October 3, 2012
Saint Francis of Assisi died on October 3, 1226. Death was not something that simply “happened” to Francis, but a human reality that the saint of Assisi embraced as his sister. In the song which he wrote praising God for creation, Francis added the line:
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,From whose embrace no mortal can escape.Woe to those who die in mortal sin!Happy those she finds doing your will!The second death can do them no harm.Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks. And serve him with great humility.
Saint Francis saw Sister Death as a natural part of life through which we transition to continue our life with God. It was sad for him to say goodbye but he was ready. He even had one of his closest friends, Lady Jacoba, come from Rome and bring him some grey material for a habit in which to buried, candles for his funeral…. and, umm, some of those really good almond cookies that he liked so much! When the friars went to go get Jacoba the found her already on the road toward Assisi with all those things her friend wanted before he died.
Tonight, around the world, Franciscan Friars, Sisters, Seculars and people who love St. Francis will gather to remember this transition in the life of Francis with a prayer service called Transitus. They will remember that favorite passage of Francis from the Gospel of John where Jesus shows us the meaning of the Eucharist, the meaning of the Cross and the meaning of his life in the washing of feet! Francis may never have actually said these words, but his whole life proclaimed: Preach the Gospel. If necessary use words.
Oh… and about the friend, Lady Jacoba. Well, it was not common for women to be allowed into the friaries. So Francis made an exception by calling Jacoba his Brother Jacoba! Today, if you go to the tomb of St. Francis which is in the care of the Conventual Franciscan Friars in Assisi you will find Francis buried along with some of the earliest friars and dearest friends. Just before you leave that chapel there is one more tomb. You guessed it… Brother Jacoba.