Saint Francis of Assisi, Italy was born to a wealthy cloth merchant in 1182. Francis was inspired by God in his mid-twenties to leave his worldly life. Clad in rough garments, barefoot and without a walking staff or money he began to wander to countryside of Umbria, Italy, preaching and proclaiming the Gospel. Francis advocated “holy poverty” to the rich as well as to the poor, and invited all to forgiveness, reconciliation, humility and simplicity.
He became known for his love of nature, animals and the environment and moved people first by his actions, but also by his words. Many joined with him and soon the Order of Friars Minor was established, which was endorsed by Pope Innocent III in 1209. This group quickly grew and, inspired by Francis, set out to not only preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but to live it through service to the sick and needy. Soon after, Francis founded the Order of Poor Ladies–eventually the Order of Saint Clare—a group of women dedicated to his teachings. Finally, for those who could not leave their homes, Francis formed the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance. This was a lay fraternity whose members neither withdrew from the world nor took religious vows, but still carried out the principles of Franciscan life.
Francis died in 1226, but not before his growing Order had been established in France, Germany, Hungary, Spain and even further to the East. This gentle man, a profound inspiration to many, was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX in 1228.