Feast Day: October 4
Born in Assisi, Italy, in 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant, Saint Francis’ early life was one of lavish ease and indulgence. Saint Francis wanted more, but not in the spiritual sense. Aspiring to knighthood, he participated in several military campaigns. However, he abruptly left the military after hearing the voice of God directing him to a new kind of knighthood. Through prayer, he began changing his life.
One day, Saint Francis heard God’s voice telling him: “Francis, repair my Church.” Seeing the ruins of a chapel, he set about the repairs. In time, he discerned his mission as one of repairing the spiritual breaches in the Catholic Church during a period of widespread corruption.
Embracing voluntary evangelical poverty and begging for alms, Saint Francis wore rough, simple garb. He preached the Gospel—modeling his life on the example of Jesus and drawing followers. Saint Francis organized the Order of Friars Major (OFM), with the simple rule “to follow the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in His footsteps.”
Eventually, Saint Francis journeyed to Rome to consult with Pope Innocent III, who, amazingly, received him. Despite hesitancy about Saint Francis’ unconventional approach, the pope endorsed the new order. Later, Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi founded an order for women, the Poor Clares.
Saint Francis later journeyed to the Holy Land to foster peace. Though his efforts did not reach fruition, he established a Franciscan presence that endures today. Catholics and others revere Saint Francis for his devotion to Jesus, his zeal for serving the poor and peace and his reverence for creation—including animals and the environment—as reflections of God’s glory.
In the Diocese of Youngstown, a newly merged parish in Canton was designated St. Francis of Assisi Parish earlier this year. Various religious communities of women and men bearing the name of Francis have, over the decades, served Catholics in many ministries in the Franciscan spirit.
To find out if your parish is doing a Blessing of the Pets in honor of Saint Francis’ Feast Day, read your parish bulletin.