New Catholic Dictionary – Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi by El GrecoArticle

Confessor, founder of the Franciscan Order, born Assisi, Italy, 1182; died there, 1226. The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, Pietro Bernadone, Francis received a fair education and entered his father’s business. These early years in no way presaged the greatness and sanctity which was to follow, for he gave himself wholeheartedly to revelry and self-indulgence. In a battle between the Assisians and Perugians, Francis was taken prisoner and detained in Perugia for more than a year, where he suffered a severe illness. Returning to Assisi, he decided to abandon all for Christ; his father was so displeased with him that he disinherited him; Francis gladly renounced his inheritance before the Bishop of Assisi. He rebuilt the church of Saint Damian at Assisi and the chapel of Our Lady of the Angels at Portiuncula, nursed the sick, and cared for the poor. At Mass, 24 February 1209, he heard in the words of the Gospel his call to preach penance, brotherly love, and the teaching of Christ. He and his small band of followers, dressed in the poorest garments and living a simple virtuous life, were a source of inspiration to the people of the countryside. Francis composed a simple rule for his disciples, based on the words of Christ to His disciples, “Leave all and follow me”; it was approved in 1215, and the order, known as the Friars Minor, spread with great rapidity. Francis journeyed through Italy, southern France, and Spain, preaching and performing miracles. In 1212 Saint Clare was attracted to the religious life by the words of Francis and through her the Poor Clares were established. In 1219 the first great chapter of the order was held at Assisi. In 1221 he established the Third Order for the laity. He was received by the hierarchy as the messenger of God, became the friend of Gregory IX, received the Portiuncula. Indulgence from Honorius III, c.1216, and was a potent factor in rechristianizing medieval society. He later drew up the final rule which was approved, 1223. Having retired with three companions to La Verna, he received the stigmata, 1224; after this his health began to fail steadily. Saint Francis, by the nobility of his life and the charm of his personality, has always inspired great popular veneration, and in recent years his cult has become even more widespread. Protestants have of late learned to venerate him. The guiding note of his life was charity which sprang from a deep-rooted love for all God’s creatures; the very animals found in him a friend and protector. Emblems: a lamb, wolf, birds, fish, and the stigmata. Canonized, 1228. Relics at Assisi, Italy. Feast, 4 October.

MLA Citation

  • “Saint Francis of Assisi”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 August 2018. Web. 23 February 2019. <>