Saint Francis of Assisi
Author: Mrs. Myriam Van Lerberghe-Thibaut
Francis of Assisi is one of the greatest Saints in the Catholic Church.
Francesco Bernardone was born in 1181 or 1182 in Assisi in the Italian region Umbria. His father was a wealthy textile merchant. Francesco grew up in wealth and dreamed about a future as a knight. In 1201 he engaged in the war at the city of Perugia. He was caught POW and remained incarcerated during a year, in miserable condition. His father bought his freedom and he returned to Assisi, sick and depressed.
In 1205 Francesco received his first mystical experience. In 1206 he had a decisive vision in the dilapidated church of San Damiano. There he heard how Christ spoke to him from his Cross: restore my church. Francesco understood this order literally and started restoring the church, unaware of the fact that he was to become the founder of one of the most important renewal movements the Church has ever seen.
After his experience in San Damiano he was overwhelmed by joy and sorrow. Joy because Christ had called him, sorrow because he had lived a life of a sinner. Francesco decided to let himself be disinherited, as a consequence he was alienated from his father. He lived a life of radical poverty, extreme penitence and self-sacrificing charity.
Francis preached the Gospel, according to the words of the apostle Paul at any time. Initially this provoked jeering, mockery and agression. After all in Assisi he was known to be a guzzling rich man's son.
Nevetheless he received adherents soon. Saint Francis of Assisi founded the order of Friars Minor. With his fellow citizen Saint Clara he founded an order of enclosed convent nuns, the Clares. He founded the Third Order too, a community of lay faithful who pursue the ideal of poverty in the world. The most famous followers of Saint Francis are Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Bonaventura.
Until his death Saint Francis continued to fight for his ideals. He experienced much resistance, even inside his order. During a spiritual crisis he miraculously received the Stigmata, the five wounds of Christ.
Saint Francis died in 1226 at Portiuncula, surrounded by his fellow borthers. Two years later already Saint Francis was canonized. The Saints body is venerated in the Assisi church named after him.
Assisi is one of the best visited places of pilgimage in the world. It is a place committed to world peace, because of the franciscan motto Pax et Bonum (Peace and Good).
Source: Katholiek Nederland (RKK).
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