Saint Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226, San Francesco in Italian) is a Catholic saint and founder of the Franciscan Order. Like the Buddha, he traded a life of luxury for one of poverty and spirituality. He was known for his love of the world and is regarded as the patron saint of the environment. San Francisco, California and the current pope take their names from him.

Francis was born the son of a wealthy cloth merchant and his French wife in the Italian town of Assisi. His name means ‘the Frenchman’. A strongwilled and fashionable young man, he originally followed in his father’s footsteps and gained a reputation as a partier and spendthrift.

During Assisi’s war with neighbouring Perugia, Francis was captured spent a year in a dungeon until his father ransomed him. He returned to his old ways until on impulse he embraced a leper and give away all the money in his pockets.

After an alleged vision from Jesus in a crumbling cathedral urged him to ‘rebuild the church’, Francis gave away some of his father’s gold to its priest. Furious, his father beat him and demand he return what he stole. Francis laid all his possessions, including his clothes at his father’s feet and disowned himself of any inheritance. They did not speak again.

Reinventing himself as a man of God, Francis travelled across Italy helping the poor and caring for the sick. He and his followers founded the Franciscan Order of friars for men and the Poor Clares for women, who dedicated themselves to lives of poverty in service to local communities in emulation of Jesus and the apostles. He allegedly performed miracles. Within ten years, the order swelled to 5,000 followers from all social classes. In 1231 he attempted to convert the Sultan of Egypt to Catholicism and end the Crusades but was captured instead. The sultan released him but did not convert.

Saint Francis and the wolf | Mark McMillion

Legend claimed Saint Francis could communicate with animals. It was said he tamed the voracious wolf of Gubbio by acknowledging its hunger and forging a pact between the wolf and the local village. They fed the beast and in return, it ceased its attacks. Francis was particularly fond of birds.

The Canticle of the Sun is a religious poem Saint Francis wrote towards the end of his life after he went blind. It venerates the sun, moon, natural elements, animals and finally death, whom he describes as his ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. Francis believed the world was inherently good and beautiful but polluted by humanity’s misdemeanours. Pope Gregory IX canonised him in 1228. Before he was even dead, local towns were competing for his body.

Sources:, Catholic Encyclopedia

See Also:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s