Francis of Assisi

Excerpt from Chapter 10 of Christ’s Faithful Servants, copyright 2023

. . . Francis became the leader of a group of youths from noble families whose nightly entertainments often included drunken mischief, such as setting fire to a haystack, spreading false rumors of an attack on the city, or simply making a racket in the city square. Although these pranks frequently got Francis in trouble with the city authorities, his father’s money paid the fines and kept his son out of jail.

Francis the Warrior. In 1202, when Francis was twenty, he fought for Assisi against a rival city, Perugia. The Assisians were soundly defeated and many were captured, Francis among them. They were placed in chains, cast into a filthy dungeon, and held under deplorable conditions. Francis reacted strangely—he sang, remained courteous to all (even his jailers), and cared for those who were sick. After about a year, he was released, now sick himself, and was nursed back to health by his parents.

At age twenty-three, Francis was offered a chance to serve as the squire for a knight in the service of the pope. Leaving Assisi with the finest horse and equipment his father could afford, Francis returned to Assisi a short time later with none of it. He explained that he had fallen ill in the nearby town of Spoleto, and the knight left him there to recover. The next day, Francis returned to Assisi. As for the horse and equipment, he confessed that he had given them to a poor knight who needed them. Francis would not tell his family or friends his reasons for giving up his dream of knighthood. But the explanation seems to be that he had heard a voice—which he believed was from God—telling him to serve God rather than the pope, and to return home to await further instructions.

When he again recovered, Francis resumed many of his frivolous activities. Yet he was not quite the same. He spent considerable time with a poor friend who repaired carts for a living, and he gave a sumptuous feast for the beggars of Assisi. Soon thereafter, Francis told his friends that he had fallen in love with a lady “lovelier, wealthier, and purer than any you know.” They thought he had lost his mind. . . .

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