Francis of Assisi, much like Pope Francis of Rome, was a narcissistic media whore who tried to subvert the Church and set up a personality cult around himself. Francis of Assisi—much like Pope JPII, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and Abraham Lincoln—always seemed like the kind of man everyone admires because they are told to admire him without ever actually knowing much about him. Well, let’s do some educationing.
Most obviously, people talk about how Francis made a new kind of religious order, the mendicants, in which the brothers don’t own property. But wasn’t that already a thing? The three vows in Western Christian monasticism are celibacy, obedience, and poverty. The Church had already established a form of monasticism. They usually lived in a community and shared everything. So what was he trying to achieve? Owning absolutely nothing instead owning things in common, except for the food and clothing. I wonder where they slept. Like, in a ditch? The local homeless shelter?
The mendicants live off of begging for others’ charity. Basically, they want to be bums. Yes, Francis’s great Christian virtue was being a parasite on society. He did not take the prescription of the Church with conventional monasticism but chose to do something innovative and idealistic of his own volition, even though the concept of the vow of obedience is to have no desires. It had been 1200 years since Christ, so if his idea was really so fantastic, you’d think someone would have thought up it by then.
The Bible says, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” This could be an issue if you want to be a hobo. Fortunately Francis found a solution. He became a televangelist. True, there were already bishops and priests all throughout Europe who taught regularly, but that would require study and submission. Instead of seeking ordination, Francis decided to just speak his own sensationalist message on the street corner. The Catholic Church, however, views this protestant-esque circumvention as a righteous thing, so apparently they admit that they were completely spiritually dead at that time. This was only 200 years after the Eastern Schism, so it makes me wonder whether it was Rome that split off from the Greeks and not the other way around. But I digress…
The hagiography says,
When someone told him of a priest living openly with a woman and asked him if that meant the Mass was polluted, Francis went to the priest, knelt before him, and kissed his hands — because those hands had held God.
What did that accomplish? The priest was living in sacrilege while handling the very body and blood of Christ. Did kissing his hand accomplish anything except having people gossip about how very compassionate Francis was? The standard Catholic rationalization to these kinds of things (much like JPII publicly forgiving his assassin) is that it sets a good example. But the Bible says to not make a show of your good works. People already knew they should be compassionate. Francis only taught the people to ignore clerical abuses. So much for rebuilding Christian morality.
Francis and his companions went out to preach two by two, just like the real Jesus. I think when Jesus said to imitate him, he was referring to his virtues and not to the mundane patterns of his life. Joseph Smith had the same misconception. Nevermind that Francis wasn’t a priest and had no authority to preach or to command others to preach. No, he was going to do what he wanted regardless of the ecclesiastical system he believed that God had put in place. Francis set himself up to be his own bishop.
So when Francis wanted approval for his brotherhood, he went straight to Rome to see Pope Innocent III. You can imagine what the pope thought when this beggar approached him! As a matter of fact he threw Francis out. But when he had a dream that this tiny man in rags held up the tilting Lateran basilica, he quickly called Francis back and gave him permission to preach.
So he was previously preaching without the pope’s permission? Keep in mind he was preaching before he had his disciples. And then the pope gives him permission without making him do any kind of formal study. So basically he was the medieval equivalent of those nondenominational (i.e. disgruntled Baptist) churches that pop up all over town. The ones with a cool guitar in the logo and a name like “Journey” or “GracePointe”.
Elsewhere the hagiography says,
Francis acted quickly because he acted from the heart.
In other words, he was impulsive and headstrong. He didn’t think through his actions. He had lives in his hands—both the brotherhood who gave him absolute obedience and the masses who clinged to his teaching—and he did not manage those lives with careful attention. The hagiography actually tells several stories about him screwing over people on accident. What it never says is why he was qualified to be the one obeyed. Did he ever give obedience to someone? It appears his only real quality is a love of poverty. He didn’t go to seminary, so I imagine his sermons were very much a “speaking from the heart,” as they say in protestantism. Nor did he even own a Bible to preach from. That might have been a good possession to have.
Once he was so sick and exhausted, his companions borrowed a mule for him to ride. When the man who owned the mule recognized Francis he said, “Try to be as virtuous as everyone thinks you are because many have a lot of confidence in you.”
Wow, just like Jesus. Borrowing a mule from someone who admires him. Truly this man was Christlike. We don’t have mules where I live, so I suppose I’ll never live up to God’s standard.
When he began to go blind, the pope ordered that his eyes be operated on. This meant cauterizing his face with a hot iron. Francis spoke to “Brother Fire”: “Brother Fire, the Most High has made you strong and beautiful and useful. Be courteous to me now in this hour, for I have always loved you, and temper your heat so that I can endure it.” And Francis reported that Brother Fire had been so kind that he felt nothing at all.
Conversing to inanimate objects. The Bible talks about how worthless that is. This was borderline pagan of Francis, but no one who isn’t Catholic would be surprised.
Another hagiography says that he had a fetish with “Lady Poverty”, considering her to be his bride. Celibacy is as much a state of mind as it is a state of action. A monk should not use erotic metaphors to describe the nature of his life.
It also says that his followers traveled throughout Western Europe to missionize, even though the Church was already well-established there. Missionaries normally found churches, so what would they be establishing? Francis grew up wealthy, so perhaps he was just bored and spoiled and wanted adventure and meaning. He would have fit in very well with the baby boomers. Francis was the Al Sharpton of Catholicism—making up problems so he could hear himself talk and get donations.
The saint received the stigmata of Christ, which is the rite of passage for all the real saints. Well, all the saints apart from any of the ones in the first several centuries, but that’s beside the point.
The saint’s right side is described as bearing on open wound which looked as if made by a lance, while through his hands and feet were black nails of flesh, the points of which were bent backward. After the reception of the stigmata, Francis suffered increasing pains throughout his frail body, already broken by continual mortification.
What a terrible God. Why would he do that to someone? How is that supposed to inspire me? I don’t want to be a holy person if it means suffering like that. Jesus didn’t seem to enjoy it, so I doubt Francis was reveling in how much he was suffering. Actually, given his ego complex, he probably loved it. You read the story of Catherine of Siena and understand that the stigmata must be demonic. Then you read the story of Therese of Lisieux and understand that Catholicism is far more bizarre and discomforting than you ever thought.
On to Francis’s death:
On the eve of his death, the saint, in imitation of his Divine Master, had bread brought to him and broken. This he distributed among those present, blessing Bernard of Quintaville, his first companion, Elias, his vicar, and all the others in order. “I have done my part,” he said next, “may Christ teach you to do yours.” Then wishing to give a last token of detachment and to show he no longer had anything in common with the world, Francis removed his poor habit and lay down on the bare ground, covered with a borrowed cloth, rejoicing that he was able to keep faith with his Lady Poverty to the end.
That’s screwed up on so many levels. Again, the fetish with his inanimate wife is present. We also see him having a last supper just like the real Jesus would have done. Too bad Francis couldn’t resurrect in three days, though. That would have made the whole thing perfect.
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