Francis of Assisi was born in 1182 to Pietro, a wealthy cloth merchant, and to Pica, a lady descended from the nobles of Provence in France. As a young man, he was no different from his many friends in that he loved to dance, sing and go to parties. He loved the limelight and he was dubbed the ‘king of feasts’ by his friends as he was renowned for throwing the best parties.
Quest for Knighthood.
He dreamed of becoming a knight. Like the other young men of
he wanted to excel in the war that was waging between Assisi
and the neighbouring town of . Because he was the son of Pietro di
Bernadone, his father dressed him in the best armour money can buy, but he had
no skills as a fighter! The young
knights of Perugia
marched out of the town to war and soon Francis was captured and imprisoned by
the enemy for a lengthy period of time.
It was while Francis was in prison that he was to realise that God
wanted him to do an altogether different kind of fighting. God was asking him to understand that the
time was coming for him to serve the real master. Assisi
Encounter with the Leper.
He escaped and found his way home where he was quite ill for a long time. His mother and father couldn’t understand what had come over him. He was loosing interest in his old lifestyle and spending a lot of time alone and visiting some of the old churches in the valley outside
. It was while he was thinking about his future
that one day he encountered a leper.
Lepers were outcast in the society of the time as they had a highly
contagious and incurable disease.
Francis became sick to the pit of his stomach at the sight of the leper
and wanted to run fast in the opposite direction. Suddenly, he was off his horse, and he put
some money into the leper’s hand. He
then took the lepers diseased hand and kissed it. He couldn’t believe he had done this but felt
so good in himself for having done it. Assisi
Francis; Go repair my Church.
It was while he was kneeling in prayer before a cross in the little
thought he saw the lips moving and the image of Jesus speaking to him. He heard an inner voice saying “Francis, go
repair my church, which, as you can see is falling completely into ruin.” Was he hallucinating? Could this feeling be a mistake. But there was no mistake, he heard the inner
voice speak again, “Francis, go repair my church, which, as you can see, is
falling completely into ruin.” In the
days that followed, he told his father that he no longer had any interest in
knighthood, or following in his footsteps as a businessman. His father was very upset that Francis was
going to follow a different path and not the ones that he had mapped out for
his son. He asked the local bishop,
Guido, to speak to Francis and Francis told the Bishop that he was no longer
calling Pietro Di Bernadone his father, but he was now saying “Our Father in
of San Damiano
He began to repair the little
Pope Innocent III.
Francis and his new followers lived in San Damiano and they became known as the ‘little brothers’ or the friars minor. Francis drew up guidelines or a ‘rule of life’ for the friars to live by and he went to see the pope at the time, Pope Innocent III. At first, the pope thought they were fanatics and he had no time for radicals or fanatics. After a while, the pope saw something different in Francis and his brothers and realised that this little movement was God’s will. He approved their rule of life and sent Francis and his brothers back to
to grow and spread their way of life around and beyond. Italy
Rebuilding the Church into the Future.
As the brothers came to Francis and as the order of lesser brothers grew and spread around Europe, Francis accepted Ciara di Offreducio (St. Clare of Assisi) into the order and she and her first followers moved into San Damiano where they became known as the ‘Poor Ladies’ or the ‘Poor Clares’, and to this day they live in enclosure and prayer. Francis also accepted lay women and men into the Franciscan family and are today known as the Secular Franciscan Order. It is clear that at first, Francis set out to repair the little ruined churches around
but as time went on, he found out that his work of rebuilding was to repair the
not with bricks and mortar, but with
people. church of God
In 1224, two years before his death he was in prayer on Mount La Verna where he received the stigmata, the bleeding wounds of Jesus on his hands, feet and side. This is seen and symbolising his commitment to the sufferings of Jesus on the cross. Francis of Assisi died early on October 4th 1226 and he was canonised a saint by Pope Honorius III in 1228. He is the Patron Saint of