St. Francis is one of the best known and popular of all of the saints. He is loved and admired by Catholics, Protestants, and even non Christians. He preached and practiced a life which focused on total trust and love of God. But, what made St. Francis stand out among all of the saints is how he totally became like Christ in his love of all God’s creatures just because they were God’s creatures, and, therefore a part of or reflection of God Himself.
Francis was born Giovanni Francesco Bernardone in the Italian village of Assisi. He was the son of a wealthy merchant. His early years were spent living in luxury, known as a joyful young man who loved to entertain. He was a soldier who dreamed of being a great victorious knight. But, on one of his first military missions he was captured. He spent one year in captivity during which time he began a spiritual conversion. This was the first of the heavenly calls to Francis. He feared that he was dying and thought of how he spent his life on frivolous things. However, after his health returned Francis returned to his life of wealth and parties with his friends and the dream of becoming a victorious soldier. But, now he it wasn’t as appealing to him. He began to find this way of life very empty, and he was drawn to the needs of the poor.
One day on his return from Rome and still as a soldier, Francis had stopped at a little chapel of St. Damien outside the city of Assisi to pray. As he looked up to the old crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus tell him three times, “Go, Francis and rebuild my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.”. Francis interpreted this message to be a request to rebuild the physical church building which was in ruins. So he went off to rebuild the old church building stone by stone. He did not at this time understand the meaning of the message. Jesus was actually pleading with Francis to reform and rekindle the “spirit of the Church” by rekindling the love of God in the hearts of men.
Then on May 14, 1209 Francis was praying at the little chapel of Our Lady of Angels and the Gospel of St Matthew, chapter 10, 7-19 was read. In these verses where Jesus told his disciples,… “And going, preach, saying The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand…. Freely have you received, freely give. Take neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purses… nor two coats nor shoes nor a staff…. Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves….” Francis understood these words as his new directive. He knew he was to live a life of simplicity and poverty in his total service to Christ. This was the manner in which he instructed his followers and his friars as well.
St. Francis taught his brothers to see Christ in everyone, especially the poor, ill, elderly, and lonely. And, in his final years his brothers related that Francis not only imitated Christ but, he seemed to be totally united to Him. When people saw St. Francis, they saw in him the loving face of Christ. It is no wonder then that of all of the saints that Christ would chose St. Francis to be the first to receive the stigmata – the wounds of Christ – on his hands and feet. Francis found great joy in sharing the suffering of Christ in his heart, in his poverty, and in assisting the suffering brothers and sisters in Christ that he encountered any day of his life. He spent most of his time in prayer and solitude when he was not preaching.
St. Francis started the Franciscan Order which consisted of three orders: the Friars Minor, The Poor Clares, and the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. They are known today as the First, Second, and Third Orders of St. Francis. The Third Order of St. Francis, now called the Secular Order of Franciscans, wear the Franciscan Tau Cross as their habit.
The Franciscan charism is based on these foundations: poverty, simplicity, humility, love of the Eucharist, living the Gospel of Christ everyday, and brotherly love.
St. Francis was in love with all creatures on earth: every human, animals, the sun, moon, air, water, fire, and flowers. He saw God in all of God’s creation and loved all creatures as being one with God. As we attempt to see Christ in everyone as St. Francis did we ask St. Francis to intercede for us to Jesus. And, we can express our devotion to this dear saint as we lovingly wear a beautiful gold St Francis saint medal.
Marianne Buzzelli is a Catholic writer and entrepreneur. To learn more about the saints and our Christian heritage and to join faithful Christians throughout the centuries in expressing your Christian faith and devotion with fine cross necklaces and saint medals, go to [http://www.holycrossnecklaces.com/]