The Transitus of St. Francis is a celebration of the passage of the saint from his earthly life to the glory of heaven. Traditionally celebrated by Franciscans all over the world on Oct. 3, there is no specific liturgical rite or specifications. Franciscan friars, sisters, members of the Third Order and others gather together on the vigil of the feast of St. Francis and commemorate the death of their beloved founder and brother.
Transitus is a Latin word which means “passage” or “crossing over.” In all of the accounts written about the death of St. Francis, it is always remarked that he crossed from earthly life to eternal life with the Lord, filled with joy and having written his Canticle of Creation.
In celebrating the Transitus, we are reminded that death is a part of life, that the final journey of our earthly existence is nothing to be feared, but to be celebrated and embraced. For it is only through death that we come to the full joy of the Lord.
What are ways that you can celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis?
The greatest celebration is the always the holy Mass. Try to attend Mass on the feast of St. Francis and ask his intercession for a happy and holy death.
Another great way to celebrate the Transitus is to read and meditate on some of the words of St. Francis. His original writings are contained in his Rule, his Testament, his admonitions, his letters, as well as his praises and prayers.
You might also celebrate the Transitus by reading a biography of St. Francis, such as St. Bonaventure’ s The Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano’s First and Second Life, or one of the more recent biographies. Read and reflect on the story of the death of St. Francis:
“On the eve of his death, the saint, in imitation of his Divine Master, had bread brought to him and broken. This he distributed among those present, blessing Bernard of Quintaville, his first companion; Elias, his vicar, and all the others in the order. “I have done my part,” he said next, “May Christ teach you to do yours.” Then wishing to give a last token of detachment and to show he no longer had anything in common with the world, Francis removed his poor habit and lay down on the bare ground, covered with a borrowed cloth, rejoicing that he was able to keep faith with his Lady Poverty to the end. After a while he asked to have read to him the Passion according to St. John, and then in faltering tones he himself intoned Psalm 141. At the concluding verse, ‘Bring my soul out of prison,’ Francis was led away from earth by ‘Sister Death,’ in whose praise he had shortly before added a new strophe to his ‘Canticle of the Sun.’“