Francesco Bernardone was in big trouble. He had sold some family possessions to pay for the restoration of the Church of San Damiano, which he believed the Lord Himself had asked him to rebuild.
But Francesco’s father was furious at his son for disposing of family possessions without permission. Despite having his money restored to him, Signore Bernardone was so angry that he wanted to take away his son’s entire inheritance.
But Francis of Assisi—as we now know him—had never been an indecisive man and he gladly forsook the inheritance, declaring that he now had “but one Father in Heaven.”
Having once been the star of Assisi, leader of youth, a popular, fun-loving young man with no plans for the religious life, Francis still possessed a natural spirit of magnanimity toward the poor. He had wanted to be a knight, to win glory and fame in battle. But God worked on his heart and called him to a different kind of knighthood.
Praying one day in the Church of San Damiano, Francis heard a voice from the crucifix say to him, “Francis, go and build up My house, which, as thou seest, is falling into ruin.” Francis— taking the Lord at His literal word—set about restoring San Damiano, until it was clear that God’s plans for “rebuilding” related to more than just a building.
He then became the founder of a new order of mendicants who owned nothing yet possessed everything in Christ. Francis’s natural joie de vivre found its full flowering in this way of life, detached from materialism and worldly distractions and totally dedicated to the work of God.
Men of all ranks and stations were drawn to this life. These new friars dedicated themselves to preaching, the care of the poor, and prayer. We know them now as the Franciscans.
The Franciscans’ definitive biography of their founder—written by another famous Franciscan, St. Bonaventure—is a delightful introduction to this beloved saint. In the pages of this short, approachable book, you’ll discover how God led Francis from worldly ambitions to heavenly ones…what happened when Francis went to visit a sultan during the Fifth Crusade…and the particular suffering God granted him during the final years of his life. Pick up your copy of The Life of St. Francis of Assisi here!