Francis of Assisi lived about eight hundred years ago. He was born in the city of Assisi, Italy, in 1182. He was the son of Peter Bernardone (A wealthy merchant) and Madonna Pica. His father sold spices and fabrics and was often out of town on business. While Peter Bernardone was traveling in Provence on business, Madonna Pica gave birth to his son. Far from being excited or apologetic because he'd been gone, Pietro was furious because she'd had his new son baptized Giovanni after John the Baptist. The last thing Pietro wanted in his son was a man of God -- he wanted a man of business, a cloth merchant like he was, and he especially wanted a son Francesco -- which is the equivalent of calling him Frenchman. Francis spent a happy childhood under the watchful eye of Madonna Pica and the attention heaped on him by his father, who was certain that Francis would follow him in the merchant business. His strict education and healthy moral upbringing gave everything he did a sense of balance. Francis enjoyed a very rich easy life growing up because of his father's wealth and the permissiveness of the times. From the beginning everyone loved Francis. He was constantly happy, charming, and a born leader. If he was picky, people excused him. If he was ill, people took care of him. If he was so much of a dreamer he did poorly in school, no one minded. In many ways he was too easy to like for his own good. No one tried to control him or teach him.
As he grew up, Francis became the leader of a crowd of young people who spent their nights in wild parties. Francis himself said, "I lived in sin" during that time.
Francis fulfilled every hope of Pietro's, and despite his dreaming, Francis was also good at busin...
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...tous. Perceiving that he had come to the end of his days, he asked to be brought to the Porziuncola, in Santa Maria degli Angeli, the place from which his message was spread. During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 45) he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord. Francis' final years were filled with suffering as well as humiliation. When he began to go blind, the pope ordered that his eyes be operated on. This meant cauterizing his face with a hot iron.
Francis never recovered from this illness. He died on October 4, 1226 at the age of 45. Two years later, on July 16th, he was canonized a saint by Pope Gregory IX. Francis is considered the founder of all Franciscan orders and the patron saint of ecologists and merchants.
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