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The Death of St. Francis

What Francis did and said at his blessed Death
    Twenty years had now passed since his conversion and his time was ending just as if it had been shown to him by God's will. Once the blessed father and brother Elias were staying at Foligno, and one night while they were sleeping, a priest of venerable appearance and great age dressed in white clothing appeared to brother Elias. "Get up, brother," he said, "and tell brother Francis that eighteen years have passed since he renounced the world and clung to Christ. He will remain in this life only two more years; then he will go the way of all flesh when the Lord calls him to Himself." So it came to pass that, at the established time, the word of the Lord spoken long before, now was fulfilled.
    After he had rested a few days in that place he so longed for, knowing the time of his death was close at hand, he called to him two brothers, his special sons, and told them to sing The Praises of the Lord with a loud voice and joyful spirit, rejoicing at his approaching death, or rather at the life that was so near. He himself, as best he could, broke into that psalm of David: "With a loud voice I cried to the Lord; with a loud voice I beseeched the Lord."
    There was a brother there whom the holy man loved with great affection. Seeing what was happening and realizing the saint was nearing the end, he grew very concerned about all the brothers and said: Oh, kind father, your sons will now be without a father, and will be deprived of the true light of their eyes! Remember the orphans you are leaving behind; forgive all their faults, and gladden them all, whether present or absent with your holy blessing." The holy man answered: "See, my son I am being called by God. I forgive all my brothers, present and absent, all their faults and offenses, and I absolve them insofar as I am able. When you give them this message, bless them all for me."
    Then he ordered the book of the Gospels to be brought in. He asked that the Gospel according to John be read to him, starting with the passage that begins: "Six days before the Passover, Jesus, knowing that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the father." This was the very gospel his minister had planned to read, even before he was told to do so; that was the passage that met his eye as he first opened the book, although he had the complete Bible from which to read the gospel. Then Francis told them to cover him with sackcloth and to sprinkle him with ashes, as he was soon to become dirt and ashes.
    Many brothers gathered there, for whom he was both father and leader. They stood there reverently, all awaiting his blessed departure and happy end. And then that most holy soul was released from the flesh, and as it was absorbed into the abyss of light, his body fell asleep in the Lord.
    One of his brothers and followers, a man of some fame, whose name I will conceal for now since he does not wish to glory in such fame while still living in the flesh, saw the soul of the most holy father rise straight to heaven over many waters. It was like a star, but as big as the moon, with the brilliance of the sun, and carried his soul upon a small white cloud .

Let me cry out therefore:
"O what a glorious saint he is!
His disciple saw his soul ascending into
heaven:
Beautiful as the moon,
Bright as the sun,
glowing brilliantly as if ascending upon a
white cloud!
O true lamp of the world,
shining more brilliantly than the sun in
the Church of Christ!
Now, you have withdrawn the rays of
your light,
as you withdraw into that luminous
homeland.
You have exchanged our poor company
for that of the angels and saints!
In your glorious goodness and great
renown,
do not put aside care for your sons,
though you have put aside flesh like
theirs.
You know, you truly know,
the danger in which you have left them;
for it was your blessed presence alone
that always mercifully relieved
their countless labors and frequent
troubles!
O truly merciful and most holy father,
you were always kind and ready
to Show mercy and forgive your sinful
sons!
We bless you therefore, worthy father,
as you have been blessed by the Most
High,
Who is God over all things blessed
forever. Amen.


THE LAMENT OF THE BROTHERS AND THEIR JOY WHEN THEY PERCEIVED THAT FRANCIS BORE THE SIGNS OF THE CROSS IN HIS BODY

    At Francis's death, a whole crowd of people praising God came together and said: "You, our Lord and God, be praised and blessed, for you have given us unworthy ones so precious a remnant! Praise and glory to you, O ineffable Trinity!"
    The whole city of Assisi rushed down as a group and the entire region hurried to see the wonderful works of God which the Lord of majesty gloriously displayed in his holy servant. Each person burst into a song of joy at the urging of a joyful heart, and all of them had their desire fulfilled and blessed the almighty Savior. Still his sons were mourning, bereft of so great a father, and showed the deep feeling of their hearts in groaning and tears.

Then incredible joy lightened their grief!
A new miracle
turned their minds to amazement.
Their mourning turned into song,
Their weeping to jubilation.
For they had never heard or read in
Scripture
about what their eyes could see:
they could not have been persuaded to
believe it
if it were not demonstrated by such clear
evidence.
In fact,
there appeared in him
the form of the cross and passion
of the spotless lamb
who washed away the sins of the world
It seemed
he had just been taken down from the cross,
his hands and feet pierced by nails
and his right side
wounded by a lance.

    They looked at his skin which was black before but now shining white in its beauty, promising the rewards of the blessed resurrection. They saw his face like a face of an angel, as if he were not dead, but alive. All his limbs had become as soft and moveable as in childhood innocence. His muscles were not taut, as they usually are in the dead, his skin was not hard, his limbs were not rigid but could be easily moved back and forth.
    All the people saw him glowing with remarkable beauty and his flesh became even whiter than before. It was even more wonderful for them to see in the middle of his hands and feet, not just the holes of the nails, but the nails themselves formed by his own flesh, retaining the dark color of iron and his right side red with blood. These signs of martyrdom did not provoke horror, but added great beauty and grace, like little black stones in a white pavement.
    His brothers and sons hurried to him and, weeping together, kissed the hands, the feet, and the right side of their dear father who had left them. The wound in his side made them remember the One who poured out blood and water from His own side and reconciled the world to the Father.
    People considered it a great gift to be allowed to kiss or even to see the sacred marks of Jesus Christ, which Saint Francis bore in his own body.

                                                          From: "The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano"