St. Francis of Assisi has crossed so many boundaries. His life and witness speaks to Catholics, Protestants, non-Christians, environmentalists, and anyone in between. There’s just something about him that inspires.
A Life of Leisure
Francis was born into a wealthy family and grew up in the lap of luxury. He was known to be a bit of a lush and THE party person in Assisi (saints are seriously surprising). While fighting in the army in his twenties, he was taken as a prisoner and held captive for a year. There he began to consider his life and choices. After he was released, he focused his energy on army conquests. He decided to accompany a knight on his travels, but had some strange dreams in which he was told to turn back to Assisi, and he obeyed (yes, he was a sort of deserter, but this was a divine intervention).
On returning to Assisi, it was clear the Francis’ life would not look anything like what it had before: he had changed. One day he encountered a poor leper on the road and while first repulsed by his appearance, he eventually turned back and gave the man all the money he had.
Rebuild My Church
While praying in St. Damian’s Chapel in Assisi, Francis heard the words, “Rebuild My Church”. He thought the voice literally meant to rebuild the broken church so Francis took some of the linen from his father’s shop, sold it, and attempted to give the gold to the priest of St. Damian’s. However, the priest would not receive it. His father took Francis to court because of the stolen linen and in the presence of many, Francis renounced his father and his inheritance (mic drop). He did end up rebuilding St. Damian’s (and several other churches) by hand.
An Order Begins
From this pivotal moment in his life, he began to beg and wander the hills around Assisi. One day, he went to Mass and heard Christ say that his disciples should bring no money, clothes, or shoes for their journey. He was so impacted by this scripture that he decided to do the same. He took on a plain robe and he began to preach to the people of Assisi, both in word and deed (this must have shocked them considering who he was before!)
Francis’ example began to inspire others and he soon had many followers who were living his same lifestyle of poverty. They eventually went to Rome to seek approval from the Pope. All of his followers (there were a bunch by then) all received the tonsure too (if you don’t know what that is and you have a son, you should definitely consider it the next time he needs a haircut). When they came back to Assisi, the first Franciscan monastery began (in huts and shacks) and more followers joined Francis in his way of life (including St. Clare!).
St. Francis has been associated with so many different stories and traditions. The typical nativity scene we use at Christmas can be attributed to Francis’ “creche”. It is said that Francis preached to birds, saved a town from a ravenous wolf, carried the stigmata on his hands, and wrote hymns and prayers. He died at age 45 but the Franciscan order is continuing to carry on his mission today.
Why a Wolf?
St. Francis of Assisi was a great lover of animals. There is a story of a wild wolf that was attacking livestock and citizens of Gubbio in Italy. Legend has it that St. Francis tamed the wolf, which stopped terrorizing the city and came to love St. Francis. Read the whole story right here.
Who would be friends with St. Francis of Assisi?
- Outdoorsy people
- Animal lovers
- The poor
- Music ministers
- Christmas lovers (I mean the SERIOUS Christmas lovers)
Take St. Francis’ zeal and heart for the poor and creation with you by shopping his collection.