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Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian preacher who founded the Franciscans Born in Assisi Italy and originally named Giovanni Francesco Bernardone he appears to have received little formal education even though his father was a wealthy merchant He performed charities among the lepers and began working on the restoration of dilapidated churches Franciss change of character and his expenditures for charity angered his father who legally disinherited him Francis then discarded his rich garments for a bishops cloak and devoted the next three years to the care of outcasts and lepers in the woods of Mount Subasio For his devotions on Mount Subasio Francis restored the ruined chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli In 1208 one day during Mass he heard a call telling him to go out into the world and according to the text of Matthew 105-14 to possess nothing but to do good everywhere Upon returning to Assisi that same year Francis began preaching He gathered round him the 12 disciples who became the original brothers of his order later called the First Order they elected Francis superior In September 1224 after 40 days of fasting Francis was praying upon Monte Alverno when he felt pain mingled with joy and the marks of the crucifixion of Christ the stigmata appeared on his body Accounts of the appearance of these marks differ but it seems probable that they were knobby protuberances of the flesh resembling the heads of nails Francis was carried back to Assisi where his remaining years were marked by physical pain and almost total blindness He was canonized in 1228 In 1980 Pope John Paul II proclaimed him the patron saint of ecologists In art the emblems of St Francis are the wolf the lamb the fish birds and the stigmata His feast day is October 4
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