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St. Francis of Assisi

The popular stories and movies of the life of Francis of Assisi do not often describe the real life or the person who we know as the Saint. While there are many excellent books on St. Francis, this page provides an easily accessible life of the poor man from Assisi.

An Introduction

Stories, movies, memes, and more are available online. He is one of the most beloved saints. But what is the real story of St. Francis of Assisi?

The Young Man

Already a saint in-the-making from his youth? A better description is a bit of a delinquent. Who was the real young man who only later became a saint?

Military Adventures

Stories, movies, memes, and more are available online. He is one of the most beloved saints. But what is the real story of St. Francis of Assisi?

A Period of Crisis

The military adventures took their toll on Francis physically, psychologically, and spiritually. No longer the bonvivant and not the saint, but in crisis.

Leaving the World

San Damiano was a turning point for Francis to leave the world that he knew. It meant a break with family and new commitment to the Kingdom.

Embracing the leper

Even as Francis “left the world,” he began a period of what he would later call, “penance.” A central part of that experience involved lepers.

The Brothers

As Francis moved around the Assisi area, many people thought him mad, but others saw the path he walked as one leading to God.

The Fraternity Grows

Francis was inexorably moving towards life lived in community. This growing community was looking for spiritual and communal leadership.

Teaching the Brothers

As the fraternity grew the new arrivals simply did what Francis did. Eventually Francis wrote something down concerning the spiritual journey of this new life.

The Itinerant Life

The fraternal life with Francis was not centered in a monastery but harkened to the tradition of wandering for the sake of Christ, an ascetic homelessness.


From the beginning, Franciscans have been vexed on the meaning of and the way in which to live our vow of poverty. It was all a work in progress for the brothers.

Clare's Conversion

It was not only men who were inspired to “leave the world” and follow Francis. A daughter of landed aristocrats, Clare di Favarone di Offredicio wanted to follow Francis.

Reputation for Holiness

The reputation for holiness began at home among the brothers away from the public eye. Often their first experience of his holiness was via his compassion for the brothers.

Problems of Growth

Francis’ reputation expanded reaching all of central Italy. The fraternity attracted sons of higher social class families and already ordained priests. Change was coming.

Francis and Nature-1

St. Francis is most associated with animals and nature, much of that shaped by the stories of a 14th century book, The Little Flowers. But what was Francis’ view of all this?

Francis and Nature-2

Francis’ did not adopt images from his experience of nature, but rather from Sacred Scripture. Did you know Francis most often points to animals and their obedience to God?

Sacramental View

All of Francis’ writings about created things are positive; he sees God in them, worships God through them, and gives thanks for them. It is a sacramental view of nature.

Francis and Eucharist

What did Francis write about the most?  There is no topic that Francis addresses more than the Eucharist – the primary way of seeing Christ’s Incarnation.

Integrating into Church

In the time of Francis there were 130 other similar mendicant movements. Only one remains: the Franciscans. Why? Francis’ insistence on being integrated into the Church.

The Word of God

In his own writing, Francis admonished and exhorted a wide variety of church people (clergy, friar guardians, and all people) to show a great reverence for Scripture.

The First Missions

In the 1217 meeting of friars (“chapter”), it was agreed to send missions out across the Alps into northern Europe and other locals. It was the beginning of the missionary impulse.

The Crusades (Part 1)

The Crusades aimed to free the Holy Land and were part of Christian life. Did you know Francis was part of the 5th Crusade? But do you know his role?

The Crusades (Part 2)

The 11th century revival of the cult of the martyr St. Rufino shaped the spiritual landscape of Assisi, adding a fervor for martyrdom. Did this impact Francis?

The Crusades (Part 3)

Did the experience of meeting with the Sultan of Egypt, Al-Malik al-Kamil, change the saint’s life? We know the experience forever committed the Friars to the Holy Land.

Francis: While he was away

While Francis was away, the community grew rapidly across Europe. Change was in the air. While Francis was away, what happened to the fraternity he left behind?

Vocation & Charism

Francis had a personal charism, a manner in which to live out his journey of faith.  Was it the charism that would be the vocation of the Order? Was something different needed?

A Fork in the Road

When Francis returned from the Crusades/Holy Land, the Order had grown tremendously and expanded well beyond Assisi. Francis and the Order were at a fork in the road.

Franciscan Rules

When Francis returned there were local problems of formation, discipline, and mission, and an even larger issue.  It was not clear that the Franciscans were actually a “religious order.”

An Approved Rule

The growth of the Order, the clear need for rules and directions, and the Church’s requirement for written, formal “rules of life” – and the Friars prepared their Rule.

Up to now...

Day 30 of the journey, we have covered a lot! So perhaps we might take a quick look back at all that has happened “up to now…”

A Time of Doubt

Francis took the “fork in the road” that freed him from leadership responsibilities. But Francis began to wonder if he’d chosen the right direction.

The Stigmata

From San Damiano to La Verna, the Cross was a key aspect of his Spirituality

Francis and Fasting

Francis was noted for the practice of fasting, but that was a common medieval spiritual practice. What role did fasting play in the Franciscan spiritual life?

Francis and Almsgiving

The medieval world of Assisi was filled with the poor, always living outside the city walls. How did Francis view the connection between the vow of poverty and the piety of almsgiving?

Francis and Prayer

Prayer was an anchor in Francis’ life – and not just daily prayer and Mass, but there were extended periods of time he and other brothers withdrew to places in the Reiti Valley for days of prayer.