Francis was born in 1182 into a wealthy Catholic family of seven children in Assisi, Italy. He was named John by his mother at birth, after St. John the Baptist. His father renamed him Francis because he made his livelihood in France. Francis lived a life of comfort, leisure, and partying until he left to fight as a solider in two wars. He was taken prisoner for a year. Afterwards, he felt called to spend more time in prayer and service to the poor. While praying, Francis heard God tell him to “repair my house, which is falling into ruins.” Francis went to work repairing ruined churches. His father was angry with him for spending family money. Francis then left home, renounced his wealth, and took a vow of poverty. Francis never become a priest but his love of poverty and his joyful preaching converted people everywhere he went. He had a group of followers; their one basic rule was “To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps.” They traveled to Rome to get papal approval for their religious order. At first reluctant about this group of poor men, Pope Innocent III experienced a supernatural dream and then approved the founding of the Franciscan order. The Order grew quickly. A woman named Clare of Assisi wanted to take similar vows, so Francis helped her start the Order of the Poor Ladies (Order of Saint Clare). He also started another order (later called the Third Order of Saint Francis) for lay men and women. St. Francis received the stigmata during a 40-day fast preceding Michaelmas. Francis was also known for his love of nature and animals. There are many stories about Saint Francis preaching to animals and taming wild ones. One story tells of a vicious wolf in the town of Gubbio that was killing people and sheep. Francis confronted the wolf, made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf not to hurt anyone else. The wolf became tame and the town was saved. In 1220, he set up the first known Nativity scene to celebrate Christmas. Francis became ill and spent the last few years of his life mostly blind. He died in 1226 while singing Psalm 141. He was declared a saint only two years after his death.
Ideas for celebrating this feast day at home:
- Bring your animals to church on Sunday, 4 October at 2pm for the Blessing of the Animals! Fr. Tomlinson will bless all your creatures in the grassy area by the handicap parking.
- Click here for Franciscan prayers you can say with your family on this feast day.
- In honor of his love of poverty, make it a task this week to declutter closets and donate extra items to the poor! Include your children in this endeavor to give out of your excess to those in need. Or, send the St. Vincent de Paul Society a donation.
- Francis fasted most of his religious life, so it’s not completely natural to prepare a great feast in his honor. However, on his deathbed, he asked for a sweet treat concocted of almonds and sugar. Here is a recipe that might be similar to what he requested. Because he was from Assisi, an Italian-themed dinner would also be fitting.
- Get out into nature today and enjoy an animal-themed snack (animal crackers, ants on a log).
- This website has other meal ideas in honor of St. Francis.