St. Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadone in 1181-1182 founded the men’s order of Friars Minor, the woman’s order of St. Clare and the 3rd Order of St. Francis for lay men and women in the world. Though never ordained to the Priesthood, he is one of the most venerated religious figures in history. While going off to war in 1204, he had a vision that motivated him to live in poverty as he sought to follow God’s direction to “rebuild my Church.” He literally began to do this with the funds he had from begging and his father’s business who was a silk merchant. In a short time he realized that the Lord was calling him to preach and build not the physical structure but the spiritual stamina of the people of God. Many others joined him in this quest and Pope Innocent III in 1210 authorized the movement. That adventure grew significantly and in 1223 Francis made the first nativity scene at Greccio. In 1224 he received the sacred Stigmata, the wounds of the Passion. He died on October 3, 1226 while listening to a reading of Psalm 142 which he requested.
On July 16, 1228, he was proclaimed a saint by Pope Gregory IX. He’s known as the patron saint of animals and the environment. His feast day is October 4th. He had a deep love for the Eucharist and the creation of the Christmas nativity scene.
On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglia of Argentina chose Francis as his papal name in honor of St. Francis, thus becoming Pope Francis. He did so because he was concerned for the well-being of the poor. The new Pope said “Francis brought to Christianity an idea of poverty against the luxury, pride and vanity of the world and ecclesiastical powers of the time.” Making the Saint’s name his own, Francis is the 1st Pope to be so named.