Saint Francis of Assisi
St Francis was born in Assisi in 1181 or 1182. He was born into a wealthy family, but after a comfortable and carefree youth he began to experience a conversion. He turned his back on his comfortable life, indeed on all earthly possessions. In the small, ruined church of St Damian he had a vision of Christ calling out to him from the cross:
“Three times Christ on the Cross came to life, and told him: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church in ruins". This simple occurrence of the word of God heard in the Church of St Damian contains a profound symbolism. At that moment St Francis was called to repair the small church, but the ruinous state of the building was a symbol of the dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church herself. At that time the Church had a superficial faith which did not shape or transform life, a scarcely zealous clergy, and a chilling of love. It was an interior destruction of the Church which also brought a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements. Yet, there at the centre of the Church in ruins was the Crucified Lord, and he spoke: he called for renewal, he called Francis to the manual labour of repairing the small Church of St Damian, the symbol of a much deeper call to renew Christ's own Church, with her radicality of faith and her loving enthusiasm for Christ.” (Pope Benedict, General Audience 27/01/10)
Francis lived a simple life of poverty, proclaiming the gospel and trying to lead others to Christ. Truly he tried to make the Lord present for all those that he met. He died in 1226. It was not originally his intention to found a new religious order, but his magnetic charisma and obvious faith led people to follow him, and the Franciscans who follow his rule still flourish today.
“Dear friends, Francis was a great Saint and a joyful man. His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love for Christ, his goodness towards every man and every woman, brought him gladness in every circumstance.”
(Pope Benedict, General Audience 27/01/10)