ASSISI (Red) ‘Make me a channel of your peace'
St Francis of Assisi was born in 1182 in Assisi. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant. Baptised John, his father renamed him Francis as a token of his love of France. As a young man, Francis was proud and vain although kind and affable and willing to give to the poor.
In the 12th and 13th centuries Italy consisted of several small states which frequently waged war upon each other. In 1205 he was due to take part in an atatck on Apulia when he had a dream in which God asked him who could do more, the servant or the master. Francis interpreted this as meaning that he had been serving the servant and not the master and abandoning dreams of becoming a knight returned to Assisi to care for the sick.
In 1206 whilst praying in a dilapidated church, the cross spoke to him, asking that he repair the church so Francis took some of his father's cloth and sold it giving the money to the priest to repair the church. In time Francis realised that God had not meant the physical church building but instead the community of the church. His father imprisioned him in a cellar and eventually took him before the bishop. Francis renounced his father so that he could belong only to God. He abondoned his fine clothes, his possessions, his rights and the privileged life he had been living in order to help the sick and the lepers, and the derelicts and outcasts from society. He took on the clothing of a poor farmhand, the tunic which to this day is the trademark dress of the religious order he founded - the Franciscans.
From 1210 until 1221 Francis sent his followers into the world to preach to the poor and the humble. He retired from governing the Franciscan Order and took to a life of prayer, contemplation and fasting receiving the Stigmata (the wounds of Christ) in 1224. Francis died on 3rd October 1226 and was canonised in 1228. The feast day of St Francis is 4th October. Pope Francis I picked the name Francis after Saint Francis as a sign of his humility and to bring into focus the needs of the poor in our world.