Saint Francis of Assisi
Saint Francis of Assisi was born in Assisi, Italy, in 1182. Francis was originally named Giovanni
Francesco Bernardone, and never received a formal education. Instead, as the son of a wealthy merchant,
Francis led a worldly and carefree life. He found his way into a battle between Assisi and Perugia, and was
captured and held as a prisoner for over a year. While a prisoner, Francis developed a severe illness. It
was during this ilness that Francis decided to alter his way of life. When well enough, Francis returned to
Assisi. He performed charities among the less fortunate and restored damaged churches. These actions
caused Francis' father to reject him, being a man who put money above all else. Francis then gave all of his
possessions to his father and devoted his time to caring for outcasts and lepers of Mount Subasio. Francis
also restored the ruined church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. He held mass there for the outcasts that were
not allowed in the other churche!
s. one day, during mass, Francis heard a voice telling him to go into the world and to possess nothing, but
do good everywhere.
Doing just that, Francis found himself preaching in Assisi later in the year. He gathered about him
twelve disciples who became the brothers of the First Order of Franciscans, with Francis as their superior.
Francis later accepted a young woman, Clare, into The Franciscan Order. She went on to establish the
Order of the Poor Ladies, which later became known as the Second Order of Franciscans. Francis
attempted to travel to the Holy Land in 1212, but did not make it. His missionary work in the late 1210's
was anything but successful. He was able to reach the Holy Land in 1220. He wanted to become a martyr
and was proud to hear that five Franciscan friars were murdered while carrying out their duties. He
returned to Assisi to find dissension in the ranks of the friars. He resigned as their superior, and began
planning the Third Order of the Franciscans, the tertiaries. Francis was praying on Monte Alverno in 1224,
after forty days of fasting, when the marks of the cr!
ucifixion of Christ, the stigmata, appeared on his body. Francis was carried back to Assisi, where he spent
his remaining years in pain and almost total blindness. He was canonized in 1228. By looking at Francis'
life, it can be seen that he exemplifies the eight beatitudes as found in the book of Matthew.
The first beatitude is blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Saint
Francis was indeed poor in spirit during his youth. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps, and
become a merchant. This idea did not appeal to Francis one bit. Francis had no source of inspiration after
which to model his life. His parents catered to his every whim, and Francis became a lover of pleasure. He
had a "ready wit, sang merrily, [and] delighted in fine clothes and showy display" (Robinson). However,
none of these things satisfied him, and he decided to become a military man. During his illness, suffered
while in captivity, "the emptiness of the life he had been leading came to him" (Robinson).
Francis exemplified the third beatitude: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Francis was submissive throughout his life. In youth, he was unassertive in his relationship with his father.
Later in life, Francis formed the First Order based on obedience, poverty, and chastity; all of which are
associated with submission. He further emphasized his belief in humbleness toward the end of his life,
when he dictated his testament. Francis urged "implicit obedience to superiors as holding the place of God,
literal observance of the rule ‘without gloss', especially as regards poverty, and the duty of manual labor"
(Robinson). "Humility was, no doubt, the saint's ruling virtue. The idol of an enthusiastic popular
devotion, he ever truly believed himself less than the least. Equally admirable was Francis' prompt and
docile obedience to the voice of grace within him. ... Later on, the saint, with as clear as a sense of his
message as any prophet ever had, yiel!
ded ungrudging submission to what constituted ecclesiastical authority" (Robinson).