by Jean M. Heimann
Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a saint I have admired for many years due to his great humility, love of God and his fellow man, and love of poverty, in imitation of Christ. What follows are ten little known facts that I have compiled about St. Francis of Assisi.
1. Francis's baptismal name was John. His father, a cloth merchant, called him Francesco (meaning "the Frenchman") or Francis, due to his love of France, where he was doing business, trading, at the time of his son's birth.
2. Even while he was enjoying the life of a wealthy playboy as a youth, spending his time organizing and enjoying parties, Francis gave generously to the poor.
3. Francis fought in two wars and was taken prisoner of war in the battle at the nearby city of Perugia, where he remained captive for more than a year. He became seriously ill with malaria at this time.
4. Francis's conversion was a gradual process and did not occur rapidly, as many believe. He began to reflect on how he was living after his imprisonment, during his second major illness. It was only after a prophetic dream, hearing the voice of the Lord calling him to "serve the Master rather than the man", and various encounters with the sick and the poor, that he began to get a glimpse of what the Lord was asking him to do.
5. When Francis took a diseased man's face in his hands and kissed it, the man was healed of all malformation.
6. While Francis loved animals and talked to them, he also enjoyed eating them. One day when he was ill, he mentioned that he very much wanted to eat a bird. As soon as he made that request, a man on horseback rode up and gave him a fowl that was cooked and ready to eat. Francis was delighted and ate it with much enjoyment.
7. As an adult, Francis was short by today's standards. He stood only about 4'9" tall.
8. When severely tempted, Francis resisted the temptation by: throwing himself naked into a snowbank on at least one occasion, and on another, by plunging into a thorn patch and rolling about until his skin was torn open and bleeding.
9. Prior to his death, Francis asked God for pardon for treating his body so badly, as he realized then that his mortifications had been too severe, especially since they decreased his ability to work.
10. St. Francis of Assisi is the first documented stigmatic in Christian history.
Photo Collection of Assisi: Home to St. Clare and St. Francis