Transitus (Death) of Saint Francis Prayer Service

For the evening of October 3

Saint Francis died just after sunset on October 3. He recited Psalm 142 and, during the closing verse, he died.

 

This event is solemnly recalled each year by Franciscans to honor their holy Father's entrance into joy. We invite you to commemorate this night.

There are many different prayer services to observe the Transitus of Saint Francis.  Most of these work best with groups who generally observe the transitus in a church. 

 

This article offers three options:

Transitus Service in One's Own Home

 

Transitus for Group Without a Priest or Deacon

 

Transitus Requiring Presence of Priest or Deacon

 

A Transitus Service in Printed Form is available from the Confraternity of Penitents Holy Angels Gift Shop. Bulk discounts are available.

TRANSITUS SERVICE IN ONE'S OWN HOME

The following observance may be done in the privacy of your own home or with a few others in your living room or parlor.  

Light two candles and have a relic or image of St. Francis available.

Begin with Evening Prayer 1 from the Liturgy of the Hours.  If you do not have the Liturgy of the Hours or do not know how to pray it, pray instead the Fourth and Fifth Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, 'The Crucifixion of Jesus' and "The Death of Jesus on the Cross.'

Read the following excerpt from Francis's Testament given shortly before he died:

The Testament of Saint Francis (1226)

I worked with my own hands, and I am still determined to work, and with all my heart I wish to have all the rest of the brothers work at employment that can be carried out without scandal. Those who do not know how to work should learn, not because they want to get something for their efforts, but to give good example and to avoid idleness. And should the wages of our work not be given to us, we can turn to God's table and beg alms from door to door. God revealed a form of greeting to me, telling me that we should say, "God give you peace."

Pause for a few moments of silent reflection.

Venerate (kiss or touch) the Relic or image of St. Francis.

 

An appropriate hymn or song may be sung.

The following antiphon is said:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Francis, poor and humble, enters heaven rich and is welcomed with celestial hymns. Alleluia.

Then follows Psalm 142:

1 1 2 A maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A prayer.

 

2 With full voice I cry to the LORD; with full voice I beseech the LORD.

 

3 Before God I pour out my complaint, lay bare my distress.

 

4 My spirit is faint within me, but you know my path. Along the way I walk they have hidden a trap for me.

 

5 I look to my right hand, but no friend is there. There is no escape for me; no one cares for me.

 

6 I cry out to you, LORD, I say, You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.

 

7 Listen to my cry for help, for I am brought very low. Rescue me from my pursuers, for they are too strong for me.

 

8 3 Lead me out of my prison, that I may give thanks to your name. Then the just shall gather around me because you have been good to me.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Antiphon is repeated:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Francis, poor and humble, enters heaven rich and is welcomed with celestial hymns. Alleluia.

 

Blow out the candles to signify the death of Saint Francis.

Then, having in mind St. Francis' devotion to the wounds or our Lord, and looking at the figure of the Crucified, with arms outstretched, say five times the prayer of Our Lord:

 

Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name.  Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

 

End with the following prayer:

O God, you granted our blessed Father Francis the reward of everlasting joy: grant that we, who celebrate the memory of his death, may at last come to the same eternal joy; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

TRANSITUS FOR GROUP WITHOUT PRIEST OR DEACON

Have available 2 candles, matches, Evening Prayer 1 from Solemnity of Saint Francis, Bible open to John 13, relic of St. Francis, image or statue of St. Francis, copy of Transitus for all present, Franciscan Omnibus (page numbers are given for the one volume, red cover edition), copies of the Song of St. Francis (Make Me a Channel of Your Peace).  

 

It is helpful if a deacon or priest is present to assist with reading from John, veneration of relic, final prayer. However, this Transitus may be done by laity alone.

 

Assign readers prior to Transitus and have chapel or other location set up for Tranitus before beginning.  This celebration of the Transitus takes about an hour. 

Reader begins:

 

Saint Francis died just after sunset on October 3. He recited Psalm 142 and during the closing verse he died. This event is solemnly recalled each year by Franciscans to honor their holy Father's entrance into joy. We invite you to pray this office with us. 

Light two candles and have a relic or image of St. Francis available. An appropriate song may be sung to begin the Transitus. 

Begin with Evening Prayer 1 for the Solemnity. 

Read Francis's Testament given shortly before he died (in the Franciscan Omnibus, P. 67):  Then,  

 

(Read Together) I worked with my own hands, and I am still determined to work, and with all my heart I wish to have all the rest of the brothers work at employment that can be carried out without scandal. Those who do not know how to work should learn, not because they want to get something for their efforts, but to give good example and to avoid idleness. And should the wages of our work not be given to us, we can turn to God's table and beg alms from door to door. God revealed a form of greeting to me, telling me that we should say, "God give you peace." 

​Read the Death of St. Francis, First Life of St. Francis by Thomas of Celano, Book II, Chapter VIII (in Franciscan Omnibus, p. 322) 

The Story of the Death of St. Francis

Narrators:

 

1.      At this time Francis was staying in the palace of the Bishop of Assisi, and he therefore asked the brothers to take him as quickly as possible to the place of St. Mary of the Portiuncula. For he wished to give back his soul to God in that place where, as has been said, he first knew the way of truth perfectly. The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano, The Second Book, Chapter VII #108, p. 277 or The Assisi Compilation, # 5, p. 120.

 

2.      Then blessed Francis, despite the overpowering burden of his sickness, praised the Lord in a great joyful outburst of body and soul, saying to his companion: “Since I must soon die, have Brother Angel and Brother Leo come and praise our Sister Death for me.” Both arrived and, forcing back their tears, sang the “Canticle of Brother Sun” and of the other creatures, which the saint had composed during his sickness for the glory of God and for the consolation of his soul and of that of the others. The Assisi Compilation, # 7, p. 121.

 

3.      While therefore the brothers were weeping very bitterly and grieving inconsolably, the holy father commanded that bread be brought to him. He blessed and broke it and gave a small piece of it to each one to eat. Commanding also that a book of the Gospels be brought, he asked that the Gospel according to St. John be read to him from the place that begins: “Before the feast of the Passover.” He was recalling that most holy supper which the Lord celebrated as his last supper with his disciples. He did all of this in reverent memory of that supper, showing thereby the deep love he had for his brothers. The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul by Thomas of Celano, The Second Book, Chapter CLXIII, #217, p. 387. 4.    

Reader: John 13:1-17 

 

Narrators:

4.      Then [Francis] spent the few days that remained before his death in praise, teaching his companions whom he loved so much to praise Christ with him. He himself, in as far as he was able broke forth in this psalm, “I cried to the Lord with my voice: with my voice I made supplication to the Lord.” He also invited all creatures to praise God. He exhorted death itself, terrible and hateful to all, to give praise, and going joyfully to meet it, he invited it to make its lodging with him.
 

5.      Then Francis said to the brothers: “When you see that I am brought to my last moments, place me naked upon the ground just as you saw me the day before yesterday; and let me lie there after I am dead for the length of time it takes one to walk a mile unhurriedly.” The hour therefore came, and all the mysteries of Christ being fulfilled in him, he winged his way happily to God. The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul by Thomas of Celano, The Second Book, Chapter CLXIII, #217, p. 388.

Blow out candles. 

 

Venerate Relic or image of St. Francis. This can be done by elevating the relic and having all kneel and adore or else by having those present come forward to kiss the relic or make another appropriate act of veneration. The type of veneration should be chosen beforehand and made known to all. 

 

       The following Antiphon is said by all present: 

 

       Alleluia, Alleluia, Francis, poor and humble, enters heaven rich and is welcomed with celestial hymns. Alleluia. 

 

       Then follows Psalm 142 read together: 

 

1 1 2 A maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A prayer.

     2 With full voice I cry to the LORD; with full voice I beseech the LORD.

     3 Before God I pour out my complaint, lay bare my distress.

     4 My spirit is faint within me, but you know my path. Along the way I walk they have hidden a trap for me.

     5 I look to my right hand, but no friend is there. There is no escape for me; no one cares for me.

     6 I cry out to you, LORD, I say, You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.

     7 Listen to my cry for help, for I am brought very low. Rescue me from my pursuers, for they are too strong for me.

     8 3 Lead me out of my prison, that I may give thanks to your name. Then the just shall gather around me because you have been good to me. 

 

 and the Glory to the Father... 

 

       The Antiphon is repeated.  

 

Alleluia, Alleluia, Francis, poor and humble, enters heaven rich and is welcomed with celestial hymns. Alleluia.

 

       Then, having in mind St. Francis' devotion to the wounds or our Lord, and looking at the figure of the  Crucified, with arms outstretched, say five times the prayer of Our Lord [Our Father...]

 

Then the following prayer together pray: 

 

       O God, you granted our blessed Father Francis the reward of everlasting joy: grant that we, who celebrate the memory of his death, may at last come to the same eternal joy; through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

 

A priest or deacon, if present, may give a blessing.

 

End with the Song of St. Francis (Make Me a Channel of Your Peace)

TRANSITUS THAT REQUIRES THE PRESENCE OF A PRIEST OR DEACON

 

Saint Francis died at about sunset on Saturday, October 3, 1226. He recited the 142nd psalm and at the closing words, “Lead my soul out of prison so that I may give praise to Your name,” his blessed soul passed from earth to Heaven. To commemorate his passing, the following ceremony is held.

 

A deacon may assume the parts marked "Priest" in the ceremony.

 

AT LEAST TWO CANDLES SHOULD BE LIT. A RELIC OF ST. FRANCIS SHOULD BE AVAILABLE. IF NO RELIC IS AVAILABLE, A PAINTING OR IMAGE OF ST. FRANCIS MAY BE USED INSTEAD. INCENSE SHOULD BE READILY AVAILABLE. 

 

IF DESIRED, BREAD MAY BE ON HAND TO BE BLESSED BY THE PRIEST OR DEACON AND DISTRIBUTED TO THE CONGREGATION FOLLOWING THE PRAYER SERVICE.

 

AN APPROPRIATE HYMN MAY BE SUNG OR PLAYED. 

 

ALL PRESENT MAY PRAY TOGETHER EVENING PRAYER 1 FROM THE SOLEMNITY OF SAINT FRANCIS. (THIS IS IN THE FRANCISCAN SUPPLEMENT TO THE LITURGY OF THE HOURS, AVAILABLE FROM THE CONFRATERNITY OF PENITENTS HOLY ANGELS GIFT SHOP) IF EVENING PRAYER 1 IS NOT AVAILABLE, PROCEED TO THE PRAISES  OF GOD WHICH FOLLOW.

 

THEN ALL RECITE THE PRAISES OF GOD WHICH SAINT FRANCIS WROTE. THIS MAY BE DONE BY ALTERNATING SIDES: 

 

You are holy, Lord, the only God, and Your deeds are wonderful.

You are strong. You are great.

You are the Most High. You are Almighty.

You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.

You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good. You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.

You are love. You are wisdom.

You are humility. You are endurance.

You are rest. You are peace.

You are joy and gladness.

You are justice and moderation.

You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.

You are beauty. You are gentleness.

You are our protector. You are our guardian and defender.

You are our courage. You are our haven and our hope.

You are our faith, our great consolation.

You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord, God Almighty, Merciful Savior. 

 

THE PRIEST INCENSES THE RELIC. 

 

SIT 

 

THE PRIEST READS THE FOLLOWING ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH OF ST. FRANCIS AS RECORDED BY ST. BONAVENTURE. 

 

From the Major Life of St. Francis by Brother Bonaventure

 

As the moment of his death drew near, the saint had all the friars who were there called to his side; he spoke to them gently with fatherly affection, consoling them for his death and exhorting them to love God. He mentioned especially poverty and patient endurance and the necessity of holding to the faith of the holy Roman Church, and gave the Gospel pre-eminence over any other rule of life. The friars were grouped about him and he stretched out his arms over them in the form of a cross, because he loved the sign, and blessed all the friars, both present and absent, in the power and in the name of the Crucified.

 

Then he added, "I bid you good bye, all you my sons, in the fear of God. Remain in Him always. There will be trials and temptations in the future, and it is well for those who persevere in the life they have undertaken. I am on my way to God, and I commend you all to his favor."

 

When he had finished his inspiring admonition, he told them to bring a book of the Gospels and asked to have the passage of St. John read which begins, "Before the Pascal feast began..." Then, as best he could, he intoned the psalm, "Loud is my cry to the Lord, the prayer I utter for the Lord's mercy," and recited it all down to the last verse, "Too long have honest hearts waited to see you grant me redress."

 

At last, when all God's mysteries had been accomplished in him, his holy soul was freed from his body and assumed into the abyss of God's glory, and Francis fell asleep in God. One of the friars, a disciple of his, saw his soul being borne on a white cloud over many waters to heaven, under the appearance of a radiant star. It shone with the brightness of sublime sanctity, full of the abundance of divine wisdom and grace which had earned for him the right to enter the home of light and peace, where he rests with Christ forever. (Major Life, XIV, 5-6)

 

STAND

 

PRIEST: O most holy soul, at whose passing the denizens of Heaven rise in welcome, the chorus of the angels rejoices and the glorious Trinity invokes him saying, Abide with us forever.”

 

RECITE NOW THE 142ND PSALM:

 

PRIEST: I cried to the Lord with my voice; I made supplication to the Lord with my voice.

 

PEOPLE: In His sight I pour out my prayer, and before Him I declare my trouble.

 

PRIEST: When my spirit failed me, then You knew my paths.

 

PEOPLE:  On they way which I was walking, they laid a snare for me.

 

PRIEST:  I looked on my right hand and beheld; and there was no one that would know me.

 

PEOPLE: Flight has failed me: there is no one who has regard to my soul.

 

PRIEST: I cried to You, o Lord. I said, You are my hope, my portion in the land of the living.

 

PEOPLE: Attend to my supplication for I am brought very low.

 

PRIEST: Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than I.

 

PEOPLE: Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your name; the just wait for me, until You reward me.

 

PRIEST: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit

 

PEOPLE: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end. Amen. 

 

THE CANDLES ARE NOW EXTINGUISHED. ALL KNEEL AND PRAY IN SILENCE FOR A MOMENT. FIVE OUR FATHERS, FIVE HAIL MARYS, AND FIVE GLORY BE’S ARE THEN PRAYED TOGETHER IN HONOR OF THE FIVE WOUNDS OF OUR FATHER SAINT FRANCIS. 

 

STAND.

 

PRIEST: Hail, holy father, light of your country, model of your friars,  mirror of virtue, path of rectitude, rule of conduct. From this exile of the flesh, lead us to the realms above.

 

ALL GENUFLECT.

 

PEOPLE: Poor and humble Francis enters Heaven laden with riches.

 

PRIEST: Let us pray. O God, Who this day gave to the soul of our holy father Francis the reward of everlasting bliss, be pleased to grant that we who, with loving hearts celebrate the memory of his departure, may deserve to obtain the same happiness for our reward. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

ALL NOW PROCEED FORWARD TO VENERATE (KISS) THE RELIC WHICH THE PRIEST HOLDS. AFTER ALL HAVE RETURNED TO THEIR SEATS, OBSERVE A TIME OF REFLECTIVE SILENCE.

 

THEN RECITE THE CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES WHICH ST. FRANCIS WROTE WHILE SUFFERING FROM AN EYE DISEASE THAT MADE ALL LIGHT HURT HIS EYES. AS A RESULT, HE WAS BLIND. THE VERSES ABOUT PARDON AND PEACE HE WROTE TO RECONCILE THE BISHOP AND MAYOR OF ASSISI. THE LAST VERSES ABOUT DEATH HE WROTE ON HIS DEATHBED.

STAND. SIDES MAY BE ALTERNATED IN THE RECITAL.

 

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

 

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

 

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.

 

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.

 

IF BREAD WILL BE GIVEN TO EACH LEAVING, TO TAKE HOME AS A SYMBOL OF OUR EUCHARISTIC FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY, THE PRIEST BLESSES THE BREAD AT THIS POINT.

 

AN APPROPRIATE HYMN MAY BE SUNG TO END THE TRANSITUS.

 

PEOPLE LEAVE IN SILENCE, TAKING BREAD ALONG WITH THEM IF IT IS AVAILABLE.

© 2016 by The Confraternity of Penitents, 1702 Lumbard Street, Fort Wayne IN USA 46803   www.penitents.org

 

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