St. Francis of Assisi

Francis Bernardone (1182-1226) grew up a leader and lover of revelry. After finding emptiness in several endeavors, he realized God had other plans for him. In 1206, his search for conversion led him to the ancient church at San Damiano.

While he was praying there, he heard Christ on the crucifix speak to him, “Francis, repair my church.” Francis took the message literally and began to repair the crumbling building, aided by money from fabric he took from his father’s shop.

Renounced by his father, he begged for stones and rebuilt the San Damiano church with his own hands, not realizing that it was a larger task that God had in mind. Francis started to preach. Slowly, companions came to Francis; people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for food to eat… and loving God.

With companions, Francis knew he had to find some kind of direction for this life, so he opened the Bible in three places. He read the command to the rich young man to sell all his goods and give to the poor; Jesus' order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey; and the demand to take up the cross daily. The rule for his brothers: live by the Gospel.

Francis is frequently quoted as saying: “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.”