Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI

Franciscan Centenary: One celebration marks five Franciscan anniversaries

St. Francis of Assisi received from God 5 key gifts  that are alive in our Church today

by Sister Mary Kabat
and Renae Bauer

The Nativity Scene. The Stigmata. The Canticle of the Creatures. Of all the ways in which St. Francis of Assisi worked to bring people to Jesus, these three are probably best known. Within Franciscan religious communities Francis also is credited for providing The Later Rule and special insights into Easter.

Because of these monumental contributions to our Church, the Conference of the Franciscan Family has designated a “Franciscan Centenary” to be celebrated until 2026. Each year will emphasize a different gift  St. Francis received from God and shared; in the spirit of the Centenary and our namesake, we give to you the gifts Brother Francis gave to us, knowing they are as relevant today and tomorrow as they were 800 years ago.

Celebrating the Later Rule
1223 to 2023

All members of the Franciscan family profess a Rule that becomes our pattern of life and consists in observing the Gospel. We are invited to live more fully the Gospel in community, living as Sisters to all, and striving to reach out to all members of society.

Opportunity:  Franciscans and friends can live this out in the world by acknowledging that, as one family, we work to build unity within society and its institutions.

“Steadfast in the Catholic Faith, we may observe poverty, humility, and the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ  as we have firmly promised.” (Later Rule 12:4, FF 109)

Christmas at Greccio
1223 to 2023

St. Francis was fond of the people of Greccio in central Italy because of their faith. While travelling to Assisi from Rome where the Rule of 1223 was approved, Francis stopped in Greccio; it was here that Francis contemplated the reality of the Incarnation – the simplicity, poverty, and humility of the Son of God.

With help from a friend, Francis began organizing a living Nativity, complete with a manger, hay and animals. As the multitude of people gathered for the Christmas Vigil Mass, one man was given a vision of St. Francis holding the living infant Jesus -- vulnerable yet mysterious. In that moment, Francis’ devotion to the “babe of Bethlehem” woke the hearts of those gathered -- just as our crèches do today.

Opportunity:  Can we contemplate God’s love for humanity? Can we show God’s mercy to our brothers and sisters, especially those in greatest need?

“For God so loved the world  that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16)

The Stigmata
1224 to 2024

After a period of ministry St. Francis retreated to Mount La Verna for Lenten fasting and praying. Francis’ desire to conform himself totally to Christ was realized as Jesus imprinted the signs of His love on Francis’ heart and body. In the book, Life of St. Francis, Bonaventure wrote:

“While Francis was praying on the mountainside, he saw a Seraph with six fiery and shining wings descend from the height of heaven. And when in swift flight the Seraph had reached a spot in the air near the man of God, there appeared between the wings the figure of a man crucified, with his hands and feet extended in the form of a cross and fastened to a cross. Two of the wings were lifted above his head, two were extended for flight and two covered his whole body. When Francis saw this, he was overwhelmed and his heart was flooded with a mixture of joy and sorrow. He rejoiced because of the gracious way Christ looked upon him under the form of a Seraph, but the fact that he was fastened to a cross pierced his soul with a sword of compassionate sorrow.”

Opportunity:  We are invited to restore the dimension of prayerful and contemplative silence in our daily lives that allows us to listen to ourselves, to others and to God; to make listening a way of life.

“By his wounds we were healed”   (Isaiah 53:5)

The Canticle of the Creatures
1225 to 2025

While nearly blind, Francis contemplated the wonders of creation with eyes of faith and perceived in them the presence of the Creator. To Francis, all creatures were mirrors of the Divine and were brothers and sisters, who together offered a chorus of praise and thanks to God. We are invited to a radical change in our relationship with creation, to shift from possessing creation to caring for our common home. We are invited to pause and admire creation’s beauty and safeguard its existence.

Opportunity:  How do we want to live out our relationship with other creatures? How can we care for our interior home – our heart. With open hearts, capable of disarming the mindset of hatred and revenge through forgiveness, we can become instruments of reconciliation and harmony.

“God looked at everything He had made,   and found it very good” (Genesis 1:31)

The Easter of St. Francis
1226 to 2026

Do we think about death? Francis welcomed Sister Death with song. He understood that death is not the end but the entrance into full communion with God. We are invited to contemplate our life with the eyes of faith and perceive the divine presence and action in everything, even in the difficult situations. It is an opportunity to thank God for all the gifts He has bestowed on us.

Opportunity:  The Easter of Francis is a reminder that every day is new and a chance to respond to God’s call. After all, each of us is called to holiness.

“For this reason He has sent you into the whole world:   that you may bear witness to His voice in word and deed” (Letter to the Entire Order 9, FF216)

Stay in touch -- This story originally appeared in the Sisters' newsletter. Subscribe to our FREE printed newsletter (issued five times a year) and our FREE e-spiritual reflections (weekly). We enjoy hearing from you so visit our “Send a Greeting to Sister” page and say hello. Thank you and God bless!

Please Share Me On