St. Francis of Assisi is a renowned saint in the history of the Christian church. He was the forefather of the order of Franciscans that has presently spread all over the world. Despite all these achievements, he had descended from a sinful luxurious life that he later abandoned and devoted himself to Christianity. This happened after Francis of Assisi had reportedly heard the voice of God, calling him to rebuild the falling church. Thereafter, he lived in poverty while supporting the church and the poor (Green & Bruce, 1985). His love for nature and animals made him receive the crown of the patron saint for the ecologists. Other of his qualities included simplicity, practice of poverty, and love for others. To know more about his life, we explore various aspects of his life as discussed below.
Birth and Early Life
Francis was born in 1182 to a cloth trader father named Pietro di Bernardore and mother Pica de Bourlemont. Initially, Francis was born Giovanni di Bernardore, but changed the name to Francis after his father had preferred the name. At the young age, he was baptized in Assisi, Central Italy (Brooke, 2013). Francis grew up in a luxurious life cladding in admirable clothes and living a noble life because of this father’s wealth. As a result, he influenced many young people in the town to enjoy good foods and drinks, songs and dances (House, 2003). When old, Francis was to be the heir of his father’s textile business and was thus not expected to attend college. He left school at a young age because he wanted nothing for himself. He was a spoilt youth who pampered himself with fine foods, booze, and women. He was famous for his attraction and being superb in his attires.
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Because of exposure to these rustic surroundings, Francis learnt the skills of archery, horsemanship, and wrestling. He was a probable heir of his father’s textile business, but this was not meant to be because he had found the career in cloth trade boring. However, he admired to work as a knight, a medieval action hero. This came to be when warfare beckoned and joined the forces as a warrior.
War and Imprisonment
In 1202, war broke between Assisi and Perugia. Francis joined the forces in Assisi in a fight against their rivals, the Perugia, another town in Italy (Chesterton, 2008). However, after a short service in the forces, he and other warriors were captured and detained in underground cells. At this time, Francis was twenty years old. While in prison, he suffered from a mental disease coupled with stress of having to wait for too long for his father to pay ransoms demand for his release (Brooke, 2013). In prison, Francis was prayerful and this was when he started receiving visions from God and calls to devote himself to Christianity. Reportedly, the visions were a call to serve God by rebuilding His house that was falling apart.
Life after Prison and Dedication to Religion
After several interchanges between his father and the prison officials, he was freed after the demanded payment was made. He lived a free life once again, but this time, his earlier lavish life had lost its meaning. In fact, he decided to devote all this time and money to the church and beggars. Encouraged by this, he sold his horse and some clothes from his father’s shop (Thomson, 2012; Vauchez, 2012). All the money he collected from these sales was passed on to the priest at Saint Damiano.
After learning what his son had done, Pietro di Bernardore, his father, was very furious. He forcefully took Francis to the priest so that he would help him recover and stop spending his money on churches and beggars. As if out of his mind, Francis undressed and gave his clothes to the priest, saying that he believed in only the heavenly father. This marked the start of a new life without money and family ties (Green & Bruce, 1985). This action made people think of Francis differently. Some people saw him as a fool while others viewed him as an exemplary Christian. Others thought that he was out of his mind because of the mental illness and poor health he had suffered. However, this was the foundation of his fame throughout the Christian world and the start of his Franciscan religion.
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During the 13th century, Francis was living in a time of troubadours and poet-musicians. Possessing musical skills, Francis also had the best of these characteristics. He could be described as a good singer, always happy, and an ecologist with profound love for nature. He spoke to the animals and birds as if they were human beings and his best friends. In one of the books he had written, entitled Canticle of Creatures, he mentioned Brother Sun and Sister Moon, which showed his love for the creation and nature (Chesterton, 2008). At one time, Francis was heard begging pardon of his own body for the sins he had committed. Because of his way of life, he always said that he was married to Lady Poverty.
In addition, it was also a time of rejection because his Christian belief was not much embraced, but taken for granted. This saw Francis seek to return to the original spirit of Christ. He decided to live a new life free from material attachments and happiness. He was supposed to love other people and help the poor selflessly. Francis successfully attracted some young men to join him in his ministry. In 1209, they toured Rome to meet Pope Innocent III. They received approval and this enabled them to influence more people (House, 2003). One of the influenced individuals was a lady known as Clare, whom Francis helped to start the second order of Franciscans, an order for women believers (Green & Bruce, 1985).
For various times, Francis made adventurous trips to various new destinations to spread the good news, but was faced with many barriers. For example, in 1212, he embarked on a journey to Palestine, but his ship broke down in bad weather, and Francis was forced to abort his trip. In 1214, he started a trip to meet the Moors, a group of Muslims in Spain. However, he fell sick and returned home. In 1219, he attempted to enter Egypt with a crowd of crusaders (Brooke, 2013). The authorities liked his ideas and allowed him entry. He spent years here spreading his ideas and religion. He later returned to Italy after the number of his followers increased enormously. However, he preferred a private life in prayers. He delegated the administration of his group to other people.
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Final Years, Death, and Legacy
When Francis of Assisi was close to death, he suffered from poor health, partial blindness, and lived in pain of wounds all over his body. He died at the aged of 44 on October 3, 1226 in Assisi, Italy. However, his death did not mean the death of the order of Franciscans. In fact, his works were alive as evidenced by the millions of followers allied to the order of Franciscan today. Just two years after his death, he was canonized as a saint on July 16, 1228 by his former protector Pope Gregory IX. Presently, St. Francis of Assisi is a patron for the ecologists, a title used for persons with boundless love for animals and nature.
After a study on the life and works of Francis of Assisi, it is evident that he was a very important person in establishing the present day order of Franciscan. He gave up a luxurious life to live in poverty and misery just to serve God and the poor in the society. As such, he can be considered an exemplary Christian with a true devotion, commitment, and zeal. This is why the name Francis of Assisi remains renown all over the world, and the order of Franciscan remains successful and one of the most widely spread religious groups.