Francis of Assisi was born in Assisi in a merchant family. His wealth and love of life made the leader of Assisi’s youth and filled him with dreams of grandeur. In the internecine feuding between Assisi and Perugia, he enlisted and entered the battle, but was imprisoned when the troops returned to Assisi and turned his back on military career and a promising profession in the business world in order to respond to the impulses of the Lord that moved mysteriously within him. A meeting with a leper and hearing a voice from the cross of San Damiano resulted in his conversion, renunciation of his entire possessions and his embarkation on a life of the poor, itinerant preacher proclaiming the message of penance and peace. Francis’ 18 years of life doing penance and preaching conversion of heart came to an end on 3 October 1226. Yet the person of Assisi still captures human hearts.
“Francis delighted in all the works of God’s hands and from the vision of joy on earth his mind soared aloft to the life-giving source and cause of all. In everything beautiful , he saw Him who is beauty itself, and he followed his Beloved everywhere by His likeness imprinted in creation: of all creation he made a ladder by which he might mount up and embrace Him who is desirable”. So says his biographer Bonaventure in his
Major life of St. Francis. Francis wrought a revolution in the class –conscious, strife-torn City – states of the thirteenth country. He was born in an age wherein feudalism with all its trappings of political intrigues and power games, was at its zenith. Francis did not spit venom against the established order, be it ecclesiastical, civil or military. He simply exhorted the warring cities to make peace, the rampaging crusaders to resist from plundering and pillaging. His preaching was primarily based on examples of life style centered on the Gospel.
Francis’ greeting “ May the Lord give you peace!” was no empty platitude but the results of an inner life at peace with itself, with God and the world. Francis exhorts his followers:
“Since you speak of peace, all the more so you must have it in your hearts. Let none be provoked to anger or scandal by you, but rather may they be drawn to peace and goodwill , to benignity and concord through your gentleness . We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home who have lost their way.”
If the world follows Francis’ way neither the plunder of nature, nor the devastation of individual lives would ever happen.