What is Francis' Story?
Francis Bernardone was the son of a very wealthy cloth merchant in the town of Assisi in thirteenth-century Italy. When he grew up, he turned away from his family's life of pleasure and luxury to befriend and help the poorest and most rejected people in his village. Francis gave away his fancy clothes and jewels and followed the love in his heart.
Despite then having no money and no home, he took joy in everything – the birds, the animals, the trees and flowers – and, most of all, in every person he met. Francis began feeding the poorest people and tending lovingly to those who were sick, outcast, injured, or abandoned. News of his kindness, gentleness, and miracles spread, and soon others came to help him in his work. He showed his small band of helpers how to lead simple lives, to rely wholly on God, and to treat every person like a king or queen because he believed that each carried the light of God.
Francis sought to build bridges of understanding with all people, regardless of their wealth, social standing, or faith. For example, he made a long journey to Egypt to meet with Sultan Malik al-Kamil to try to stop the carnage of the Crusades. The sultan listened to the message of peace and brotherhood that Francis brought to him. He came to respect Francis so much that he gave him safe passage through all his lands. Soon Francis's message of love and kindness to all living things spread across Europe.