St. Francis was born in Assisi in 1181, the son of Peter Bernadone, a wealthy merchant of that city. Francis, a generous and good humored person, had no ambitions

for his father's business. He dreamt of chivalry and knighthood. His dream was to come true in a different fashion. During a long serious illness, Francis felt a

great longing for perfection and heroic self conquest was needed as a fouindation for that dream. The turning point in his life came when he met a leper. Even though

he was repulsed by the sight of the leper, Francis hastened to kiss him and give him alms.

Francis so loved the poor that he frequently associated with them. In the presence of Bishop Guido of Assisi and his father Francis manifested his disassociation

with worldly goods by returning all his possessions to his father. In a coarse penitential garb, girded with a cord, without shoes, he entered upon a life of poverty.

Some companions soon joined him. The holy founder called his group the Friars Minor, so that they might always regard the virtue of humility as the foundation of per-

fection. The order grew rapidly. In 1219, at the renowned Chapter of Mats, more than five thousand brethren were gathered together. As Christ sent his apostles

to preach the Gospel to all nations, so Francis sent out his friars.

His joyful troubador spirit found an expression in all of God's creation: the sun, the moon, the wind, the earth....composing and singing canticles which glorify the wonder

of God's creative hand. His gentleness and tender love extended to all of God's creatures, and he is often pictured with the birds of the air and the animals of the forest.

In order to open the way of perfection to all who wished to follow this life, Francis established a Second Order headed by St. Clare and a Third Order for people of both

sexes, married or single, living in the world. His love for souls inspired him to labor for all his fellow people.

It was above all the passion and death of Jesus on the cross that filled his heart with love for his savior, and he strove to become as similar to the object of his love

as possible.