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St Francis of Assisi
pg 1
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The “little poor man of Assisi,” as St. Francis is often called, was born in the year 1182 in the town of Assisi, Italy. He was the son of a wealthy merchant, and as a youth, enjoyed a life of luxury and frivolity, even to the extent of keeping company with “troubadours,” a term used for poets and minstrels, who flourished in southern France and northern Italy from the 11th  to the 13th centuries.
 
Even in the midst of his rich friends and life of pleasure, Francis remained soft-hearted and mindful of the poor. A turning point in his life was the time Francis was selling cloth in the marketplace on behalf of his father. A beggar came by and asked Francis for alms. Francis gave him all that he had in his pocket, and was chided for doing so by some of his companions standing nearby. After hearing what Francis did, his father was enraged and rebuked him.
 
In 1201, having joined a military expedition against Perugia, Francis was taken prisoner and spent a year in captivity. When he returned to Assisi in 1203, he resumed his carefree life, until 1204, when he was afflicted with a serious illness leading to a spiritual crisis.
 
When he recovered, he left for Puglia to join another army, but a strange vision made him return to Assisi, where he avoided the revelry of his former days. His friends laughingly asked him if he was thinking of marrying. He answered, “yes, a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen”, meaning his “Lady Poverty.” He began spending much time in solitude, asking God for enlightenment. He spent time caring for and tending to the needs of lepers, a task despised by onlookers.
 
After a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis had a vision in which the image of Christ in the crucifix at San Damiano, miraculously spoke to him saying, “go and repair my Church which you can see is falling completely in ruin.” At first he began literally to help restore ruined Churches in the area, beginning with San Damiano.
 
His father vehemently opposed his son’s behavior, causing Francis to renounce his father and patrimony, and live as a beggar for a while. During this time he restored the Porziuncola, the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, just outside of town, which later became his favorite abode.
Statue of St. Francis, Patron Saint of animals, at Santa Maria Degli Angeli Basilica, Assisi, Italy.
Here, live doves attend 'breakfast' of grain from the "Basket of the Lord"