Persons, places and things: Re-living the story of St. Francis’ death

Barb Arland-Fye
Members and friends of a Secular Franciscan fraternity pray the Transitus of St. Francis at the grotto on the St. Ambrose University campus in Davenport Oct. 3.

Golden strands of sunlight slipped gently into the night as our group of 11 began the Transitus of St. Francis in the grotto on St. Ambrose Univer­sity campus in Davenport. Our absorption with the retelling of St. Francis’ passage from mortal life to eternal life kept us away from the distractions of foot traffic on campus and vehicular traffic on busy Locust Street.

Franciscan friars worldwide have commemorated the death of their order’s founder on the eve of his Oct. 4 feast day since two years after his death in 1226. A 2018 column in America magazine by J.D. Long-Garcia ( 2p9hdf5n) shares wonderful details, spiritual and secular, about the Transitus of St. Francis. A detail that delighted me: St. Francis loved almond cookies and requested them in his dying days.

The prayer service generally includes reenactment or recitation of the story of the saint’s death and the passage from St. John’s Gospel on the in­stitution of the Eucharist. St. Francis requested it be read to him on his deathbed. Participants also sing “Can­ticle of the Sun,” the song that Francis is believed to have completed in his final days, Long-Garcia reported.

Attending this prayer service is a tradition I look forward to each fall. Deacon Kent Ferris, a member of Pope Saint John XXIII Fraternity, Secular Franciscan Order, invited me to my first Transitus of St. Francis 10 years ago. In this column space, I wrote about that experience.


“While I am not discerning to be a Secular Franciscan at this point in my life, I found the prayer service to be especially enriching. St. Francis, like all human beings, wasn’t perfect and certainly demonstrated a few eccentricities. But The Story of the Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi offers a moving account of a saint fully in love with God and all of God’s creation,” I wrote.

I spoke of the secular Franciscans’ hospitality that led me to ditch my work responsibilities for the night. “Enjoying refreshments with the group after the prayer service, I learned that the Secular Franciscan Order is a branch of the worldwide Franciscan Family. It is the secular expression of the movement and order that St. Francis of Assisi began 800 years ago to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Secular Franciscans have a twofold task: to tell the world about salvation by God and to help individuals grow stronger and deeper in faith, hope and love.”

“Secular Franciscans strive to pattern their lives after the example of St. Francis by demonstrating a spirit of love that emphasizes common dignity and bond as God’s people. They live in a spirit of moderation to show complete trust in God’s will and providence and firm faith in human goodness. The Mass, sacraments, Scripture, prayer and dialogue with one another are integral to the Secular Franciscans’ movement and spirituality. Membership is a commitment to a spirituality and a style of life that guides, governs and permeates everything the secular Franciscan is and does.”

Deacon Ferris and the fraternity’s minister, Pat DeLuca, refer to me as a friend of the order because of my annual attendance at the Transitus of St. Francis and occasional participation in other events. I feel drawn to this community, whose members demonstrate the values of St. Francis in their daily lives. They spread the joy of the Gospel through their actions as much as their words. I hope to grow more like them.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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