Thursday, April 6, 2006

Did St. Francis Die From an STD?

Francis died at only 45 years of age. Later in life his vision slowly deteriorated, sometimes to the point of complete blindness. Due to the pain in his eyes, Brother Elias insisted he seek treatment. So they traveled to Rieti and Francis underwent the excruciating cauterization procedure, but his sight never improved. While nobody can look back and diagnose whether Francis simply died from years under harsh living conditions, an STD, or some other kind of disease, we do know that before turning his life over to God he pretty much indulged in every kind of pleasure life offered. To put it simply, Francis had a lot of sex. Now, considering both the general lack of knowledge about STDs and the inability to protect oneself (outside of abstinence), I can't imagine how anyone could get away with even a moderately sexually active lifestyle with catching something. And at least one common STD, Cytomegalovirus, can result in blindness. Considering his relatively young age at death, you can't rule out the possibility.

Of course, we'll never know for sure and ultimately it doesn't matter, but I do feel that if it is true, such a death only makes Francis' story that much more dramatic and relevant in an age of widespread sexual confusion and promiscuity. It's also a powerful testimony to Francis' redemption from his old "life" to eternal life in Christ. Francis could have died for the world and all the temporal pleasures it offered him, but he chose Christ and died for Christ, teaching his brothers by word and example right to the very end. And perhaps an early death was God's gift to Francis, to finally be taken from this world and into Heaven.

10 comments:

Tom said...

Jason, I just got your post on my blog, and will answer it as soon as I have time. But I have a question for you. Would you do a post chronicling your move from being a Baptist Calvinist to a Roman Catholic? Honestly, I am shocked and saddened. But I'm also very interested and curious. What happened?

Jason said...

Well, I was never a Baptist Calvinist. I grew up in a Lutheran church, but during college I was never concerned with denominational labels. I ended up attending Sojourn kinda by default... my friends were going there and I liked it because the people were at all different points in their Christian journey. I think that kind of environment attracted non-Christians and nominal Christians to the church and I liked it because those people were around and I was also in that uncertain questioning phase for a while when I didn't know what I believed.

But I'll write up something in more detail... requests for future posts are always appreciated :)

Tom said...

My apologies for making the assumption that you were a Baptist Calvinist. What were you, then? ;)

Blessings,
Tom

Jason said...

Just a Christian. I would've called myself Lutheran if I had to go with a denomination because my church membership was back home at my parent's church. Of course, that's not ideal since we should all strive to be involved as members of a local church, but I didn't worry about it much since I was still in college and didn't really feel settled down.

Tom said...

Cool. Were/are you a Southern student? I had always thought you were, but I realize I could have been mistaken. If you were/are, then what do you plan to do with the degree. Apologies again if I'm all mixed up. I thought I knew more than I did. I don't want to make the same mistake twice!

Grace,
Tom

Jason said...

Nope, never was a student at Southern. I never had much interest at all with seminary until I started getting interested in all this theology stuff about a year or two ago, but I guess I could handle a Catholic seminary since they probably don't have the crazy rules about no drinking or smoking anywhere, anytime. :)

Tom said...

Wow, amazing the assumptions that I made the whole time I knew you. Kind of scarey. Very scarey, actually. I just always assumed you were "one of us" seminary guys because you are our age, and in on our conversations about theology, etc. I apologize. Still, I'm very interested in a post chronicling your journey to Roman Catholicism. Come post on my blog to let me know if you decide you have time to do it.

Blessings my friend,
Tom

Jason said...

It's funny... when I was in business school at UofL, for some reason a lot of people thought I was in the Speed Engineering program. Maybe I had a nerdy demeanor or something :)

friar minor said...

It's certainly an interesting possibility; it is hard to get a handle on Francis' general state of illness, as well his early death. Most pious answers blame his fasting, but who knows if there was more.

Of course, another possibility is that he had leprosy, caught from his work with them... Indeed, there has been scholarly suggestion that leprosy could have been what was interpreted as stigmata! In my opinion it doesn't even matter theologically, but that's for another day!

And in the late medieval imagination, leprosy was certainly considered an STD, as far as they had an idea of such a thing.

Thanks for the post!

Charles of New Haven said...

Ok., I ran across the canonical article on this topic today. It's in Franciscan Studies, 1987, by Joanne Shatzlein and Daniel Sulmasy. Great stuff!