St. Francis is the founder of the Franciscan Order and Patron of Animals, Merchants & Ecology.
St. Francis was born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181. His father was Pietro di Bernardone, a prosperous silk merchant. He lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi.While going off to war in 1204. St. Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. He returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon gathered followers. These were people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for garbage to eat and loving God.
Francis’ first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church’s unity.
During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side.