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Saintly retreat: This is how St. Francis observed Lent

During Lent St. Francis would suspend his apostolic ministries and withdraw to the hermitages.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

On Ash Wednesday, the liturgical season of Lent officially begins – the 40-day penitential period in preparation for Easter. However, in centuries past, saints like Francis of Assisi observed multiple “Lenten” periods throughout the year.

In the 13th century, St. Francis of Assisi devoted himself to prayer and fasting for 40-day periods four or five times a year. In addition to the traditional Lenten period preceding Easter, Francis would pray from the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29) to the Assumption of Mary (August 15), from the Assumption to Michaelmas (September 29), and for the four weeks preceding Christmas (Advent).

Retreating to the hermitages

During these periods, he would suspend his apostolic ministries and withdraw to the hermitages. The hermitages were simple, austere places up in the hills and mountains, away from the towns and cities. Thomas of Celano, St. Francis’ first biographer, wrote: “In the clefts of the rock he would build his nest and in the hollow places of the wall his dwelling.”

Read more at Aleteia

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