Francis was taken to the residence of the bishop of Assisi where he stayed for several days. There he felt inspired to add the final lines to his Canticle of Creatures: “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.” Francis now understood that death was no longer his enemy; it was merely part of the journey -- the Transitus. He requested that when his time should come, Brother Angelo and Brother Leo sing to him the Praises of Sister Death.
His last desire was to return to the place he loved more than any other -- Saint Mary of the Angels, the Portiuncula -- the church he believed to be endowed with special graces and blessings. There in the place where he embraced poverty some twenty years earlier, he would give back to God the last thing he possessed in this world: his life. Several knights carried Francis on a litter from Assisi down to St. Mary of the Angels. When they arrived at the hospital of San Salvatore on the plain halfway between Assisi and St. Mary’s, he asked the bearers to stop and place the litter on the ground.
Francis turned and faced Assisi. Though he was by now completely blind, he raised himself up a little and blessed his beloved Assisi, saying, “Lord, just as in an earlier time, this ancient city was, I believe, an abode of wicked and evil men, now I realize that, because of your abundant mercy, and in your own time, you have singularly shown an abundance of your mercies to it. For, ‘where sin increases, grace abounds all the more’ (Romans 5:20). Solely on account of your goodness, you have chosen it for yourself, so that it may become the place and abode of those who know, in truth, acknowledge you, give glory to your name, strive to live of a holy life, of truest doctrine, of good reputation, and of evangelical perfection to the whole Christian people. I ask you, therefore, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies, not to consider our ingratitude. Be mindful of your most abundant piety which you have showed to it, that it always be an abode for who truly acknowledge you, and glorify your blessed and most glorious name for ever and ever. Please bless this city and all those who will come here. Amen.” Francis lay down again and was carried the short distance to St. Mary of the Angels.
It was Saturday, October 3, 1226. Francis was 44 years old. A true minor to his last day, his final desire was to be stripped and laid naked on the bare ground next to the church of the Portiuncula. “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) He wished to return to that fertile Umbrian soil that had produced so many saints before him and from which he himself came.
He called his brothers together, consoled them, and exhorted them to love God. He told the brothers to never leave the Portiuncula, “See to it, my sons, that you never abandon this place. If you are driven out from one side, go back in from the other, for this is truly a holy place and the dwelling place of God.” Francis then spoke to the friars with fatherly affection and consoled them over his death. He told them to remain faithful to poverty and to the Roman Church and he gave the Gospel preeminence over any other Rule of life. He then asked Brother Leo to read him the Gospel of John beginning with: “before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father” (John 13:1). As Angelo and Leo quietly sang his praises to Sister Death, Francis then uttered his final admonition, “I have done what is mine; may Christ teach you what is yours!” 
As Francis closed his eyes, he thought he faintly heard the trumpeting of the Assisi city hymn in the distance announcing the end of the day and the closing of the city’s gates. He started to feel a deep, profound peace within. He felt the quiet, calm, familiar beckoning of the Holy Spirit -- the same voice he had heard numerous times in his life and that had said: “You will become a great knight… Who do you serve? … Go and rebuild my house…” This time, the voice was calling him for the final time saying, “Come home, Francis.”
As the sun disappeared behind the hills beyond Perugia in the west, the light in Francis went out. It was now nighttime on the fourth day of October. His earthly pilgrimage was finished, though his heavenly one just begun. A great flock of larks began circling and singing overhead with unusual joy, strange in that they usually preferred the light of day and avoided the night. The angels and saints in heaven rejoiced: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
On July 16, 1228, less than two years after Francis’s death, Hugolino, now Pope Gregory IX -- Francis’s close friend and protector of the order -- declared in Assisi what everyone already knew: Francis was a saint in heaven. Now the prophecy was fulfilled: Francis had become a great prince and had done great things. Yet, the greatest thing Francis had accomplished was that he had shown the way of the Lord. In this, he had been true to his namesake, John, after all. He was a true herald of the Lord.
The next day the pontiff personally placed the first stone of the basilica to be built in his honor.  The cross -- death -- did not have the final word. The resurrection did. Maybe Francis had never been destined to be a Minor after all… Perhaps he had really been a Major all along. Even though he strove throughout his converted life to embrace lesserness -- going down in this world -- perhaps the true direction he had been going all along was up. With the angels and saints. Glorified. In Heaven. With God. For all eternity. Forever.
Adapted from "St. Francis of Assisi: Passion, Poverty, and the Man who Transformed the Catholic Church" by Bret Thoman, OFS
[Copyright, Bret Thoman, 2016]
 These were Francis’s words adapted from Mirror of Perfection, 124.
 Thomas of Celano, First Life, II, Chapter 7, 106. In fact, the friars still maintain a community at St. Mary of the Angels. Today it is considered the mother church of the OFM branch of the order.
 The end of Francis’s life is taken from Thomas of Celano, Second Life, Chapter 162, 214 as well as Bonaventure, Major Life, Chapter 14, 4.
 After Francis died, his body was placed in the church of San Giorgio (today the Basilica of St. Clare). Construction of his new basilica was led by Br. Elias, and had as its goal a beautiful basilica worthy of the most popular saint of the era, in addition to being a place of welcome to the many pilgrims that would come. The site had been called the “Hill of Hell” because criminals were executed there; however it soon became known as the “Hill of Paradise” after the church was completed and Francis’s remains placed within. Today the church is composed of three levels. The lower Basilica was completed after just two years of construction in Romanesque architectural style, and Francis’s body was buried deep underneath the main altar. It was designed to be a tomblike burial place. The upper church was completed in Gothic style in 1253. The ceilings were higher, and its nave brighter to symbolize the resurrection. The best artists of the day – Giotto, Cimabue, Martini, Lorenzetti – were called in to embellish both levels. In 1818, excavation was begun to uncover Francis’s tomb. After 52 days of digging, the sarcophagus was discovered beneath heavy blocks of travertine rock. The space around it was excavated and left austere and simple, true to the spirit of Francis. This created a third level – that of the tomb.