Francis was born in 1181 to Pietro Bernardone and his wife Pica in a town known as Assisi in central Italy. His father was a rich cloth merchant who possessed farmland in Assisi. He was raised in an absolute privilege, leaving an expensive lifestyle. He used to hold a costly party and dressed in the finest fashions of silk. At the age of fourteen, he left school and became an unmanageable teenager(Davenport p.23). Privileged with such surroundings, Francis learned horsemanship, wrestling, and archery skills. Being a war hero was his ambition at that time.
In the year 1202, Francis joined the Assisi military against Perugia. Unfortunately, Assisi lost the war and he was taken to prison. Many of the Assisi surviving troops were butchered to death while Francis and others who were considered wealthy were spared for a decent ransom. In the prison, he started to receive God’s vision(Post p.12). In the year 1203, after one year of imprisonment, he was released and immediately embarked on following Christ. In the year 1219, he went to Egypt intending to meet and speak about Christianity to the Egyptian sultan. In 1224 he had another vision and got the stigmata, the wounds of Christ. He died on 3rd October 1226. He was declared a saint two years of his death.
Francis turned his focus to God. He spent most of his time in quiet mountain hideaways and churches praying. While in prayer, he heard Christ’s voice telling him to go and repair His house which was falling into ruin. Taking the literal meaning of Jesus’ words, he embarked on restoring the building. To fulfill this, he sold part of his family properties as well as his own to raise money for building but this completely angered his father.
He obeyed and committed himself to Christianity. Francis began to preach a round Assisi and was joined by loyal followers(Larsen p.56). He preached even to the birds to be thankful to God for His care and for their independence.
In the time of his teachings on Christianity, he used quotes to deliver his messages right. On the impossibilities, he said, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is impossible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” About the darkness, he said, “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.” On our enemies, he quoted, “No one is to be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves.” About a living testimony, he also said, “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” About inner peace, he said, “Where there is peace and mediation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.”
Francis lived with and for the poor, wishing to find a better order. He relinquished the material pleasure and dedicated his life to Jesus. In various instances, he displayed a caring heart(Davenport p.45). He gave away his father’s wealth, and his own clothes and went to various churches looking for the outcast. He despised the earthly and sought the heavenly. This trait of Francis is tied to the beatitude that says, happy are the pure in heart for they shall see God.
Francis’ spiritual life became exemplary and he is frequently admired by many including non-Catholics. He became a model to those who anticipated learning and getting decorated by his life. Such admirers are seen when pilgrims came to Assisi to see his tomb. Because of his spirituality, he has canonized a saint. Today he has resounding followers.
Davenport, Anne Ashley. Suspicious Moderate: The Life and Writings of Francis à Sancta Clara (1598–1680). University of Notre Dame Pess, 2017.
Larsen, Timothy. “The Catholic Faith of John Stuart Mill’s Stepdaughter: A Note on the Diary and Devotional Life of the Feminist Activist Helen Taylor (1831–1907).” The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 103, no. 3, 2017, pp. 491–507.
Post, W. Ellwood. Saints, Signs, and Symbols. Pickle Partners Publishing, 2018.