Francis of Assisi


Like Ibn ‘Arabi, Francis abandoned a military career in favour of a life of complete spiritual poverty. Born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, he was informally called Francesco ('the Frenchman'), apparently because his father had been on business in France when the boy was born. After fighting in a battle between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was captured and spent nearly a year in prison wating for his family to pay a ransom. According to tradition this was when he began receiving visions of God. After he was released, Francis heard the voice of Jesus telling him to repair the Christian Church and live a life of poverty. He founded the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor for men, the Order of Saint Clare for women (now known as Poor Clares), as well as the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance, which remained a primarily lay fraternity (now known as the Secular Franciscan Order). He visited Egypt with the Crusaders in 1219, meeting the Ayyubid Sultan, al-Kamil, on friendly terms in an attempt to end the conflict. After a brief stay in the Holy Land in 1220, he returned to Italy, where he completed his Rule and possibly the earliest extant poem in Italian, the Canticle of the Sun. He called all created beings his 'brothers' and 'sisters', and even preached to the birds. In 1224 he had a vision of a six-winged angel on a cross, that left him with the stigmata, the marks of the wounds Jesus suffered when he was on the cross, and these stigmata remained visible for the rest of his life. Two years after his death in 1226, Francis was canonised as a saint two years by Pope Gregory IX. In 2013 Cardinal Jorge Bergogli decided to honour Francis by taking his name as the first Pope Francis. By his emphasis on Jesus’ teaching of absolute poverty, St. Francis demonstrated a new meaning to the power of humility and love.