The Life of Saint Francis

Francis of Assisi was born in Assisi (Italy) in 1181/1182. After a carefree youth, he had a conversion experience and founded the Order of Friars Minor, commonly known as the Franciscans. Soon a young woman, Clare of Assisi, wanted to share his way of life and, during her lifetime, her little community of sisters developed into the Order of the Poor Sisters, later called the Poor Clares. The Franciscan Third Order, known today as the Secular Franciscan Order, also sees St. Francis as its founder. In 1219/1220 Francis went to Egypt, where he met the Sultan; this meeting was the inspiration behind the origin of the Custody of the Holy Land, which is the name for the community of friars who maintain the ancient Franciscan presence in Jerusalem, and help keep alive the memory of Jesus’ presence in the holy places.

 

Francis received the stigmata in 1224 on the Mountain of La Verna, and the following year he composed the Canticle of Brother Sun, a prayer-poem of praise to God, the Creator of everything that exists. In 1979, this prayer and his attitude of reverence towards all created things led to his being proclaimed the patron saint “of those who promote ecology”. Francis died on October 4th, 1226 in Assisi, and was declared a saint in 1228.

Chronology

1181

Born in Assisi, baptized Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone, renamed Francesco by his father.  

1199 – 1200

Civil War in Assisi. Many noble families flee to Perugia

1202 (November)

War between Perugia and Assisi. The latter is defeated at Collestrada. Francis spends a year in captivity (falls ill) until ransomed by his father.

1204

A long period of illness and convalescence.

1205

Francis sets out to join the army of Walter de Brienne. Returns after a vision and message in Spoleto. Beginning of a gradual period of conversion.

1205 (Fall)

Message of the Crucifix at San Damiano, Conflict with his father.

1206 (January or February)

Trial before the Bishop.

1206 (Spring)

Francis nurses the lepers.

1206 (Summer)

Returns to Assisi and begins to rebuild San Damiano; end of conversion process.

1206 (Summer to January or February)

He repairs San Damiano, San Pietro della Spina and Our Lady of the Angels “Portiuncula”.

1208 (February 24)

Francis hears the Gospel for the Feast of St. Matthias.

1208 (April 16)

Bernard of Quintavalle and the priest, Peter Cattani join him. Others follow.

1208-1209 (Fall and Winter)

Francis is assured of the pardon of his sins and the growth of his fraternity. They go out two by two to preach penance.

1209

Francis writes a brief Rule for himself and his eleven friars. They receive the approval of Pope Innocent III in Rome. The friars return to Rivotorto and then to the Portiuncula.

1212 (Palm Sunday Night)

Reception and investiture of St. Clare at the Portiuncula. After a stay with the Benedictine Nuns, Clare moves to San Damiano.

1215

Francis at Rome for the IV Lateran Council.

1216

Francis receives the Portiuncula Indulgence from Pope Honorius at Perugia.

1217 (May 5 – Pentecost)

General Chapter of all the friars at the Portiuncula. First mission outside Italy.

1219 (May 26)

First friar missionaries leave for Morocco.

1219 (June 24)

Francis sails for the Holy Land.

1219 (Fall)

St. Francis meets with the Sultan.

1220

First Franciscan martyrs: the friars killed in Morocco.

1220

Cardinal Hugolino appointed Protector of the Order.

1220

Francis resigns as General Minister and friar Peter Cattani appointed.

1221

Peter Cattani dies and at Chapter Bro. Elias becomes the Vicar.

1221-1222

Francis goes on a preaching tour throughout Italy.

1223

Francis goes to Fontecolombo to write the definitive Rule for the Order of Friars Minor. The Chapter discusses it and further changes are made until its approval by Pope Honorius III in November.

1223

The first Christmas Crib midnight Mass at Greccio.

1224

The long retreat of Francis at La Verna where he receives the Stigmata.

1225

His eye problems turn worse and he stays for a while at San Damiano with St. Clare and the sisters. At the insistence of Bro. Elias he undergoes medical treatment but without improvement. Almost blind he writes his “Canticle of the Creatures”.

1225-1226

Francis goes to Fontecolumbo where the doctors cauterize his temple in an unsuccessful treatment. At Sienna he takes a turn for the worse and dictates a short “last will”.

1226 (September)

Staying at the Bishop’s house in Assisi, Francis knows that he is dying, writes the Testament and asks to be brought down to the Portiuncula.

1226 (October 3)

Francesco dies at the Portiuncula in the evening.

1226 (October 4)

He is buried in the church of San Giorgio.

1228 (July 16)

In Assisi, his friend Cardinal Hugolino now Pope Gregory IX canonizes Francis.

1230 (May 25)

Transfer of the Saint’s remains to his tomb in the new papal basilica of San Francesco.