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Franciscan Mysticism
Franciscan Mysticism

A Mystical Way of Life

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi’s experiences of God led him to solidarity with those who suffer, whether lepers, people in poverty, or the Crucified Christ himself. Franciscan priest and author Murray Bodo writes:

Francis experienced a profound conversion as a young man. . . . When he was on his way to fight in the Papal army [he] was told in a dream to leave his fellow soldiers and return to Assisi where it would be shown him what he was to do. He listened to the dream and returned home confused and despondent. One day, he met a leper on the road. Something impelled him to dismount his horse and not only place coins in the leper’s hand, but to embrace the leper. In so doing, he was filled with indescribable sweetness. . . . In that instant he knew he had embraced Jesus Christ. He knew then what he was to do with his life: to embrace Jesus in the poor and rejected, in those who previously had repulsed him. 

Shortly afterwards, praying before the crucifix in the dilapidated chapel of San Damiano outside Assisi’s walls, he heard a voice from the crucifix saying, “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.” And Francis responded immediately, begging stones and rebuilding this little chapel with his own hands. As he was to learn later, it was the Catholic Church itself that he was to restore. How he was to do this he learned while attending mass one day. He heard in the Gospel that the true disciples of Christ should take no gold, or silver, or copper in their belts, no bag for their journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff (Matthew 10:9–10). He was filled with joy and said, “This is what I want; this is what I desire with all my heart.” He renounced his patrimony, gave away all his possessions, and began the life of an itinerant preacher who dwelled among the lepers. Others followed, and the Franciscan way of life began. 

In all of this it was Jesus whose footsteps he followed. It was Jesus who was his all. He fell in love with Christ in an intimate, almost overwhelming way. . . .

Two years before he died, [Francis] was given one of the most extraordinary of mystical experiences. He was praying on a mountain in Tuscany in preparation for the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel when suddenly he was caught up in ecstasy and saw above him a six-winged flaming Seraph angel. Four wings were outstretched and two covered the body of the Crucified Christ. Francis’s response to this image was so intense that when he awoke, he bore within his own flesh the Sacred Stigmata, the wounds of the crucified Christ in his feet and hands and side. And they remained all the rest of his life as visible signs of the profound mystical life of St. Francis.


Murray Bodo, “St. Francis of Assisi: The Practical Mystic,” Radical Grace 25, no. 1, Franciscan Mysticism (Winter 2012): 14.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Water Drops on Grass (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Belinda Rain, Nevada, Lake Tahoe California (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Belinda Rain, Forest (detail), 1972, photograph, California, public domain. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We look for Spirit in every stone and blade of grass, in everything. We are part of something so much larger, so much grander. God’s grace abounds.

Story from Our Community:

In [the] meditation “Building the Church from the bottom up,” Fr. Richard quotes St. Francis, “the marrow of the Gospel.” The word “marrow” is very personal to me. Forty years ago I underwent a Bone Marrow Transplant for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia; my brother was my donor. The transplant was done as the only means to a cure despite all the risks. Could it be that the Church is in need of a such a high-risk intervention, metaphorically speaking, to be rebuilt? And what intervention(s) is needed to “Go, Rebuild My Church!”? —Therese G.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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