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Saint Francis of Assisi

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Lived 1181 - 1226
Rank and group: Franciscans' Founder
Feast day: 4 October
Patron saint: Animals, animal welfare, ecologists, Italy, Assisi
Attributes: Birds, deer, stigmata
Status: Roman Martyrology

Saint Francis is among the best known and loved of saints. Francis was born in Assisi district, Umbria province, central Italy, to a merchant. He pursued pleasure in his youth, until providential events led him to establish the order of Friars Minor in 1209. The Friars Minor were characterized by a loving joyous worship of the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and by a poverty which was both individual and collective. They quickly gained traction, with 5,000 friars present at the General Chapter of 1219.

Francis wrote Canticle of the Creatures, where he described all the universe as part of his dear family, from angels to rocks. He is frequently shown in art preaching to birds and fish.

In 1219, Francis sailed to Palestine to try converting the Muslims. His lack of success and an eruption of internal difficulties in his Friars Minor prompted him to return to Italy. Francis sent friars into all of western Europe to establish themselves in university centers. Francis' rule was approved by Innocent III. Then on 14 September 1224, Francis allegedly received the stigmata of the Passion on Mount Alvernia. This was interpreted as divine approval. He died in his deacon's orders and was canonized two years post mortem.

Wolf of Gubbio

A man-eating wolf terrorized Gubbio, and Francis said he could solve the problem not by killing it but by reasoning with it. He returned to Gubbio with a guarantee that the wolf would never hurt anybody again if the people agreed to put out food for it.