St. Francis of Assisi (October 4)
Born at Assisi, Italy in 1182 to a wealthy cloth merchant, Francis enjoyed the benefits of his father's success. Love of adventure prompted him to become involved in the wars then being waged through the cities and regions of Italy. On his way to battle, when he was in his early 20's, Francis became ill and heard a voice telling him to "serve the master rather than men." Returning to Assisi, he experienced a great change within himself. He began to visit the sick and support the poor. Praying one day before the crucifix, he heard a voice saying to him, "Francis, go and rebuild my house; it is falling down." In 1206, the young man left and sold his goods to repair the poor churches in his neighborhood and to care for the needy. He followed Christ as a poor man, preaching the kingdom of heaven, and giving freely what he received. A lover of people and nature, he soon attracted companions who shared his love of Christ and the Gospel. Blessing his endeavors, Pope Innocent III officially recognized the Franciscans in 1210. His deep affection for the events of Jesus' life inspired him to recreate the Holy Child's birth at Christmas by erecting a creche at Grecchia in 1223. He loved the Passion of Jesus so much that he received the wounds of Christ known as the stigmata on his own body on the feast of the Holy Cross in 1224. He said - "Nothing comforts me so much as to think of the life and Passion of our Lord. Were I to live till the end of the world I would need no other book." He died on October 3, 1226 while the Passion of Jesus was read aloud.