A Brief Introduction to St. Francis of Assisi
One of the most recognized figures of Christianity, St. Francis of Assisi was canonized by Pope Gregory on July 16, 1228. As the founder of all Franciscan orders, St. Francis led a fascinating life before he became a Christ follower, and then he lived an even more interesting life after he felt God speak to him. A man known for his joyous spirit, his charismatic personality, and his love of nature, St. Francis of Assisi lived in a way that is still respected today.
Born into a Life of Luxury
Born to a wealthy family in 1181, St. Francis grew up never having to worry about food or resources. He was spoiled and granted a comfortable life at a time when comfort was hard to come by. His father had big dreams for his son. Ultimately, he hoped his son would become a talented businessman. Francis, himself, also shared these hopes. Francis wanted glory and prestige.
His opportunity for glory arrived when Assisi went to war with neighboring Perugia. However, rather than fight in the battle, he was taken prisoner for ransom due to his family’s wealth and status. Upon his release, Francis continued to live frivolously until he had a dream on the road to fight in the Fourth Crusade where God told him he needed to go home and live life differently.
A Life That Honored Christ
After Francis returned home, he tried to honor God, but he struggled to know what to do. His family and friends did not accept his new faith. He was accused of cowardice for not fighting in the crusade. Then, when he began to live life according to the Christ’s messages in the Gospels, he was rejected.
St. Francis did not simply accept Christ’s death and resurrection – he tried to emulate Christ by giving up all his worldly possessions. For someone who lived a life of luxury, this was a radical departure from the norm. He took to living outside and begging for food because he believed he should give up everything and follow Christ.
Yet, even possessing nothing, he was filled with joy. He loved everyone – no matter their wealth or status. He was even known to kiss the hands of lepers. His desire to live as Christ lived ultimately caught the attention of others. Soon, he gained followers. Eventually, this brotherhood was recognized by the pope and is still recognized by those following Franciscan orders.
Patron Saint of Animals
Additionally, St. Francis of Assisi is considered the Patron Saint of animals and ecology. In addition to living a simple, possession-free life, St. Francis is known for his love of nature. He considered nature one of God’s greatest gifts and believed it should be honored the same way we honor one another. St. Francis considered animals part of the Christian brotherhood.
According to stories, St. Francis even preached to the birds. He is believed to have preached to animals and they would listen and respond. One popular story suggests he was able to stop a wolf from attacking villagers by speaking to it. This is why people bring their animals to be blessed on October 4th, which is his Feast Day.
Bearing Christ’s Wounds
Finally, St. Francis of Assisi is also considered the first human to receive the stigmata. His stigmata experience, which occurred during a religious epiphany around the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, is the first recorded in Christian history. He bore these wounds of Christ and continue to suffer until his death in 1226.