Great Saint Francis of Assisi was not wanted by his earthly father, Pietro Bernardone. He was angry at his wife for having his son baptized with the name Giovanni after St. John the Baptist. He didn’t want a son who was a man of God, he wanted a merchant like himself. He also wanted a son to reflect his own love of France, so he had him renamed Francesco.
Francis enjoyed an easy and rich life, with his time and talents being squandered in revelry, parties and casual relationships. He was gregarious and had an appealing personality that was loved by everyone. Thomas of Celano, his biographer, said of him: “In other respects he was an exquisite youth and attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice.” St. Francis himself said, “I lived in sin” during that time.
Francis lived his life for himself, but something happened to him when he was a soldier and was captured and held prisoner for ransom. He was in a dungeon, dark and subjected to despair. He continued a life of sin until he answered the call to go to the crusades as a knight from Assisi. He only made it one day out from his town. That night God visited him in a dream and like a lightening streak across a barren sky announces the coming storm, Francis experienced a storm of grace and he was never the same. He prayed and prayed. One day soon after he was riding in the countryside and saw a leper. Instead of riding away in horror, Francis leapt from his horse and kissed the leper on the hand. Riding away he turned to wave at the leper and found he has disappeared. This was a test that Francis passed. Soon after the events so well known in his life his break from his earthly father was permanent and his acceptance by His Heavenly Father was complete. He founded the order that bears his name, with his dear and great friend Saint Clare.
I urge you to read about the magnificent life of dear Saint Francis. Read his writings. Pray to him. It is important to remember that he went to the Holy Land in order to give his life for Christ. He preached Jesus Crucified and Resurrected to the Muslim. In fact, so impressed was the sultan, that he gave to the Franciscan order the province of the Christian shrines in Palestine. The sultan said, “I would convert to your religion which is a beautiful one, but both of us would be murdered.” He wanted to save his earthly life, when he could have had the crown of martyrdom. Pray for the Muslim and Islamists that today persecute Holy Mother Church and Catholics everywhere! Many theologians in Church history believe that the humble Saint Francis was given the vacant throne of Lucifer in Heaven. How wonderful is God in His Angels and in His Saints.
Great Saint Francis, pray for us!