St Francis of Assisi was an Italian Catholic friar and deacon who founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), the women’s Order of St. Clare (The Poor Clares), and the Third Order of St Francis. He was born, and given the name Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, in 1181 or 1182 AD in Assisi, Perugia, Umbria, Italy and died on October 3 1226 in Assisi, Umbria, Italy at the age of 44. We celebrate his feast day on October 4 every year in the Catholic Church.
|Saint Francis of Assisi Biography|
|Date of Birth||1181 or 1182 AD|
|Place of Birth||Assisi, Perugia, Umbria, Italy|
|Profession||Italian Roman Catholic friar, deacon and founder of the men’s Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), the women’s Order of St. Clare (The Poor Clares), and the Third Order of St Francis|
|Place of Work||Assisi, Italy|
|Date of Death||October 3 1226 (aged 44 years)|
|Place of Death||Assisi, Perugia, Umbria, Italy|
|St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day||October 4|
|Canonization||By Pope Gregory IX on July 16 1228 in Assisi, Italy|
|Patron Saint of||1. Animals
2. The environment
6. Cub Scouts
7. San Francisco, California
St Francis of Assisi Life History
St Francis of Assisi’s father was called Pietro di Bernardone de Moriconi, a successful fine clothes, and silk merchant. His mother was called Pica de Bourlemont. When Francis was born in Assisi, his father had gone to France on business. His mother baptized him as Giovanni (John) but when his father arrived from France, he began calling him Francesco, which means ‘the Free man’. This was because Pietro loved France and what the country had done for his commercial success.
St Francis’s family was well-to-do and they lived just like the typical wealthy families did. Francis was very handsome, witty, brave, very fond of troubadour (composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry), and loved fine clothes.
In 1202, when he was around twenty years, Francis joined a military expedition in the Assisi militia in a battle against the neighboring city of Perugia. During the war, Francis was captured and taken as a prisoner for almost a year before his ransom was paid. After this, Francis started reflecting on his life but still went back to his carefree life.
In 1205, during another military expedition, he prematurely left the war and returned to Assisi when, in a vision, he heard a voice telling him, “Follow the master rather than the man”. From this time, he spent most of his time privately and in prayers.
He lost interest in worldly life and also avoided accompanying his friends to sports, feasts, and parties. A friend noticed this and asked him whether he was thinking of marrying, and he answered, “Yes, to a fairer bride that none of you have ever seen”. He meant he was marrying his poverty.
Francis started becoming disillusioned by the spoils of this world when he was still young. One incident happened when he was sent by his father to sell clothes and velvet. As he went about his business, a beggar approached him and begged for money.
When he was done selling his merchandise he came back to the beggar and gave him all the money he had made. This infuriated his father a lot and his friends could not understand that level of charity.
From that day, Francis started making frequent charitable visits to Churches, hospitals, and leper houses. At one time, Francis went on a pilgrimage to Rome to seek spiritual fulfillment and began begging at St. Peter’s Basilica.
While praying, Francis had a vision of Jesus Christ in the chapel of San Damiano saying to him, “Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” He returned to Assisi, went to the family store, took and sold clothes worth a lot of money.
He also sold his father’s horse and donated everything to the church of San Damiano without his father’s permission. His father was very angry about it for he said that was theft.
Francis ran away and hid in a cave near San Damiano for about a month but after much suffering and hunger, he returned home. His father beat him thoroughly and locked him in a room, however, his mother released him.
Francis sought shelter with the priest at San Damiano but his father soon caught up with him and instituted a legal proceeding to force Francis to return the money and also forego his inheritance. Francis returned the money, however, he removed his clothing, piece by piece until he was naked before everyone.
Bishop Guido of Assisi, who was among those present at the proceeding covered him with his own cloak. He renounced his father and his patrimony and was left destitute and disinherited.
He spent several months begging around for food and stones in the town of Assisi. He carried those stones to the Chapel of San Damiano where he rebuilt it over a period of two years. He also helped rebuild the San Pietro Chapel in Spina and the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels.
One morning in February 1208, during Mass in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, Francis was greatly inspired by the day’s gospel about the “Commissioning of the Twelve”. He was carried away by the message that, “go and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand”. He went around the countryside preaching to the people about penance, peace, and brotherly love.
Within one year, Francis had eleven followers. They lived a very simple and austere life and continued to preach to the people through their words, actions and lifestyle.
St Francis, in 1209, composed a simple rule for his followers called the Regula Primitiva (Primitive Rule). The rule was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps”.
Together with his first eleven followers, Francis went to Rome to seek permission to found a new religious order from Pope Innocent III. They found Bishop Guido of Assisi and Giovanni di San Paolo, the Cardinal Bishop of Sabina.
The cardinal heard Francis and his entourage had to present and arranged for them to meet Pope Innocent III. The pope agreed to informally admit the group until they commanded a larger number when they would return to Rome for an official admittance. The twelve were tonsured.
On April 16 1210, the Order of Friars Minor also known as the Franciscan Order or the Seraphic Order was officially founded. They began preaching in Umbria then to the rest of Italy. After Francis was ordained a deacon he chose not to be ordained a priest.
The Poor Clares
In 1211, after Francis preached in the church of San Rufino in Assisi a young woman, Clare of Assisi was inspired and wanted to live like Francis. She secretly left home and joined Francis and established the Order of Poor Ladies.
Francis housed them at San Damiano in a few small huts or cells and the place became the first monastery of the Poor Clares, Second Franciscan Order.
The Third Order
To cater for those who could not manage o leave home, Francis formed the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance, (the Secular Franciscan Order). This group was composed of the laity who observed the principles of Franciscan life in their daily lives.
St Francis willed to preach the Gospel all over the world and therefore planned to travel out of Italy.
In 1212, he planned to travel to Jerusalem, but a storm cut short his journey on the Dalmatian coast, and returned to Italy.
In 1213, Francis planned to go to Morocco but while in Spain he fell ill and terminated his journey.
In 1219, Francis and another friar hoped to convert the Sultan of Egypt. They went to Egypt at a time when there was a ceasefire of war between the Muslims and Christians. The sultan received them graciously and Francis preached to the Muslims. They returned to Assisi unharmed. From this time, the Franciscans were allowed to stay in the Holy Land and were recognized as “Custodians of the Holy Land” on behalf of the Catholic Church.
The Franciscan Order grew rapidly compared to other Orders and therefore Francis wrote a more detailed rule “Rule Without a Papal Bull” which reinforced the devotion to poverty and the apostolic life. He wrote the “Second Rule” or “Rule With a Bull” which on November 29 1223 was approved by Pope Honorius III. This rule called upon the friars to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience, chastity and without anything of our own.”
St Francis had a great love for animals and the environment. He preached that God created the world good and beautiful but human sins make it suffer and therefore it needs redemption. Francis thanks God for Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth.
One day while Francis was traveling with some companions, they came to a place where were trees on both sides of the road filled with birds. He told his companions to wait as he preached to “my sisters the birds.” Fascinated by his voice, many birds surrounded him and none flew away. This is why in art, he is portrayed with birds in his hands.
There is a legend that says there was a wolf that terrorized the animals and people in the City of Gubbio. St Francis went to the mountains and when he found the wolf he made the sign of the cross and implored the wolf to hurt no one else.
He went around the streets of Gubbio and made a pact between the residents and the wolf. He said that because the wolf preyed upon the city because of hunger, the residents should feed it regularly and the wolf would stop devouring the residents and their animals. The menace stopped.
On September 13 1224, St Francis had a vision before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and he received the stigmata. Brother Leo, who was accompanying Francis says that “Suddenly he saw a vision of a seraph, a six-winged angel on a cross. This angel gave him the gift of the five wounds of Christ.”
St Francis of Assisi Death
Francis started to suffer from these stigmata and trachoma and unsuccessfully sought treatment in different cities. Finally, he was brought back to his hut where he spent the rest of his time dictating his spiritual testament. Francis died on October 3 1226, Saturday evening singing Voce mea ad Dominum (My Voice to the Lord) in Psalm 141, “Prayer for Deliverance from the Wicked”.
Pope Gregory IX canonized Saint Francis of Assisi on July 16 1228.
After the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi was constructed, the body of Francis was buried under the Lower Basilica on May 25 1230. Brother Elias ordered that this tomb be hidden to protect it from invading Muslims. This tomb was rediscovered in 1818.
Saint Francis of Assisi Feast Day
The feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi is celebrated on October 4 every year in the Catholic Church. During the feast, it is popular for people to bring their pets and other animals to church for blessing.
St Francis of Assisi is the Patron Saint of
Because of St Francis’ love for the fauna and flora, Pope John Paul II, on November 29 1979 declared St Francis the patron saint of
- The Franciscan Order
- Tapestry workers
- Many Catholic Dioceses
- Cub Scouts
- Catholic Action
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
- San Pawl il-Bahar, Malta
- San Francisco, California
- San Francisco de Malabon, Philippines
- Salina, Kansas
- Quibdó, Colombia
- Naga City, Cebu, Philippines
- Metuchen, New Jersey
- Lancaster, England
- Kottapuram, India
- Freising, Germany
The Complete List of Writings of St Francis
Rules, Testament and Admonitions
- Testament (1226)
- Rule for Hermitages
- Regula non bullata, (1221)
- Regula bullata, (1223)
- Last Will written for Saint Clare
- Form of Life given to Saint Clare
- Second version of the Letter to the Faithful, (Epistula ad Fideles II)
- Second Letter to the Custodians, (Epistula ad Custodes II)
- Letter to the Rulers of the Peoples, (Epistula ad populorum rectores)
- Letter to the entire Order, (Epistula toti Ordini missa)
- Letter to the Clergy, (Epistula ad Clericos)
- Letter to Brother Leo, (Epistula ad fratrem Leonem)
- Letter to Brother Anthony, (Epistula ad fratrem Antonium)
- Letter to a Minister, (Epistula ad Ministrum)
- First version of the Letter to the Faithful, (Epistula ad Fideles I)
- First Letter to the Custodians, (Epistula ad Custodes I)
- Salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, (Salutatio Beatae Mariae Virginis)
- Salutation of the Virtues, (Salutatio Virtutum)
- Prayer inspired by the Our Father, (Expositio in Pater Noster)
- Prayer before the Crucifix, (Oratio ante crucifixum dicta)
- Praises to be said at all the Hours, (Laudes ad omnes horas dicendae)
- Parchment given to Brother Leo, (Chartula fratris Leonis data)
- Office of the Passion, (Officium Passionis Domini)
- Exhortation to the Praise of God, (Exhortatio ad laudem Dei)
- Canticle of Brother Sun, (Canticum Fratris Solis)
- True and Perfect Joy, (De vera et perfecta laetitia)
- Testament written in Siena
- Letter written to Lady Jacopa
- Letter written for the citizens of Bologna
- Letter sent to the Brothers in France
- Blessing sent to Saint Clare and her Sisters
- Blessing given to Brother Bernard
Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:Saint Francis of Assisi
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
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