Many people don’t know, but the story of Francis of Assisi, a saint known as the protector of animals, the sick and people in poverty, was not so noble before he was canonized by Pope Gregory IX, two years after his death. death in 1226 in Italy.
Recognized today by the image of a friar in brown clothes, a rope tied around his waist, simple leather sandals and a haircut with the top of his head exposed, Francis’ origins show him very different from the symbol of humility, benevolence and charity that We know.
The son of a wealthy family, he had a wealthy life full of luxuries, he was an ambitious man and averse to charity and a compassionate look on the needy. Learn a little more about the history of this curious saint, celebrated on October 4, the day after his death.
From luxury to poverty
Born on July 5, 1182, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardoniera was the son of a wealthy and respected family, who lived off the fabric trade in the Italian region of Assisi. Rich and undisciplined, the young man had ambitions of fame and glory and lacked humility. According to his biographers, Francisco was vain, acted with superiority, used his money indiscriminately and showed repulsion for people afflicted with diseases, especially leprosy.
Francis was born John
Francisco was the son of an Italian father and a French mother and was baptized with the name Giovanni (which for us is the equivalent of João). The name change happened as soon as he was born. His father was an influential merchant doing business in France and soon people started saying that “Francesco” (the Frenchman) had arrived. The father then decided to change his son’s name to Francisco, paying homage to that land.
With no interest in the family business or any career, his greatest ambition was to become idolized and, for that, he flirted with stories of the heroes of the Italian cavalry. In 1202, at the age of 20, he enlisted as a soldier in the Assisi war against Peruggia and it was at this time that the rich boy’s fate began to change. Francisco was captured and remained in prison for about a year awaiting rescue. In prison, he contracted malaria, wasted away and had moments of loneliness, which made him rethink his entire life.
From ambition to humility
After being released by his father’s interference, Francisco tried to return to his life of lust, but soon lost interest in it all. According to his biographers, after his freedom he had “surges” of charity, which even made him donate fabrics from his family’s company to the poor.
One day, on one of his walks, Francis would have found a boy sick with leprosy and something different happened. He looked beyond the boy’s plain, sickly appearance and handed him his clothes and coins. From that moment on, he began to visit and serve the sick in hospitals.
Biographers say that during one of his meditations, Francis was praying alone in the Church of San Damiano, in Assisi, and he heard a voice asking him to renovate that “house”. He understood that the message was asking him to do repair work on the Church building, but his biographers interpret it as a superior request to reform Christianity itself.
To answer the call, he sold part of the family’s fabrics. Furious, the father took him to trial to recover his fortune, but he was defeated in front of a Francisco who chose to renounce his clothes, objects and possessions in front of everyone present, saying that none of that added to him in the fight against the injustices of the world. The act caught the attention of the city, and soon Francisco won over young people who began to follow in his footsteps.
The Franciscan Order
After attracting the city’s attention to his acts of renouncing goods in favor of charity, Francis of Assisi wrote a manuscript about the new order, which would become the Franciscan Order, whose pillars are love, humility, chastity. and obedience to religious teachings. And he went to Rome to ask the pope’s approval. But approval only came when the Pope recognized that it was God himself who inspired Francis to live with such rigid principles, bringing new life to the entire Church.
Catholic, Umbanda and Candomblé
Better known as a Catholic saint, Saint Francis of Assisi is also worshiped in Umbanda and Candomblé as Caboclo de Xangô, who blesses animals.
Francis of Assisi spent part of his religious life on pilgrimage and at this stage he not only valued the human figure as a divine work, but also nature and animals, which he treated as brothers. In one of his most famous stories, he tamed a wild wolf using few words. Another story relates that a flock of swallows followed him on his travels forming a cross in the sky. Francis even asked the Church to allow the presence of animals at Mass.
Inventor of the Nativity Scene
In the 1200s, when the story of Francis takes place, masses were said in Latin and there was great difficulty in explaining the sermons to the population. Francis began to use holy images to illustrate his words. In 1223, in Greccio, he used carved figures, live animals and a manger with hay in his preaching and the crib has since become part of Christmas celebrations.
The cardinal who becomes pope chooses a saint to honor at his episcopal christening. This name decision carries meanings about the origins, or purpose, that the new pope intends to uphold while facing the Catholic Church. Jorge Bergoglio chose to be Pope Francis in 2013, which represents a view of the Church focused on dialogue, inclusion and simplicity.