About St Francis

Born in the thriving Italian town of Assisi, Francis was the son of Pietro Bernadone, a wealthy cloth merchant, and his wife Pica, daughter of a Count from Provence. In his youth Francis enjoyed the lifestyle that his father’s money allowed, with the power, prestige and pleasure that went with it. However, his life underwent a radical change when Assisi went to war with its neighbouring state, Perugia, and Francis, able to afford a horse and the paraphernalia of a knight, joined the feud only to be captured early in the battle and thrown into prison.

He returned a changed man, and now began to question the value of the society in which he had been raised - until the turning point in his life when he faced his greatest fear and embraced the leper. In doing so he embraced Christ.
It’s good to know that even saints can sometimes get it wrong for Francis then made two mistakes! First he heard God tell him to rebuild his church - and thought he meant the ruins in which he was standing, and second, he stole some of his father’s cloth to pay for it. Needless to say, his father wasn’t impressed, and in a confrontation in the presence of the bishop, Francis stripped himself of his elegant clothes, renounced his father’s possessions, declared himself a son of God and began his life of poverty, striving to adopt the values and life-style of the Gospels, actions that ran counter to the spirit of his age.

Throughout his life Francis drew inspiration from the Gospels, in the stories of Jesus walking and talking with equal ease to children, Rabbis, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, fishermen and Pharisees. His was an experiential spirituality, for he encountered God in the poor and the needy, the Sun and the moon, the fig tree and the mustard seed, in the fire and in the rain, in all of God’s creation, animate and inanimate. Francis gave himself to worldly pursuits and found them wanting; he encountered Jesus in the Gospels and in the simple things of life, and found the source of true joy. His was a short life during which he faced numerous struggles, but he knew that life, and everything it encompassed, was a gift from God and he praised Him ceaselessly.

He never wavered from his belief that the Gospels are the Rule for living a full and holy Christ-centred life, a divine influence that leads us into passionate involvement in our world, giving us the power and drive to proclaim the truth of Christian values in the face of opposition, the courage to take risks and to discover both present and eternal peace and joy.


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