Saint Francis is one of the world’s most popular and beloved saints. He is the patron of animals, merchants and ecology.

Francis was born in Assisi, Italy in 1181, to wealthy parents. His father was a silk merchant who nicknamed his son Francis, after France, a nation and culture which he admired.

Francis enjoyed a comfortable youth and had many friends. Francis himself said he “lived in sin” during his teenage years.

As a young man, Francis thirsted for glory. While setting out join the Fourth Crusade, God spoke to Francis and told him to return home. Francis was humiliated, but he obeyed. Later, when he encountered a leper, Francis was moved with compassion and he gave the man a kiss, as a sign of peace. After the gesture, the man disappeared. Francis concluded God had been testing him.

The final moment of conversion came with Francis visited a dilapidated church and heard God ask him to rebuild the church. Francis assumed God wanted him to help the church he was praying in, so he stole cloth and money from his father to do it.

Enraged, Francis’ father took his son to the bishop and sued him for the money. The bishop ordered Francis repay the money. Francis responded by renouncing his inheritance and his family and dedicating himself to serving the poor.

Francis took to the streets and lived day-to-day, relying on God to provide. As he went about, he cared for the sick and the poor. Francis became legendary for his compassion. It became said he could talk to the animals.

Followers flocked to Francis and he established an order of monks. Today it is the Franciscan order.

Francis lived a life so holy, he was canonized just two years after his death.

Today, Saint Francis intercedes on behalf of faithful Catholics around the world and a great number of miracles are attributed to his name.

Learn more about St. Francis of Assisi: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=50

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