St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 4 October 1226) founded the Franciscan Order or "Friars Minor". He is the patron saint of animals, merchants, Italy, Catholic action, and the environment.

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St. Francis of Assisi Quotes

Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.

For it is in giving that we receive.

I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.

If a superior give any order to one who is under him which is against that man's conscience, although he do not obey it yet he shall not be dismissed.

If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.

If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.

It is not fitting, when one is in God's service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.

Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love.

No one is to be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves.

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.

Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Where there is injury let me sow pardon.

While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.

Quotes originally compiled by

St. Francis of Assisi Chronological Biography

1181 or 1182 Born at Assisi in Umbria son of Pietro and Giovanna Bernadone; baptized John and called Francesco

1190-1195 Attended school at the church of St. George

1201-1202 Joined war between Assisi and Perugia; taken prisoner in the battle of Collestrada; ransomed by his father

1203 Released from prison; returned home

1204 Serious illness

1205 Joined army; became ill in Spoleto; had a vision marking the beginning of his conversion; returned to Assisi; sought solitude; made pilgrimage to Rome; joined beggars at St. Peter's

1206 Jesus spoke to Francis from the crucifix in St. Damian Church; Pietro demanded restitution of money spent; appealed the Bishop of Assisi, assumes hermit's habit and renounces his hereditary rights

1207 Dedicated to prayer and solitude Francis helped lepers and restored 3 churches (San Damiano, San Pietro, Portiuncula)

1208/2/24 Changed hermit's habit to barefoot preacher

1208/4/16 Brothers Bernard and Peter Catanii joined Francis

1208/4/23 Brother Giles was received at Portiuncula

1209 During Mass in Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels gospel revealed Francis' task; words of Christ became the first rule

1209/4/16 Founding date of the Secular Franciscan Order. Francis composed first regulations of religious.

1210 Francis and eleven followers went to Rome; Pope Innocent III verbally approved the Rule; possible beginning of Third Order

1211 Took the name of Friars Minor and lived in Rivotorto, then Portiuncola

1212 Clare of Assisi entered religious life and the Second Order was established

1213/5/8 Mount Alverna was given to Frances as a gift by Count Orlando

1213-1214 Traveled through France and Spain to Morocco, became seriously ill and returned to Italy

1215 First General Chapter meeting

1216/7/16 Pope Innocent III died succeeded by Honorius III

1216 Obtained Portiuncula Indulgence from Pope Honorius III in Perugia

1219-1220 Preached to the Sultan of Egypt; returned to Italy

1220 Resigns; Peter Catanii vicar

1221 Elias vicar; Chapter of the Mats was held; First Rule was written for the friars

1222 Retired to hermitage of Fote Colombo

1223/11/29 Second Rule approved by Pope Honorius III

1223/12/24 First crib was set up at Christmas midnight Mass in Greccio

1224/9/14 Suffered the stigmata

1225 Gravely ill; did not improve with medical treatment

1226 Returned to Assisi; composed "Canticle of Creatures"; went to Portiuncola

1226/10/3 Died; interred at the church of St. George

1228/7/16 Canonized in Assisi by Pope Gregory IX

1230 Moved to new basilica named after Francis

Sources: The Francis Book by Roy M. Gasnick, O.F.M. The Life and Times of St. Francis by Augustino Ghiliardi

Original chronology compiled by Our Lady of Mount Carmel Fraternity

St. Francis of Assisi Biography

Giovanni Bernardore, commonly known as Francesco, the founder of the Franciscan order, was born in the little town of Assisi, in Central Italy, between Perugia and Foligno, in 1182. His father Pietro, a well-to-do merchant, gave the boy a good education. The name of Francesco ("the Frenchman"), which soon altogether replaced his baptismal name, is said to have been given him soon after his birth by his father, returning to Assisi from a trip to France; according to another account it was due to his early acquisition of the French language.

Francis showed little inclination to concern himself with his father's business, but lived a wild life with the young men of his own age. In 1201 he joined a military expedition against Perugia, was taken prisoner, and spent a year as a captive. It is probable that his conversion to more serious thoughts was gradual. It is said that when he began to avoid the sports of his former companions, and they asked him laughingly if he were thinking of marrying, he answered "Yes, a fairer bride than any you have ever seen" -- meaning his "Lady Poverty," as he afterward used to say.

Francis spent much time in lonely places, asking God for enlightenment. By degrees he took to nursing the most repulsive victims in the lazar-houses near Assisi; and after a pilgrimage to Rome, where he begged at the church doors for the poor, he had a vision in which he heard a voice calling upon him to restore the Church of God which had fallen into decay. Francis understood this to refer to the ruined church of St. Damian near Assisi, and sold his horse together with some cloth from his father's store, giving the proceeds to the priest for this purpose.

Pietro, highly indignant, attempted to bring his son to his senses, first with threats and then with corporal chastisement. After a final interview in the presence of the bishop, Francis renounced all expectations from his father, laying aside even the garments received from him, and for a while was a homeless wanderer in the hills around Assisi. Returning to the town, where he spent two years at this time, he restored several ruined churches, among them the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, just outside the town, which became later his favorite abode.

The Beginning of the Franciscans

At the end of this period (according to Jordanus, in 1209), a sermon which he heard on Matthew 10:9 made such an impression on him that he decided to devote himself wholly to a life of apostolic poverty. Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Evangelical precept, without staff or scrip, he began to preach repentance. He was soon joined by a prominent fellow townsman, Bernardo di Quintavalle, who contributed all that he had to the work, and by other companions, who are said to have reached the number of 11 within a year.

The brothers lived in the deserted lazar-house of Rivo Torto near Assisi; but they spent much of their time traveling through the mountainous districts of Umbria, always cheerful and full of songs, yet making a deep impression on their hearers by their earnest exhortations. Their life was extremely ascetic, though such practises were apparently not prescribed by the first rule which Francis gave them (probably as early as 1209), which seems to have been nothing more than a collection of Scriptural passages emphasizing the duty of poverty.

In spite of the obvious similarity between this principle and the fundamental ideas of the followers of Peter Waldo, the brotherhood of Assisi succeeded in gaining the approval of Pope Innocent III. Many legends have clustered around the decisive audience of Francis with the pope. The realistic account in Matthew of Paris, according to which the pope originally sent the shabby saint off to keep swine, and only recognized his real worth by his ready obedience, has, in spite of its improbability, a certain historical interest, since it shows the natural antipathy of the older Benedictine monasticism to the plebeian mendicant orders.

Work and Extension of the Franciscans

It was not, however, a life of idle mendicancy on which the brothers entered when they set out in 1210 with the papal approbation, but one of diligent labor. Their work embraced devoted service in the abodes of sickness and poverty, earnest preaching by both priests and lay brothers, and missions in an ever widening circle, which finally included heretics and Mohammedans. They came together every year at Pentecost in the little church of the Portiuncula at Assisi, to report on their experiences and strengthen themselves for fresh efforts.

There is considerable uncertainty as to the chronological and historical details of the last fifteen years of the founder's life. But to these years belong the accounts of the origin of the first houses in Perugia, Crotona, Pisa, Florence, and elsewhere (1211-13); the first attempts at a Mohammedan mission, in the sending of five brothers, soon to be martyrs, to Morocco, as well as in a journey undertaken by Francis himself to Spain, from which he was forced by illness to return without accomplishing his object; the first settlements in the Spanish peninsula and in France; and the attempts, unsuccessful at first, to gain a foothold in Germany. The alleged meeting of Francis and Dominic in Rome at the time of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) belongs to the domain of legend; even Sabatier's argument to show that such a meeting actually took place in 1218 is open to serious objection.

Historical in the main are the accounts relating to the journey of Francis to Egypt and Palestine, where he attempted to convert the Sultan Kameel and gave fearless proofs of his readiness to suffer for his faith; the internal discord, which he found existing in the order on his return to Italy in 1220; the origin of his second and considerably enlarged rule, which was replaced two years later by the final form, drawn up by Cardinal Ugolino; and possibly the granting by Pope Honorius III (in 1223) of the Indulgence of the Portiuncula - a document which Sabatier, who formerly rejected it, has recently pronounced authentic on noteworthy grounds.

The Last Years of Francis

Francis had to suffer from the dissensions just alluded to and the transformation which they operated in the originally simple constitution of the brotherhood, making it a regular order under strict supervision from Rome. Especially after Cardinal Ugolino had been assigned as protector of the order by Honorius III-- it is said at Francis' own request -- he saw himself forced further and further away from his original plan. Even the independent direction of his brotherhood was, it seems, finally withdrawn from him; at least after about 1223 it was practically in the hands of Brother Elias of Crotona, an ambitious politician who seconded the attempts of the cardinal-protector to transform the character of the order.

However, in the external successes of the brothers, as they were reported at the yearly general chapters, there was much to encourage Francis. Caesarius of Speyer, the first German provincial, a zealous advocate of the founder's strict principle of poverty, began in 1221 from Augsburg, with 25 companions, to win for the order the land watered by the Rhine and the Danube; and a few years later the Franciscan propaganda, starting from Cambridge, embraced the principal towns of England.

But none of these cheering reports could wholly drive away from the mind of Francis the gloom which covered his last years. He spent much of his time in solitude, praying or singing praise to God for his wonderful works. The canticle known as Laudes creaturarum, with its childlike invocations to Brother Sun, Sister Moon with the stars, Brother Wind, Sister Water, Brother Fire, and finally Sister Death, to raise their voices to the glory of God, dates from this period of his life. The hermit stage which opened the career of many monastic founders was reserved for the end of his who had once been so restless in his activity. He spent the short remainder of his life partly on Monte Alverno on the upper Arno, where he fasted 40 days and longed for union with God, to be demonstrated by the impression on his body of the wounds of Christ (stigmata); partly at Rieti under medical treatment; and partly in his beloved Portiuncula at Assisi waiting for his deliverance from the flesh. He died October 3, 1226, at Assisi, and was canonized two years later by Pope Gregory IX, the former cardinal-protector of the order.

Original biography compiled by ReligionFacts

(For more information see Wikipedia)


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