St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi was born in Umbria in the year 1182. He was a child every father hoped for, he was filled with life, a determined and courageous individual. He was gifted with rather good looks, qualities that attracted friends and a gift of leadership. His father was an extremely wealthy merchant in Assisi. But this son, his favourite, was the one who broke Peter Bernardone?s heart. The boy turned on his father, and in a vicious event that eventually resulted into a public scene. St. Francis of Assisi stepped away from his father, his business and left his father in a state of immense emotional suffering.

Francis joined the military at the age of 20. Prior to this date (1202), the favoured son showed his parents that he would like to follow his own life, not in the footsteps of his father. After his enlistment, he struggled heroically in one bloody battle, but his troop experienced defeat. Taken prisoner of war, he was held captive for several months, then released and sent home. His parents were joyful and made up to him for the long months of suffering by showering him with affection. Francis probably enjoyed receiving extra money the most from this.

Being a prisoner of war did take a toll on Francis. His body became so sick that he almost died and it took over a year to recover. It was during this year that for the first time in his young life, he did some serious pondering. He explored the age old problems, "What am I?", "Where do I come from?", "Where am I going", "What is this world?" and "What is love?".

St. Francis was an Italian Catholic and a talented poet. As an Italian, his heart moved naturally to deep affection, love and enjoyment. As a poet, he could see right through the outcome of those answers. One night during a dream, he saw his house turned into a palace. The walls of this palace were hung with glorious armory, banners, shields, and swords ? all instruments of war. Suddenly he heard a voice, it explained that this was to be his palace, the gathering place for all his knights. The arms were theirs, the banners, and tokens of their countless conquests. To complete this wonderful dream, a gorgeous bride awaited him. St. Francis awoke charmed. A few days after that, he left Assisi to go to Southern Italy to enlist. He reached Spoleto, where he rested and then slept. Yet again, he heard the voice. However, this time, it asked the question, "Francis, who can do more for your, the servant or the master?" Francis, enjoying some sense of practical politics answered, "Why, the master!". Now came the question that changed the course of Francis? life, and in many ways, the course of human history. "Why then are you seeking the servant instead of the master, the vassal instead of the prince?" the voice spoke again. Francis recognizing the voice as that of Christ, suddenly grew weary of retreat. "Lord, what will You have me do?" asked Francis. "Return home, Your vision will have its spiritual fulfillment through Me." replied the voice. Francis then returned to Assisi. Although the residents of Assisi rejoiced at his return, Francis was known as their leader during the time, they soon sensed that Francis had changed. Something was troubling him. The townspeople concluded that Francis had fallen in love. Francis? companions would ask him who it was. Francis had to answer, but he couldn?t tell them that it was someone who he hardly knew or someone that he was slightly afraid. So he said to his friends, "I do dram of taking a wife, and she whom I shall marry is noble, so rich, so fair and so wise, that not one of your has seen her like".

Francis tended to leave his house and journey to the many caves located in Assisi. A friend who saw that Francis was involved in something even more deep than arrangements for a wedding, and who had the understanding to keep quiet about it, often accompanied Francis to the retreat. Even so, Francis always entered and stayed alone.

One day, he went inside the cave and accepted holy poverty and on the terms of God demanded the living of the holy gospel. He vowed to fulfill