Born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy, part of the Holy Roman Empire, St. Francis was a Catholic friar and preacher who eventually became one of the most important religious figures in the Middle Ages, if not throughout all of history. Canonized by Pope Gregory IX in 1228, St. Francis became the patron saint of Italy, as well as that of animals and the natural world. In 1209, he founded the Order of Friars Minor, aka the Franciscan Order; he also founded the Order of Saint Claire and the Third Order of Saint Francis.
St. Francis is also known for his veneration and celebration of the Eucharist; he also arranged the first live nativity scene at Christmas in 1223. Perhaps similar in stature to St. Paul, who, according to the Christian tradition, was the first to manifest the wounds of Christ, aka the stigmata, St. Francis did the same while in a state of transcendental rapture, attended by the Seraphic angels, in 1224.
St. Francis also had a passion for all things French, acquiring the nickname Francesco by his father. Further, in the early 1200s, Francis, long before sainthood, became a soldier and spent a year as a captive, an experience perhaps leading to his eventual religious convictions. And, according to hagiographic records, Francis eventually grew away from the pleasures of conventional, secular living, deciding that he would never marry; instead, his bride would be “Lady Poverty.”
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