Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate
86 Saracen Street
Tel: 0141 336 3027
Fax: 0141 336 4096
Charity No SC 006881 7109
Roots : The Story of Francis of Assisi
Francis was born
in Assisi in 1182, the son of a rich cloth merchant
Pietro Bernadone and his wife, Lady Pica whom
he possibly met on one of his many business trips
to France. The child was baptised John, but his
father named him Francesco, ' the little Frenchman'
and it is by this name 'Francis' that he has become
known and loved throughout the centuries. He died
in 1226 at the age of 44.
Francis was very outgoing and full of fun. It
seemed that in his teens, he loved fine clothes,
singing, feasting and revelry of all kinds. He
was a generous and charming person and the natural
leader of his friends.
At that time, social change brought about wars
between the nobility who were the landlords of
the feudal system and the poor people of the communes
in Assisi. Francis joined the side of the communes.
The nobles fled
to Perugia which in turn waged war on Assisi.
Francis was taken prisoner and held for nearly
a year. When he returned home, he became seriously
ill. As a young man, he had been ambitious and
desired more than anything to receive a knighthood.
He was devastated as he saw his hopes of gaining
a knighthood for bravery in war slip further away
from him. At about the age of 22, he decided to
join the Crusades in the hope of still realising
this ambition. However, no sooner did he set off
than he returned without going to war at all.
Why? Well, while on his way to the Crusades, at
Spoleto, Francis had a dream. He heard a voice
say to him: "Francis is it better to serve
the Lord or the servant?" He answered, "Sir,
the Lord, of course."
Francis realised that he was following his
own desires and not the Lord's. Francis began
to face his own limitations, and being a realist,
he accepted them. It was the beginning of a
slow unfolding process, but Francis began to
realise that God was leading him to greatness,
but in a very different way from his illusory
knighthood. So Francis returned home knowing
full well the misunderstanding and mockery this
would cause him. Indeed his own father found
it hard to comprehend the change in his outgoing,
fun-loving and ambitious son.
|FRANCIS' ENCOUNTER WITH THE LEPER
|Francis had always had a fear
of lepers - even the very thought of seeing
them petrified him. One day, however, while
travelling, Francis came very close to a
leper, and, instead of bolting off in another
direction, by a deep impulse of the grace
of God, he not only handed the man money,
but he took his rotting hand and kissed
it. At this he experienced a deep inner
joy and peace. He had overcome himself and
from then on he left his worldly ways behind
him and gave himself over to the Lord. He
continued his care of the lepers and devoted
himself to prayer and good works.
| Initially, everyone was convinced
that Francis had gone mad. Even his friends were
confused by his quiet and pensive ways - so different
from the Francis they had known. They would mockingly
ask him if he was in love. "Yes," he would
reply, "I am going to marry a most beautiful
and gentle lady called 'Lady Poverty.'" All
during his life, he did give up all material goods
and all worldly ambition to be one with the poor.
|FRANCIS, REBUILD MY CHURCH
Francis continued to be very reflective as
he sought to find his way in life.
Soon after his conversion, while he was praying
in the little dilapidated church of San Damiano,
he heard a voice from the crucifix say to him,
"Francis, go now and repair
my church, which as you see is falling in ruin."
|Now in his happiness that God had
given him something to do he went off to find money
for the work. Taking a couple of bales of cloth
from his father's shop, he headed for the market
and sold it as well as his horse and brought the
proceeds to the church. When the priest refused
to take it, he threw the money on a window sill.
Pietro Bernadone was so furious when he found out
what his son had done that he would have nothing
more to do with him.
What was he meant to do? How was he to rebuild
the Church? He started begging for stones so that
he could do the re-building himself - but in time,
Francis became aware that even this was not really
what the Lord was inviting him to do. Slowly,
he became aware that he was being invited to rebuild
with living stones – to renew the life of
Soon others, even some of the nobles, were drawn
by his joyful example and sincere holiness and
goodness to others. They too left all that they
owned and joined him. Inspired by God, Francis
gave his followers a way of life which was simply
to live the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ
as given to us in the Gospels. That was the challenge
that he passed on to the three Orders he founded:
the Friars Minor, the Poor Clares and the Third
Although Francis only lived to the age of 44,
his life’s message of simplicity and the
power of prayer has never faded. Today, St. Francis
is a symbol of spiritual love, guidance and hope.