The Salvation of Francis of Assisi
Francis of Assisi is popular for his virtues and is thought of highly by many people in the Orthodox Church. It's not possible, of course, to contemplate including him in divine services of the Orthodox Church, because he belonged to a Christian denomination with teachings which differed and deviated from the Truth of Holy Orthodoxy. That does not mean that we Orthodox judge him or anyone else. Many people are unaware of the Miracle of Francis of Assisi which has led many into the saving fold of the Holy Orthodox Church.
This occurred, if I recall, in the 1930s or 1940s, but I can't determine the name of the author or the date of the incidents described.
Here is the story as written:
"A friend of mine sent me a letter in French, in which an Alsatian woman asked him to send her something about the Russian Orthodox Church: a book of prayers or something similar. They sent something to her in response, and there the matter ended.
"Afterwards I was in Alsace (a place in France) and visited that woman to get acquainted, but just then she was out of town. I met her mother-in-law, an elderly woman of great Christian mercy and with a pure heart.
"She told me the following. Their family was of an ancient noble Alsatian lineage, of the Protestant faith. It must be said, that in that region of Alsace the inhabitants are divided in belief: half Catholic, half Protestant. They share a common church, where they hold services in turn. At the back of it stands the Roman altar, with all the statues and necessary things, but when the Protestants serve, they draw a curtain in front of it, roll their table into the center and pray.
"Recently, the Alsatian Protestants began a movement in favor of reverencing saints. That happened after reading the book of Sabbatier about the Catholic saint Francis of Assisi. Being a Protestant himself, he was impressed by the way of life of that righteous man when visiting Assisi. My friends family was also under the influence of that book. Though remaining Protestants, they still felt dissatisfaction. They wished to reverence saints and take part in the Sacraments. When the pastor taught them, they asked him not to close the curtain on the Catholic altar, so that they could at least see the statues of the saints. Their thoughts were seeking the True Church.
"And so once, that young woman, being sick, was sitting in the garden and reading about the life of Francis of Assisi. The garden was all in bloom. There was country silence... Reading, she fell lightly asleep. 'I don't know how it happened, she said afterwards. Francis himself approached me, together with a glowing hunched-over elderly man, like a Patriarch. He was all in white. I became frightened. But Francis came very close to me and said: 'My daughter! You are looking for the True Church, it is there, where he is. It supports everything, but doesn't ask anyone for support.'
"The white elderly man kept silent and only smiled affirmatively at Francis' words. The vision ended. She woke up. And for some reason her thought told her: 'This is connected to the Russian Church.' And peace descended on her soul.
"It was after that vision that she wrote the letter, mentioned at the beginning of this story. In two months I again visited them, and that time she herself told me the following. They hired a Russian worker. Wanting to know if he was well-situated, the hostess came into his room and saw an icon in the corner, on the wall, and she recognized the same elder, that she had seen in the vision with Francis. Astonished and frightened, she asked: 'Who is he, this elder? "This is St. Seraphim, our Orthodox saint, the worker said. And only then she realized the meaning of St. Francis' words that the truth is in the Orthodox Church."
- from a Serbian Orthodox website, and also found on www.fatheralexander.org
(a wonderful resource!)