Saint Francis was born in Assisi and baptised Giovanni Bernadone, the son of Pietro and Pica Bernadone in1181 or 1182. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant and was away in France when he was born. On his return he named him Francesco.
Francis used his position as a young man of a wealthy father to win him friends and to influence people. It was only in his mid-twenties that he realised after a series of incidents that his wealth simply got in the way of any real relationships. From giving to the poor from his wealth he now tried to live the Gospel counsel and gave up all he had and lived dependently on the Providence of God.
At first this caused disgust in those who saw him and they ridiculed him, but it was not long before one after another saw that his life was not a pose but a true reflection of his love for God, his fellow man and for all of God’s creatures. First one then two, then a dozen came to follow him and, in a time of rebellion against the Church, he sought the permission of the Pope for his way of life. In 1209 this was granted to him and his little band were able to preach the Gospel with simplicity.
By the time of his death in 1226 his followers were in most of the countries of Europe, he was recognised as a saint and a stigmatist and there were already great saints following in his footsteps: Il Poverello, the little poor man of Assisi.
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