The founder of the Order of Friars Minor known as the Franciscans, St. Francis was born at Assisi in Umbria in 1181 A.D. His mother named him Giovanni after St. John the Baptist. However, his father, Pietro Bernadone, a cloth merchant, who was away during the child’s birth renamed him Francesco (the equivalent of calling him a Frenchman) as he did not want a son to be a man of God but rather a merchant who shared his passion for France.
The cadaver disappeared from the sight of men for six centuries until 1818. After 52 days of searching, it was discovered under the high altar, many meters down below. The saint was no more than 44 or 45 years when he died. We cannot relate here not even in a summary, the daring and brilliant story of the Order he founded. Let us simply state its three branches, Friars Minor, Capuchin Friars, and the Conventional Friars Minor; they form the largest religious institute that currently exists in the Church. According to the historian David Knowles, upon founding that institute, Saint Francis “contributed more than anyone to save the Church from the decadence and disorder in which it had fallen during the Middle Ages.”
Francis of Assisi, Chapter XXI
Around the Feast of the Assumption of 1224, the saint retired to the mountain of La Verna and built a small cell there. He took with him Brother Leo, but he prohibited anyone from coming to visit him until after the feast of Saint Michael. It is there where on or about September 14th, 1224, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the miracle of the stigmatas took place. Francis tried to hide from the eyes of men the signs of the Passion of the Lord he had printed on his body. Therefore, he always had his hands inside the sleeves of the habit and he used socks and shoes. Nevertheless, wanting the advice from his brothers, he communicated to Brother Illuminated and some others what had happened, but he added that certain things that had been revealed to him no man on earth will ever discover.
Francis of Assisi is a diverse community of faith rooted in Christ
About two years prior Saint Francis and Cardinal Ugolino had composed a rule for the association of laypeople who had associated themselves to the Friars Minor and who belonged to what we now call the Third Order, built in a spirit of the “Letter to the Corinthians” which Francis had written during the beginning years of his conversion. The association, which was formed by laypeople dedicated to penance and who led a life very much different to the one accustomed to back then, became a great religious strength in the Middle Ages. In current canon law, the terciaries of the diverse orders still enjoy a status specifically different from the members of the associations and Marian congregations.
Saint Francis of Assisi School, Braintree, MA: Home
The rule, as it was approved by Honorius III in 122, represented substantially the spirit and the way of life for which Saint Francis had struggled since the moment he stripped himself of all his rich clothing before the bishop of Assisi.
Life of St. Francis of Assisi - Pierced Hearts
At the end of two years during which he had to move each time stronger against a current that was tending towards moving the order in a direction that he had not foreseen and that seemed to jeopardize the Franciscan spirit, the saint took on a new revision of the Rule. Afterwards, he transmitted it to Brother Eli so that he may hand it down to the ministers. The document, however, got lost and the saint had to dictate the revision again to Brother Leo amidst the clamor of the friars who affirmed that the prohibition of possessing goods in common could not be practiced.
Saint Francis was born in Assisi (Italy) in 1182
As for poverty, humility, and evangelical freedom, which are all the characteristics of the Order, they remained intact. They represented a challenge from the founder to the dissidents and legalists who behind his back plotted a true revolution of the Franciscan spirit. The head of the opposition was brother Eli of Cortona. The founder had already renounced being director of the Order, such that his vicar, Friar Eli, was practically the general minister. However, he did not dare oppose the founder whom he respected sincerely. In reality, the Order was already too large, as Saint Francis himself said it, “If there were fewer friars the world would see them less and would desire that there be more.”