What is St. Francis of Assisi Best Known For?

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What is St. Francis of Assisi best known for? In Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun and Sister Moon, all of Francesco’s friends believe that Francesco is out of his mind. One by one, they go to the ruins of San Damiano, where Francesco single-handedly restores an old church, to reason with him and bring him back to his senses. However, after looking into his eyes, they join him — one by one.

It’s all about someone’s eyes. Subconsciously, we always look for the eyes that radiate divine electricity. That’s why we are mesmerized by children at play. We are mesmerized by birds, fish, mountains, rivers, and clouds. They all exude the light that we are drawn to and want to participate in.

All the greatest world movements start from catching that Divine electricity in someone’s eyes. The person creates a magnetic field that draws us in. They are like a magnet that creates an electric current in all conductors. You feel it stirring in you, and you want to pass it on.

All major movements were born out of that spark. As long as this initial spark is there, the movement exists and is alive. When that spark goes, the movement dies and gets institutionalized. The institution is what remains after the electricity is gone. It is the only way to keep the form where there’s no substance.

The scene in the Pope’s palace in Brother Sun and Sister Moon is telling. Pope Innocent III played by Alec Guinness sits on his high throne encircled by cardinals. When St. Francis walks in with his disciples, they look like a bunch of bums. They are dirty and dressed in rags. But something shines in their eyes.

As St. Francis talks about his vision, the camera zooms in on Pope’s eyes. With every sentence out of St. Francis’s mouth, his eyes grow bigger and bigger. You can tell that he is drawn in. The cardinals want to drive the vagabonds out, but the Pope rises from his seat and walks down the steps. And then, the most unexpected thing happens — he kneels before St. Francis and kisses his dirty feet.

There’s silence in the hall. No one knows what’s happening. Franco Zeffirelli’s camera zooms in on Alec Guinness’s eyes. You can tell that the Pope wants to join them. You can see it in his eyes. They sparkle. The cardinals see it too. They start panicking and pull him away from St. Francis. They put the tiara back on his head so he won’t be carried away.

After a moment of “insanity,” the Pope is reminded of his duties. The sparkle goes out of his eyes. He allows the cardinals to put all his papal regalia back on him. His eyes grow dim. He is the Pope again. The moment of insanity is gone. But you can see the immense sadness behind his eyes. He succumbs to his duties of being the head of the institution while his heart wants to be moved by the Divine electricity.

St. Francis stretches his hands toward him but is pulled further back by the cardinals. The church starts singing “Gloria in Excelsis Dei.” As St. Francis and his disciples leave, he turns around and looks back twice. He is searching for the Pope’s eyes. You can tell they are kindred spirits. But the camera never shows the Pope’s eyes. He is back in his role. The role that doesn’t allow for electricity.