St. Francis of Assisi 

St._Francis__tilelived over eight hundred years ago. He was born in the city of Assisi, Italy, the son of Pica and Pietro di Bernardone Moriconi, a wealthy textile merchant. Francis was originally named Giovanni, but later his father changed his name to Francesco because Moriconi was very impressed with his travels to France. Francesco later became known as Francis.

What kind of a man was Francis? He seemed to have enjoyed a real carefree life that received a good education, learned a little Latin and was very popular. When he was twenty years old, Francis was imprisoned for a year for taking part in a feud with the nearby city. Because of illness following this time, he came to give his life to Jesus. He would spend hours meditating on the Lord and felt God was drawing near to him there. His conversion wasn' overnight, but came to Christ through a process. He started to minister to the people who needed it the most such as the lepers, even though their disease made them repulsive to be around. At the age of 23 God told him in a vision to rebuild a church where he meditated in Assisi. To raise money for the project, he sold his horse and some of his father' merchandise, giving it to the priest. 

His father was very angry that money from his textiles were given to charity, and brought charges against his son. He took Francis before the Bishop and demanded full reimbursement for the goods. Francis agreed and gave the very clothes off his back. When he walked away naked, no one could doubt his commitment to Christ. Unfortunately, his father disowned him, and Francis began begging to raise money to provide for the reconstruction of more churches.

At 27, so impressed by a sermon on the Feast of St. Matthias where Jesus told his disciples to lead a life of apostolic poverty, he began preaching brotherly love and repentance. He and his followers would go out two by two preaching the gospel and helping the poor in the fields.

Francis stressed the adoration of God, repentance, generosity and the forgiveness of wrongs done by others. He also emphasized loving one' neighbors and enemies, humility and living lives of Christian purity.

St Francis He and his followers were objects of scorn and attack; people said he was insane to give everything away with a life of poverty.

But he was also a man of deep emotion who wanted to know Jesus intimately. After helping the poor and preaching Jesus' message, he and his followers went to Rome to first gain the Pope' blessing for his movement. A few years later, he sought the Pope' permission to officially organize a recognized monastic order, which was granted in 1212. They were to be dedicated to a life of simplicity and called themselves "Friars Minor", or the "Little Brothers".

This was the beginning of the Franciscan Order. They were not shut up in monastery walls, but out ministering to all sorts of people, preaching the gospel and helping the poor and needy. Another passion was bringing reconciliation between feuding parties. He wanted to renounce the world without leaving it. So Franciscans pursued their great objectives of preaching the gospel, caring for the sick and the poor. Francis'general concern for the basic needs of people won many people to Christ.

Francis was famous for his love of all creation, and many images depict him preaching to the animals. He loved nature and all forms of life.

The last years of Francis' life were not pleasant. Pope Honorius appointed a particular Cardinal as the protector of the order who made changes, which he did not like. Francis resigned as Minister General of the Order. It no longer had the simple devotion to Jesus that he cared so passionately about. He spent the remainder of his life in solitude and prayer and did a little writing. He died in 1226 only 44 years old. The story goes that when his body was examined for burial, people noticed curious red scars on his hands, feet and side. They are traditionally referred to as the "stigmata", mystic replicas of Christ' wounds.