Francesco di Pietro di Bernardone was born in 1181 ca in a small town called Assisi, situated in the Umbria region (central Italy). Born to a rich cloth merchant, as a youth Francesco appreciated fine food, crowded company, and enjoyed the French culture of troubadours. His world was filled with violence and Francis himself took part in a war between Assisi and Perugia, at the end of which he was imprisoned. Ransomed by his father, the future saint fell ill and shortly after experienced the first of a series of visions that would ultimately lead him to his true vocation.
The call of St Damian crucifix
Before completely embracing poverty, Francis of Assisi had several deeply spiritual experiences that anticipated and prepared him for the kind of life that he would later become renowned for. The one that finally prompted him to change happened at the San Damiano church on the outskirts of Assisi. When praying in front of the altar crucifix, Francis heard a voice that commanded him: “Go, Francis, and repair my house which, as you see, is in ruins.” That very moment marked a before and an after in Francis’ life, who shortly after would renounce his inheritance and family ties before the ecclesiastical court of Assisi in presence of his father. That same year, in 1206, two fellow countrymen joined him, becoming twelve a few years later. That was the beginning of the Franciscan order of the Friars Minor.
Prayer of St Francis
St Francis is known for writing the very first poem in the Italian language, known as “Canticle of Brother Sun” and “Canticle of the Creatures” that celebrates nature as a divine gift. Enjoy it here below:
Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day, and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
The Patronage of Saint Francis of Assisi
The Assisian Saint is celebrated on 4 October and together with Saint Catherine of Siena is the patron of Italy. Because of his deep feeling for nature, Pope John Paul II officially proclaimed him the patron saint of ecology in 1980. St Francis is, in fact, usually depicted in the company of animals, most of all wolves.
The story of St Francis of Assisi and the wolf was quite popular back in the Middle Ages. According to it, the saint confronted a wolf that terrorized the residents of the Gubbio town. After reprimanding the carnivore, Francis made a deal with it by bargaining food in exchange for people’s lives.