Francis was born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181-1182. He enjoyed a very rich easy life growing up, because of his father’s wealth, and the permissiveness of the times. From the beginning everyone loved Francis. He was constantly happy, charming and a born leader. If he was so much of a dreamer he did poorly at school, no one minded. In many ways he was too easy to like for his own good. No one tried to control him or teach him. Francis himself said “I lived in sin” during that time. Francis fulfilled every hope of Pietro, his father, and he was also good at business. But Francis wanted more than wealth . However, not holiness! Francis wanted to be a noble, a knight. Battle was the best place to win the glory and prestige he longed for. He got his first chance when Assisi declared war on their long time enemy ,the nearby town of Perugia. Assisi lost the battle. Only those wealthy enough to expect to be ransomed were taken prisoner, the rest were slaughtered. At last Francis was among the nobility; like he always wanted to be ..but chained in a harsh ,dark dungeon . All accounts say that he never lost his happy manner in that horrible place. Finally, after a year in the dungeon, he was ransomed. The experience did not change what he wanted from life: Glory.! Finally a call for Knights for the Fourth Crusade gave him a chance for his dream. Francis got no farther than one day’s ride from Assisi.. There he had a dream in which God told him he had it all wrong and told him to return home. And return home he did. Francis’ conversion did not happen over night. God had waited for him for twenty -five years and now it was Francis had to wait. He spent more time in prayer. He went off to a cave and wept for his sins. Sometimes God’s grace overwhelmed him with joy. One day while riding through the countryside, Francis came face to face with a leper. Repelled by the appearance and the smell of the leper, Francis ,nevertheless, jumped down from his horse and kissed the hand of the leper. When his kiss of peace was returned, Francis was filled with joy. As he rode off, he turned around for a last wave, and saw that the leper had disappeared. He always looked upon it as a test from God…that he had passed . His search for conversion led him to the ancient church at San Damiano. While he was praying there , he heard Christ on the crucifix speak to him , “Francis ,repair my church.”Francis assumed it was the crumbling building he was in . So he set about this task . Selling some of his father’s precious fabric to buy the materials for the rebuilding of the church ,did not go down well with his father . Pietro, had his son dragged before the bishop and in front of the whole town demanded that the money be returned to him and he renounced all rights of Francis as his heir . He not only gave the money back but stripped off all his clothing and returned that . In front of the crowd that had gathered ,Francis said ,”Pietro Bernadone is no longer my father . From now on I can say with complete freedom ,’Our Father who art in Heaven.” From then on Francis had nothing…and everything. Soon he started to preach ; he preached about God , returning to Him and to obedience to His Church. Slowly companions came to him impressed by what he said and his way of life. Francis’ brotherhood included all of God’s creation . Much has been written about Francis’ love of nature but his relationship was deeper than that, he saw all as related, all created to give glory to it’s Creator. Francis did not try to abolish poverty but to make it holy. He and his companions worked for all necessities and only begged if they had to. Francis acted quickly as he acted from the heart .An example of his directness came when he decided to go to Syria to convert the Moslems while the Fifth Crusade was being fought. In the middle of a battle ,Francis thought to do the simplest thing and go straight to the Sultan and make peace. Francis and his companions were captured ,and taken to the Sultan, who was charmed by Francis and his preaching. Francis was led safely away and returned to Assisi. Francis final years were filled with much suffering as well as humiliation . praying to share in Christ’s passion on La Verna; he had a vision , received the stigmata, the marks of the nails and the lance wound that Christ suffered ,in his own body. Francis lost his sight and suffered great pain in his eyes . It was at that time that he wrote his beautiful Canticle of the Sun that expresses his brotherhood with creation in praising God. Worn out by his suffering he died on October 4th 1226 at the age of 45. He is considered the founder of all Franciscan orders and the patron saint of animals, merchants and ecology.
Look, look on Jesus, poor and crucified,look on this Holy One, who for your love has died,and remember as you contemplate the sacred mysteries, this Jesus whom you gaze upon, loves you most tenderly.St. Clare of Assisi
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