to feel the way they do.

Regardless of their reasons people are suffering all around the world and in your very neighbourhood, at your workplace and within your very family. And I am willing to bet that if you truly knew the extent of their suffering you would be moved to act. I am convinced of that.

Christians should know better than anyone else what it means to suffer, not because we suffer more than others but because that is what our God came to transform and give meaning to. When Jesus died on the cross for you and me He gave new meaning to pain, loneliness, depression, anxiety and everything else that causes people to question their lives. By choosing to save us through suffering He changed what suffering can do; it can make us one with our God.

http://www.catholicchapterhouse.com/blog/2013/10/01/on-suffering/

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I can never do justice to telling the story of Padre Pio except to say, I think about him every day. He taught me: “If you are worried: pray.  Once you are praying, you can stop your worry.” Padre Pio had the stigmata.

“Pray, pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayer. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray. Pray to the Lord, because even God needs our prayers.”

- St. Pio of Pietrelcina
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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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- St. Pio of  Pietrelcina
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