The founder: Saint Francis

Francisc img_1102 Saint Francis of Assisi is a great saint of the Catholic Church who is honored throughout the word. Having grown up in a rich family, by the grace of God almighty he renounced a life of worldly happiness, choosing true and eternal happiness. His decision was not easy. But the Holy Spirit guided him in every step as he brought to all people a message of joy, peace and brotherhood. He was able to offer this message because he had understood that God the Father had sent his Son into the world to save everyone through His passion, death and resurrection.

After seeing the truth of Francis’ journey, many youth followed him. In this way, the Franciscan Order was fonded.

The following are some of the most important moments of from Francis’ life journey:

– 1181: Born in Assisi. He was baptized Giovanni, but his father, Pietro Bernardone, returning from a business trip to France, named him Francis.

– 1199-1200: Civil war breaks out between the people-bourgeoisie and the nobility. The family of Saint Clare and Friar Leonardo seek refuge in Perugia. Probably, young Francis goes into battle for the first time as part of the city’s troops.

– 1202: In November war breaks out between Assisi and Perugia (where a large part of Assisi’s nobility had sought refuge). The two armies clash at Collestrada where Assisi is defeated. Francis is among those captured and will remain imprisoned for about one year.

– 1204: Long sickness.

-1205: (end of the year or spring): Francis decides to travel to Puglia to fight for Gualtiero di Brienne. But in Spoleto he has a mysterious vision that upends his plans, calling him to return to Assisi. The gradual process of his conversion begins here.

– 1205 (June): Gualtiero di Brienne dies.

– 1205: Francis’ 24th year of life also marks the beginning of his conversion: abandoning his friends and his careless youthful lifestyle; a life of more intense prayer; his encounter with a leper; his encounter with the Crucifix of San Damiano; his pilgrimage to Rome and his first experience of poverty.

– 1206 (January and February): Called into court before the Bishop of Assisi, Francis renounces his family inheritance including the clothes that he is wearing.

– 1206 (spring): Francis lives in a monastery; then in Gubbio, having received a habit from a friend, he begins working to help the sick in a leper colony.

– 1206 (summer): Francis returns to Assisi, takes up the habit of a hermit and begins to repair the little church of San Damiano, begging for stones from the city and prophesying the future arrival of the Povere Dame (Poor Women).

– 1206: Francis repairs San Damiano, then San Pietro and the Porziuncola.

– 1208 (24 February, Feast of Saint Matthias): Listening to the Gospel reading of the day, Francis is struck by the words of Christ to the apostles when sending them out into the world. He decides to stop wearing the dress of a hermit; he puts on a poor tunic, ties a rope around his waist and barefoot, begins to go about preaching repentance.

– 1208 (16 April): Bernado di Quintavalle and Pietro Cattani ask to share in his life and join him.

– 1208 (23 April): At the Porziuncola, where refugees are cared for, Friar Egidio is also accepted into the group.

– 1208 (Spring): First Mission: Egidio and Francis arrive in the Marches of Ancona; the other two go in the opposite direction.

– 1208 (Summer): Three more friars, including Filippo Longo, join the group.

– 1208 (Autumn): Second Mission. They arrive in Poggio Bustone, in the Rieti valley. Francis, after having been reassured of the forgiveness of his sins and of the future development of the Order, comforts and encourages his companions (including a new member) and sends them out two by two in four directions. Third Mission: Bernardo and Egidio go to Florence.

– 1209 (Beginning of the year): The eight return to the Porziuncola, where they are joined by four other friars.

– 1209 (Spring): Francis decides to request approval from the Church for his new way of life. He writes a short rule and presents it to Pope Innocent III, who approves it and gives him the responsibility of penitential preaching. During their return, they remain for a period in the area of Orte, and then they establish themselves in a hut at Rivotorto.

– 1209-1210: Forced to leave that hut, the friars establish themselves at the Porziuncola, requesting the right to use it from the Abbot of Saint Benedict of Subasio. In this way the Porziuncola, or the church of Saint Mary of the Angels, will become the mother church of the Order. Possible beginning of the Third Order.

-1211 (Summer): Francis sets out with the intention of reaching Syria, but counter winds push the ship onto the coasts of Dalmatia. He secretly sets sail with a ship returning to Ancona.

– 1212 (18-19 March, or 28 March 1211): On the night of Palm Sunday, Francis receives Clare at Saint Mary of the Angels and gives her a religious habit. After having found a place for her for several weeks in the Monastery of Saint Paul of Bastia and in the Monastery of Sant’Angello di Panza near Assisi, Francis establishes Clare’s dwelling at San Damiano.

– 1212 (date uncertain): Likely trip to Rome to inform Innocent III about the development of the Order. Meeting with Giacomina dei Settesoli.

– 1213 (8 May): At San Leo, in Montefeltro, the count Orlando di Chiusi offers Francis the mountain La Verna.

– 1213-1214 (or 1214-1215): Francis parts for Spain, having decided to travel to Morocco in order to preach to the unbelievers; but sickness forces him to return to the Porziuncola where he receives into the order a large group of learned and noble men, among whom is Tommaso da Celano.

– 1215 (November): Francis arrives in Rome to follow the IV Lateran Council. It is likely that he meets San Domenico.

– 1216 (16 July): Pope Innocent III dies in Perugia; two days later Cardinal Cencio Savelli is elected Pope, taking the name Honorius III. Giacomo da Vitry, an eyewitness of these events, likely knows Francis and most certainly knows about his order, of which he writes in a letter to friends in Lotaringia in October of the same year.

– 1217 (5 May): General Chapter at the Porziuncola. The first missions beyond the Alps and overseas are planned. Egidio travels to Tunisia, Elias to Syria. Francis sets out for France. In Florence, Cardinal Hugolino, papal legate for Tuscany and Lombardy, persuades Francis to remain in Italy.

– 1218 (11 June): Honorius III publishes the bull “Cum dilecti” in order to assure bishops of the full “catholicity” of the Friars Minor.

– 1219 (26 May): The Chapter of Pentecost. New expeditions for Germany, France, Hungary and Spain-Morocco are planned.

– 1219 (24 June): Francis sets sail from Ancona to Acre and from there to Damietta, where the Crusader army is positioned against the Muslim army.

– 1219 (Autumn): Francis predicts to the crusaders their downfall, and this prediction eventually becomes reality. He obtains permission from the Papal legate to travel, at his own risk, to meet Sultan Melek-el-Kamel. Received by the Sultan with refined hospitality, he preaches the Good News. However, not seeing the desired fruits of conversion, he is escorted back to the crusader camp.

– 1219 (5 November): Damietta is conquered by the Crusaders. Francis, disgusted with the conduct of the troops and the excesses they commit, returns to Syria.

– 1220 (January): Five friars sent to Morocco, are killed by Muslims: they are the first Franciscan Martyrs.

– 1220 (Beginning): Francis in Acre. Possible visit to the Holy Sites.

– 1220 (Spring or Summer): Francis, alarmed at the condition of the order, returns to Italy with Pietro Cattani, Elias and Cesario da Spira, disembarking in Venice. He travels to visit the Pope and obtains Cardinal Hugolino as “Protector of the Order.”

– 1220 (February or March): Giacomo da Vitry, in a letter from Damietta, gives news of Francis and his mission to the Sultan.

– 1220: Francis renounces leadership of the Order and nominates his vicar Pietro Cattani.

– 1220: (22 September): Honorius III with the bull “Cum secundum” imposes the requirement of having a novitiate.

– 1220-1221: In his work “Storia Occidentale,” Giacomo da Vitry gives much attention to the new Order of Friars Minor.

– 1221 (10 March): Pietro Cattani dies.

– 1221 (30 May): General Chapter, known as the Chapter of Mats. Friar Elias is nominated as Vicar. The text of the Rule (non bollata) is approved. A new expedition for Germany, guided by Cesario da Spira, is approved. Tommaso da Celano, future biographer of Francis, takes part in the expedition as well as Giordano da Giano who will be its chronicler.

– 1221 (date uncertain): Pope Honorius III approves the “Memoriale propositi,” which is considered the first Rule of the Order of Penitents of Saint Francis.

– 1221-1222: Francis completes a preaching trip in central and southern Italy.

– 1223 (beginning): Francis withdraws to Fonte Colombo with Friar Leo and Friar Bonizzo in order to complete a new, shorter rule, which is then discussed at the General Chapter on June 11 and is submitted to the Pope for approval.

– 1223 (29 November): Pope Honorius III approves the Rule with the Bull “Solet annuere.”

– 1223 (24-25 December): Christmas eve at Greccio. The manger scene.

– 1224 (2 June): A new expedition to England is planned in the General Chapter.

– 1224 (15 August – 29 September): During the lent of Saint Michael that he is passing at mount La Verna, probably on September 14 or 15, Francis has a vision of a crucified seraph and receives the stigmata of Christ’s passion.

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– 1224 (10 September): A group of Friars Minor, 4 priests and 5 lay brothers, land at Dover, England.

– 1224-1225 (from December 1224 to February 1225): Riding a donkey, Francis does a preaching trip in Umbria and in the Marches.

– 1225 (March): Visits Saint Clare at San Damiano. With the worsening of his eye disease, he must remain at San Damiano for a period of time. Upon the insistence of Friar Elias, he submits himself to medical care.

– 1225 (April-May): Still at San Damiano, he submits to medical care that produces no results. One night he receives a divine promise of eternal life; the next morning he dictates the Canticle of Creation.

– 1225 (June): Francis adds the last verse about pardon to the Canticle, and obtains reconciliation between the Bishop and people of Assisi. Following a letter from Cardinal Hugolino, he travels to the Reatina valley.

– 1225-1226 (June to February 6): Received in Rieti by Cardinal Hugolino and the pontifical court, he first travels to Fonte Colombo in order to undergo therapy for his eyes. In July-August the doctor cauterizes Francis’ temples. Francis then reaches San Fabiano where he is examined by other doctors. They seek to treat him through his ear, but with no success.

– 1226 (April): Francis travels to Siena for additional treatment by doctors. He dictates his short testament: The Small Testament of Siena. He then moves to the hermitage Celie in Cortona where he most likely dictates the later Testament.

– 1226 (July-August): In the hottest months Francis lives in Bagnara, in the mountains near to Nocera.

– 1226 (end of August): Because of his worsening condition, Francis is taken to the house of the Bishop in Assisi. The Bishop Ugo leaves for a pilgrimage to Mount Gargano.

– 1226 (September): Sensing that the end is near, Francis asks to be carried to the Porziuncola. Along the way he stops to bless the city.

– 1226 (3 October): In the evening of Saturday, October 3, after having blessed his sons, he dies upon the bare earth. The news spreads quickly and many gather to see the stigmata.

– 1226 (4 October): The next day, Sunday, the body is transported in procession from the Porziuncola to Assisi, stopping at San Damiano, and is kept in the church of Saint George. Friar Elias sends news of Francis’ death to the entire Order through a letter to the Provincial Ministers.

– 1227: Cardinal Hugolino is elected Pope, taking the name Gregory IX, in place of Honorius III, who died the day before.

– 1227 (30 May): At a Chapter celebrated in Assisi, Friar Giovanni Parenti is elected Minister General.

– 1228 (29 April): With the bull “Recolentes,” Gregory IX asks all of Christendom to help with the construction of a basilica in honor of Francis.

– 1228 (16 July): Gregory IX solemnly celebrates the canonization of Saint Francis. Three days later (19 July) he publishes the bull “Mira circa nos” to inscribe Francis’ into the registry of saints and to declare October 4 to be a feast day for the entire Church.