John Bernardone, known as Francis, was born in 1182, in Assisi, a small town in Italy. As the son of a wealthy cloth merchant, his early years were frivolous, but an experience of sickness and military service were instrumental in leading him to reflect on the purpose of life.
His life changed radically after he encountered and hugged a leper. He became markedly devout and austere and began dressing in the poor man’s garb. Taking the gospel as his way of life, he embraced radical poverty and joy, following the humble, poor and chaste Christ, according to the spirit of the beatitudes.
Together with his first companions, Francis went from place to place preaching the love of God and contributing to the renewal of the Church. Enamored of Christ, Francis focused his contemplation on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Christ’s passion and death. Two years before his death, he received the Stigmata as he prayed on the Monte della Verna. He suffered for the rest of his life as he bore in his body the marks of the stigmata and integrated his spirituality with a deep respect for every creature, which he expressed in his Canticle of the Creatures.
He died on the evening of October 3, 1226, and was canonized on July 16, 1228; by his friend, Gregory IX. Francis’ remains were moved to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi on May 25, 1230.