Born at Assisi in 1182, the son of a rich cloth merchant, Francis Bernardone spent a very flighty youth, taking part in street battles and military adventures. After long months of captivity in the jails of Perugia, divine grace transformed him.
The Gospels, understood literally, became his rule of life, and his only thought was the imitation of Our Lord in all things. Having wedded Lady Poverty, as he expressed it, he was to be seen barefoot, in rough clothes, begging at the gates and preaching purity of heart and peace to all.
A few disciples joined him in 1209. They formed the nucleus of the order of Friars Minor. In 1212, Clare of Assisi placed herself under his guidance and brought into being the order of Sisters of the Poor. The third order was established some ten years later, for people in the world who wished to live the religious life without forsaking their calling.
The Poverello made three attempts to visit the Saracens; only one, in 1219, succeeded. Apart from these journeys and some pilgrimages to Rome, he rarely left Umbria.
Francis loved God with an infinite love and all creatures for love of Him. He composed sublime songs to the glory of his brother the Sun, lived on intimate terms with the wolves and the birds, worked with his hands, swept out churches, cared for lepers, and sent food to brigands with his affectionate greetings.
From 1221, displaced by reformers, he resigned the direction of his order; in September 1224 he received the stigmata on Mount Alvernia; on October 3rd, 1226, he lay down naked on the bare earth at the Portiuncula and, singing, received the visit of his sister, Death.
The religious and artistic influence of the Poverello was immense and it endures to this day. No other figure has been the subject of so much contemporary literature; he is the saint best beloved of heretics and of sinners.
It seems that this is due to his chivalrous character, his absence of book knowledge, his poetic gifts, his charm and, to quote Benedict XV, "because he is the most perfect image of Christ that ever was."
Pray with me today on his feast, that the poor of this world will feel the Divine Mercy and God's love by the prayers of Saint Francis of Assisi, and that the haughty and proud conspirators of evil cease to have any power over them.
" Lord Jesus Christ, who, when the world was growing cold, didst renew in the flesh of blessed Francis the sacred marks of Thy Passion in order to inflame our hearts with the fire of Thy love; mercifully grant that, by his merits and prayers, we may always carry the cross and bring forth fruits worthy of repentance: Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
O Glorious Saint Francis, who even in thy youth, with a generous heart didst renounce the comfort and ease of thy father's house in order to follow Jesus more closely in His humility and poverty, in His mortification and passionate love of the Cross, and didst thereby merit to behold the miraculous Stigmata impressed upon thy flesh and to bear them about with thee, obtain for us also, we pray, the grace of passing through our life here below, as though insensible to the ephemeral splendor of all earthly possessions, with our hearts constantly beating with love of Jesus Crucified even in the darkest and saddest hours of life and with our eyes ever serenely raised toward heaven, as though already enjoying a foretaste of the eternal possession of the infinite Good with His divine and everlasting joys. Amen"
Here is a long article on the life of Saint Francis:
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