He was born Giovanni Francesco di Bernadone. He's Italian. And today, we celebrate his feast day throughout the Universal Church. He is none other than St. Francis of Assisi.
Many know St. Francis of Assisi to be a Catholic friar. However, his life is made up of more than just his priestly ministry. St. Francis founded the Franscican order, as well as the women's order of St. Clare and the Third Order of Saint Francis.
Looking back on St. Francis' life, we learn that he was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in the town of Assisi. He had the opportunity to live a lifestyle that was customary for a rich young man. Francis then fought as a soldier for his town. When he went off to war in 1204, he had a vision of being directed back to Assisi, where he lost his desire for a worldly life. In that same vision, he went on a pilgrimage to Rome, where he joined the beggars at St. Peter's Basilica. That unforgettable experience moved him to carry out a very simple life of poverty. St. Francis then returned home where he began preaching on the streets.
Many people began to take notice of him and his way of life. His order was thus approved by Pope Innocent III in the year 1210.
Interestingly, in 1224 he received the stigmata, making him the first person to bear the physical wounds of Jesus’ passion. Two years later, he died on October 3rd, while singing Psalm 141. On July 16, 1228, he was proclaimed a Saint by Pope Gregory IX. He is now one of the most venerated Saints in the history of the Catholic Church.
There is one more thing that comes to mind when we think of St. Francis of Assisi and his earthly ministry. St. Francis was very passionate about the environment and animals, and thus he became known as the patron saint of both. On this day, Catholic parishes around the world traditionally incorporate a blessing of animals during their liturgies. Along with St. Catherine of Siena, he became one of the two patron saints of Italy.
The world that we live in today is quick to point out superheroes. But through his example, St. Francis showed himself to be a true model for all of us. May he always be cherished and honoured for his fortitude and for the compassion he showed to others.
Credit: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz