I usually read about six or seven books at once. I can’t help it. So, right now I am also reading Thomas Cahill’s “Mysteries of the Middle Ages” in which he tells several fascinating stories about real people in real cities in the Medieval World. One such person was Giovanni Bernadine.
He was born in 1182 in northern Italy in Umbria to a cloth merchant. His father, who was a rather harsh man decided to change his name from Giovanni to Francesco (which means “little Frenchie”) to honor the French people that he would often trade with.
So, with his new name, Francesco son of the cloth merchant grew up as a spoiled rich kid. Your typical irresponsible brat. A real slacker. If he lived today we would expect to see him living I his Mommy’s basement playing video games endlessly. And complaining that his life stunk.
Until war struck his homeland– the city of Assisi. An army from nearby Perugia attacked, and young Francesco awakened to don a soldier’s garb and man the walls. He was captured by the enemy and imprisoned for a year in a dungeon (where he contracted malaria). He was released, but his recurring malaria knocked him out again. All this suffering woke him up to realize he needed to do something with his life.
One day in 1205, while he was resting in a ruined old church, he believed he heard a voice speaking to him from a crucifix. From that moment on, Francis of Assisi was a changed man. He became a fanatic. He no longer toyed with his faith. Soon he renounced everything. And I mean… literally everything. When his father accused him of stealing some cloth, Francis appeared before his father and the magistrates buck naked! He was holding only his clothes, the cloth he supposedly stole, and a bag of coins to give to his father.
He completely and forever renounced his materialistic ties to this world. (The bishop graciously threw his long cloak around Francis.) And with that interesting beginning, Francis of Assisi began his brief but amazing and arduous mission to transform his world.