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What are some biographical facts about St. Francis of Assisi?

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Quick Answer

St. Francis of Assisi, who lived in 12th-century Italy, is known for abandoning a luxurious lifestyle to pursue religion. He is also famous for receiving the stigmata and being the patron saint of ecologists.

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Full Answer

Francis grew up in a wealthy Assisian family. As a youth, he partied heavily and spent money recklessly. In 1202, Francis joined the Assisian army; he was captured by the Perugian army and ransomed off. Francis reportedly received his first divine vision while in prison.

Francis returned from battle physically sick and mentally fatigued. Catholic tradition states that Francis, who tried to stay away from the common people in his youth, embraced and kissed a leper; observers view this as a turning point in the saint's life. In his twenties, Francis began to draw close to God, spending substantial time in several churches. At the church of San Damiano, Francis heard a divine voice that commanded him to rebuild the Church and live in poverty. Followers began to join him despite general ridicule over his drastic life changes.

Francis preached the gospel and exposed the contrast between Jesus' relative poverty and the decadence of the Catholic Church at the time. In 1224, Francis reportedly received another vision that induced the stigmata, marks resembling Jesus Christ's wounds during his crucifixion. Because of his contact with lepers, some skeptics thought the marks were symptoms of leprosy.

Francis died in 1226, and the Catholic Church canonized him as a saint two years later.

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