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Saint Francis of Assisi: Biographical Info.

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St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi: Biographical Information 

"[St. Francis was] sent to the world by heaven"

(St. Bonaventure)


Introduction 

St. Francis of Assisi, is one of the most well known and beloved of all saints. This extraordinarily holy man, called the "richest poor man" has been honored for centuries as one of the most faithful images of Christ ever to grace the earth. It has been said that he is "the one saint that all have agreed on canonizing".

Born to rich parents in 1181 (or 1182), St. Francis was named Giovanni (John) Bernadone after John the Baptist. His father, however, is said to have disapproved of the name that his mother had chosen and renamed the young child Francesco (Francis) due to his love of France. From the beginning, Francis lived a life of privilege and wealth. He is said to have been vain and proud, and a seeker of glory. On the other hand, Francis was always kind and generous, "never letting a beggar go without alms, especially if he asked 'for the love of God'". It has been said that everyone loved Francis. He eventually served as a soldier and longed for the glory of knighthood.

Although imprisoned in a dungeon for over a year, the soldier is said to have kept his good spirits. When Francis was on his way to realizing his dream of receiving the glory of knighthood, he had a vision which lead him back home. Because of his early return, Francis suffered humiliation and was thought a coward. Despite this, Francis pursued the spiritual life and later heard God telling him to repair His Church. He took the message literally and began to physically rebuild the church. To accomplish this, he took materials from his father in order to obtain funds for the rebuilding. Francis' actions angered his father, who brought him before the bishop. Francis ultimately renounced his father, his possessions, and his privileged life to belong only to God.  

Francis was later to discover that 'repairing the church' referred not to a physical rebuilding, but to a spiritual transformation that was eventually to encompass the entire world. His 'fortifications of the temple' would lead the crumbling 13th century society to become reanimated with the spirit of the Gospel. His following grew quickly and he eventually founded and received papal approval for the first Franciscan Order. He would go on to establish two other religious orders (one for women and one for the laity) and numerous monasteries that would bring immeasurable benefits to the Church, to souls, and to society. 

St. Francis lived and preached the gospel, practiced good works, employed severe penances, and loved and embraced strict poverty ("Lady Poverty"). He spoke regularly about the need for repentance, and preached peace. The humble and generous St. Francis had great compassion for all. He would exchange his own clothes for the rags of the poor and even offered more to those who stole from him. He gave all he had to the poor, sparing nothing. Although he had no material possessions, he had constant joy and true freedom. He was also a religious songwriter and poet (click here for Prayers of St. Francis). 

It is said that a turning point had occurred in Francis' earlier life when he came across a leper. Although he was initially 'filled with horror' at the sight of the afflicted man, he overcame his revulsion, leapt from his horse, gave the leper all his money and kissed his hand. Afterwards, he began visiting hospitals and caring for the sick. Francis himself did not shy away from suffering. In fact, towards end of his life, despite being already afflicted with many sufferings, St. Francis prayed to share in Jesus' suffering. After beginning a fast of forty days in honor of St. Michael the Archangel, St. Francis saw a heavenly vision and was imprinted with the wounds of Christ (the stigmata). The painful wounds corresponded to those that Christ received in his Passion. From thenceforth, the man who already mirrored Christ would do so even more completely. Although St. Francis suffered much, he was full of joy. He bore the bleeding wounds of Christ on his body and a burning love of God filled his soul. He is well-known for his ardent love of his Crucified Savior.

St. Francis is also well-known for his great compassion and charity, his ardent thirst for the conversion of souls, and his copious tears ("the gift of tears", which contributed to his later blindness),  He shunned honor, loved contempt, and engaged in rigorous fasting and fervent prayer ("he seemed to live by prayer"). He was obedient, extraordinarily mortified, and exceedingly humble. He also had the gift of prophecy and of miracles. He was so loving to all that it is said that the "ardor of his charity made him seem more a seraph incarnate than a frail man".

In 1126 at the age of 45, St. Francis went to his eternal reward. He is a very kindly and powerful intercessor and many miracles are attributed to his intercession. His feast day is October 4th.

Also See: 

St Francis Facts (devotions, disciples, stigmata, Portiuncula, more...)

More Biographical Information (Reflections)

On the Person of St. Francis of Assisi (Reflections)

St. Francis' Teachings/Writings 

Prayers of St. Francis

On St. Francis (Reflections) (St. Francis & humility, poverty, prayer, more...)

 

Note: We are, unfortunately, unable in this short space to do justice to the extraordinary life of St. Francis of Assisi. We therefore highly recommend reading a more comprehensive biography of this great saint [e.g. traditional biographies such as the biography of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure, the biography of St. Francis in Butler's Lives of the Saints (orig. vers.)]. We think you will find this to be time very well spent.

 

"This humble Saint is wont to succor all those who call upon him in any necessity, however trifling it may be." (St. Bonaventure, Doctor of the Church)

St. Francis & the Animals

St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, is also famous for his relationship with God's creation. St. Francis saw animals, and all of nature, as his brothers and sisters since they all have the same Creator. Since he recognized God's reflection in all creation, he therefore loved all fellow creatures, no matter how small.  

The animals also had a love for St. Francis, who was known to preach to them. The animals willingly obeyed St. Francis and joyfully flocked around him. St. Francis frequently rescued animals and showed all creation tenderness. Animals wanted to be around him and were even known to refuse food for loneliness of him.

Wolves, fish, and birds are said to have listened to and obeyed him. Animals jumped into his lap. Even insects sought him. St. Francis is especially famous for quieting birds during his preaching and for instantly taming a ferocious wolf into a pet-like animal.

Also See: 

   St. Francis & Animals (Animals in Church History)  

   On the Person of St. Francis of Assisi (Reflections)

   St. Francis' Teachings/ Writings 

   On St. Francis (Reflections)

   Prayers of St. Francis

The Catholicity of St. Francis

Sadly, some who speak of St. Francis of Assisi today sometimes fail to insist upon his Catholicity. As Pope Benedict XV reminds us, "The St. Francis of Assisi whom certain moderns present to us, and who springs from the imagination of the Modernists, this man, guarded in his obedience to the Apostolic See, a specimen of a vague and vain religiosity, is assuredly neither Francis of Assisi nor a saint." (Pope Benedict XV, "Sacra Propediem", 1921, emphasis added).

The true St. Francis of Assisi preached obedience to the Catholic Church, exhorted all to remain in the Catholic Church for salvation, had a great devotion to the Holy Eucharist (and emphasized that Its reception is necessary for salvation), exhorted his listeners to reverence the priesthood, was devoted to the Passion of Christ and to the Blessed Virgin Mary, was obedient to the pope, founded Catholic religious orders (and had them approved the by pope), was mortified and chaste, and tried to convert infidels. 

As Pope Pius XI says in "Rite Expiatis" (1926): "What evil they do and how far from a true appreciation of the Man of Assisi are they who, in order to bolster up their fantastic and erroneous ideas about him, imagine such an incredible thing as that Francis was an opponent of the discipline of the Church, that he did not accept the dogmas of the Faith, that he was the precursor and prophet of that false liberty which began to manifest itself at the beginning of modern times and which has caused so many disturbances both in the Church and in civil society! That he was in a special manner obedient and faithful in all things to the hierarchy of the Church, to this Apostolic See, and to the teachings of Christ, the Herald of the Great King proved both to Catholics and non-Catholics by the admirable example of obedience which he always gave. It is a fact proven by contemporary documents, which are worthy of all credence, 'that he held in veneration the clergy, and loved with a great affection all who were in holy orders.' (Thomas of Celano, Legenda, Chap. I, No. 62) 'As a man who was truly Catholic and apostolic, he insisted above all things in his sermons that the faith of the Holy Roman Church should always be preserved and inviolably, and that the priests who by their ministry bring into being the sublime Sacrament of the Lord, should therefore be held in the highest reverence. He also taught that the doctors of the law of God and all the orders of clergy should be shown the utmost respect at all times.'" 

Also See: 

   The Catholicity of St. Francis (St Francis Facts)

   St. Francis' Teachings/ Writings 

   On St. Francis (Reflections)


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