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DEAR friend, Saint Francis, a symbol of love for peace, for all the gifts of creation and for the simple life, has over time become a true reference point for believers and non-believers alike. And, for the first time in history a pope, our Pope, a great admirer of him, has decided to take his name. However, I think that some aspects of the image of the Poverello that has been offered to us, especially in our age of false news, are not quite true. Here are a few examples.

Francis lived in extreme poverty, but he wanted churches to always be in good condition. Therefore he asked his brothers to restore them to their original beauty when necessary. Of particular importance to him were the sacred vessels and vestments. In his letter to all the Superiors of the Franciscan Order, Francis writes, “Chalices, corporals, the ornaments of the altar and all things which pertain to the sacrifice, should be held precious. And if in any place the Most Holy Body of the Lord will have been very poorly placed, according to the mandate of the Church let Him be put in a precious place.”

During the 5th Crusade in 1219, Francis went to Egypt to meet with Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil, but not on a mission of peace or inter-religious dialogue, as is often claimed today. The saint simply wanted to try to convert the ruler of Egypt. According to a document in the Franciscan Sources, in fact, Francis is said to have told the Sultan that Christians were acting justly when fighting Muslims “for you blaspheme the name of Christ and alienate everyone you can from His worship. But if you were to recognize, confess, and adore the Creator and Redeemer, Christians would love you as themselves.” As you know, the mission of St. Francis did not achieve any concrete results, but the Sultan truly admired Francis’ faith and courage.

Francis despised money with all his heart, and did not want his friars to touch a single coin. It is said that one day, when a man left a money offering under the crucifix in the little church of the Portiuncula, one of the friars took the coin with one hand and placed it on a window sill. Hearing this, Francis called the friar and ordered him to remove the coin from the windowsill with his mouth and place it on a pile of donkey’s dung outside the church. Francis did this to help the friar understand that there was no difference between money and dung.

Then there is the Prayer of Saint Francis (or Peace Prayer, or Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace), which is a widely known Christian prayer. There is one problem, however: St. Francis never authored it. It is an anonymous text from the beginning of the 20th century. According to scholars, in fact, it would be difficult to attribute to Francis a prayer in which Jesus is not even mentioned. The misunderstanding is said to have arisen because in 1918 a certain Father Etienne Benoit had the text of this prayer printed on the back of a holy card of St. Francis because it seemed to him to recall all the values of which Francis had been the bearer in life.

I know, these are only small details that have no effect on our great admiration and devotion for St. Francis, however they make us realize that it is very important to always deepen our faith, including our devotion to the saints.

And, by the way, if you are feeling a little down on some grey autumn day remember these words of the Poverello: “Just one ray of sunshine is enough to dispel millions of shadows.” It is a beautiful sentence that can also very well apply to all fake news: a ray of truth can dispel all the lies we are fed with every day. Peace and all good!


Updated on October 03 2022