Franciscan Spirit Blog

Novena to St. Francis | Day Nine: Death

From the earliest days of the order, Franciscans gather on the evening of October 3 to remember the passing of our founder, St. Francis of Assisi. It is an evening of music, prayer, and recalling the saint who loved fully and lived humbly. The evening is often referred to as the Transitus of Francis. The word transitus means “passing” or “crossing over.” The service specifically remembers Francis at his holiest moment—the moment in which he met his God.

Famed biographer Thomas of Celano writes that with his companions gathered around him, Francis spent his final days lovingly teaching and admonishing them. And with the final verse added, his “Canticle of Creatures” was sung by all the brothers gathered.

“Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape….”

Francis was a man of hope and trust in the Lord; he did not fear death. Reading from the many sources of his life, there are numerous examples of seeking death. With the finest arms, he rode off to war twice. He experienced death early in his conversion when he lived and worked with the lepers in the valley below Assisi. He sought a martyr’s death by traveling to convert Saracens during the crusades. Today, we often see Francis pictured with a skull at his feet or in his hand. For Francis, death was not the end nor something to be feared, but a returning to or turning over one’s soul to its Love.

Francis admonishes us; we too should not fear death. “Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome” (Wisdom 1:13-14).

Reading again his “Canticle of Creatures,” we, like the sun, earth, and wind, are created by God and are brought into existence for God. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, “All things were created through him and for him” (1 Col 16). If God is the source of my life and the source of your life, then the fullness of my life can only be found in you and in all that is in this world, because the fullness of God is expressed in humanity and all of creation.

For a hopeful Francis, laying on the ground naked, praising and embracing Sister Death: This was a man at the culmination of years of trials, prayer, and a life spent longing to be intimately united with Jesus. In Francis’ final gift of poverty, he returned his mortal body to dust what was dust and to God what was God’s. And as Paul wrote to Titus, “And thus, we have hope. And hope brings us to Eternal Life” (Titus 1:2).

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Let Us Pray

Loving God, you sent St. Francis as a beacon of your love.
Inspire and give us the courage to become beacons today.
Let us learn from your humble servant how to give with open hearts
and to love others with the same zeal and purity.


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