Saint Francis of Assisi (born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone; 1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was an Italian Catholic Friar and Preacher. He founded the men's Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare and the lay Third Order of St. Francis. St. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history.
Founder of the Franciscan monks and most commonly known as the patron saint of animals and the environment.
St. Francis of Assisi is honored by churches holding ceremonies that honor and bless animals around October 4th.
As a youth, St. Francis was the child of a wealthy cloth merchant and while he received a rudimentary education, preferred the finer things in life. He associated with young nobles at the time, enjoyed sport and fine clothes. However, he always had a sense of duty towards the poor and needy (despite the way he lavishly spent money!)
At the age of 20, St. Francis was involved in a battle between Assisi and one of its rival cities. He was captured and developed an illness that caused him to consider his own mortality. The illness caused him to search out physical victories, even as far as to become a knight ready to fight against the emperor.
It was at this time he had a strange dream in which he was surrounded by a hall of armor, each imprinted with a cross. A voice told him the armor was for him and his soldiers. St Francis took this to mean a victory as a knight. Shortly thereafter, he was again struck down by illness and dreamt of the strange voice which encouraged him to go home to Assisi.
It was from this point forward where St Francis began to put his past behind him. He was known to embrace lepers, give away all of his money, and even dress in beggar clothes so as to better understand the impoverished. He began to devote himself to a life of poverty. After a time, others began to follow in the saints words and thus, the Order of Friars Minor was begun. His commitment to the Church and prayer was unequaled. He also received the stigmata preparing for the celebration of Michaelmas (stigmata are the wounds Christ received on the cross).
He was a gifted poet, whose works declared his obvious love for the natural world and all the things within it.
One of my favorite stories is one my mother told me. There is a town in Italy called Gubbio. At one time, a hungry wolf terrorized the town killing both livestock and people. Francis went looking for the wolf and when he found him, it is said he made the sign of the cross and began to speak to the wolf. The wolf sat quietly and listened. "Brother wolf" St Francis said. "You do great evil in this town, and the people are afraid. I am here to make peace between you." And so...St Francis told the townspeople the wolf was committing evil acts due to extreme hunger. The towns people vowed to always leave food out for the wolf, so he would not go hungry. The wolf agreed not to harm any more livestock or townspeople. Legend has it that St Francis even baptized the wolf so as to show the townspeople they were safe.
I've always felt connected with St. Francis. Perhaps its because he is the patron Saint of animals, I dunno. I used to have a statue of him in my backyard. I also LOVE the Prayer of St. Francis.
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.