St. Francis of Assisi
The beloved founder of the Franciscans was born in Assisi to the wealthy merchant Pietro Bernardone and his wife Pica in 1181 or 1182. Pica named him Giovanni, but when Pietro returned from a business trip to France, he renamed his son Francis. Francis became a fun-loving, frivolous young man who loved partying and flirting with the girls. When he was twenty, he took part in a battle against a rival Italian city-state and was imprisoned for a year. An illness while imprisoned, turned Francis’ thoughts to God, but he wanted glory as a chivalrous warrior and he set out on another campaign, only to be told in a dream to return home. He obeyed and increasingly sought God in prayer. While praying in the run-down chapel of San Damiano he heard Christ say “Repair my Church, which you can see has fallen into ruins.” Francis took the command literally and sold some of his father’s merchandise without permission to obtain money for the chapel; his furious father took his complaint to the local bishop. Appearing with his father before the bishop, Francis announced that from henceforth he had only a “Father in Heaven” and flung off the clothes his father had given him. He dressed in a brown woolen tunic and began preaching the love of God in simple terms to the people. In 1208, his first followers joined him is this simple way of life. This was the beginning of the Franciscan friars (Friars Minor). With St. Clare, Francis also founded the Poor Clare nuns. Late in his relatively short life, Francis received the Stigmata. He died October 3, 1226, surrounded by his friars. He was canonized in 1228 and his feast is October 4. Pets are traditionally blessed on this day in honor of St. Francis’ love for animals.