St. Francis of Assisi, OFM ~ The Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI
St. Francis, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, was nicknamed Francesco and was an Italian friar and also preacher who was the founder of the Men’s Order of Friars Minor as well as the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of St. Francis which was an Order for both men and women who were unable to live the lives of either preachers, followed by the early members of the friars minor, nor indeed the monastic lifestyle of the Poor Clares.
St. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures throughout history.
Francis’ father who was a prosperous silk merchant by trade, was named Pietro di Bernardone and Francis lived the high=spirited life that is often typical for that of a wealthy young man and he even fought as a soldier for Assisi. On his way to war in 1204, Francis had a vision which directed him to return to Assisi, where he then lost his liking for his former wealthy lifestyle.
Whilst he was on a pilgrimage in Rome, Francis joined with the poor people who were begging at St. Peter’s Basilica and this experience moved him to live a life of poverty.
When he returned home, he began street preaching and due to this, he soon gathered followers.
- Francis’s Order was authorised by Pope Innocent III in the year 1210. He then founded the Order of Poor Clares, which became an enclosed Order for religious women, as well as the Order of Brothers and sisters of Penance which is commonly called the Third Order.
In 1219, Francis travelled to Egypt to convert the sultan to put an end to the Crusades. By this time, his Order had grown immensely and its primitive organisational structure was no longer sufficient so he returned home to sort the Order out.
Once his Order had been authorised, Francis withdrew increasingly from external affairs.
In 1223, Francis arranged for the first Christmas Nativity scene.
In 1224, he received the Stigmata, making him the first recorded person to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion.
Francis died during the evening of October 3rd 1226, whilst he was listening to a requested reading of Psalm 142.
On July 16th 1228, Francis was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory IX. He is known as the Patron saint of animals whom he loved and also of the environment, and he is also one of the two patron saints of Italy alongside Catherine of Sienna.
In Catholic and Anglican Churches, it is customary to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his Feast day of Oct 4th.
He is also known for his love of the Holy Eucharist, his sortow during the Stations of the Cross, and the creation of the Christmas Nativity scene.
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