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Francis of Assisi

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« on: October 03, 2007, 03:16:07 pm »

Saint Francis of Assisi (September 26, 1181 October 3, 1226) was a Roman Catholic friar and the founder of the Order of Friars Minor, more commonly known as the Franciscans.

He is known as the patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment, and it is customary for Catholic churches to hold ceremonies honoring animals around his feast day of October 4.

Francis was born to Pietro di Bernardone, a prominent businessman, and his wife Pica Bourlemont, about whom little is known except that she was originally from France. He was one of seven children. Pietro was in France on business when Francis was born, and Pica had him baptized as Giovanni di Bernardone[1] in honor of Saint John the Baptist, in the hope he would grow to be a great religious leader. When his father returned to Assisi, he was furious about this,[citation needed] as he did not want his son to be a man of the Church. Pietro decided to call him Francesco (Francis), in honor of the child's maternal heritage.

Rebellious toward his father's business and pursuit of wealth,[citation needed] Francis spent most of his youth lost in books (ironically, his father's wealth did afford his son an excellent education, and he became fluent in reading several languages including Latin). He was also known for drinking and enjoying the company of his many friends, who were usually the sons of nobles. His displays of disillusionment toward the world that surrounded him became evident fairly early, one of which is shown in the story of the beggar. In this account, he found himself out having fun with his friends one day when a beggar came along and asked for alms. While his friends ignored the beggar's cries, Francis gave the man everything he had in his pockets. His friends quickly chided and mocked him for his act of charity, and when he got home, his father scolded him in a rage.[citation needed]

In 1201, he joined a military expedition against Perugia, was taken prisoner at Collestrada, and spent a year as a captive. It is probable that his conversion to more serious thoughts was a gradual process relating to this experience. After his return to Assisi in 1203, Francis recommenced his carefree life. But in 1204 a serious illness started a spiritual crisis. In 1205 Francis left for Puglia to enlist in the army of the Count of Brienne. But on his way, in Spoleto, a strange vision made him return to Assisi, deepening his spiritual crisis.

It is said that when he began to avoid the sports and the feasts of his former companions, and they asked him laughingly if he was thinking of marrying, he answered "yes, a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen" meaning his "lady poverty", as he afterward used to say. He spent much time in lonely places, asking God for enlightenment. By degrees he took to nursing lepers, the most repulsive victims in the lazar houses near Assisi. After a pilgrimage to Rome, where he begged at the church doors for the poor, he claimed to have had a mystical experience in the Church of San Damiano just outside of Assisi, in which the Icon of Christ Crucified came alive and said to him three times, "Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins." He thought this to mean the very ruined church in which he was presently praying, and so sold his horse together with some cloth from his father's store, to assist the priest there for this purpose.




His father Pietro, highly indignant, attempted to bring him to his senses, first with threats and then with corporal chastisement. After a final interview in the presence of the bishop, Francis renounced his father and his patrimony, laying aside even the garments he had received from him. For the next couple of months he lived as a beggar in the region of Assisi. Returning to the town for two years this time, he restored several ruined churches, among them the Porziuncola, little chapel of St Mary of the Angels, just outside the town, which later became his favorite abode.

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(Psalms) 31:5,
"Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth."


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