The long-childless parents of this saint had prayed to St. Francis of Assisi for a son. When their prayers were answered, they named him Francis. No doubt their intentions exerted a powerful influence on his later vocation. At twelve, her spent a year in a Franciscan house, receiving there a basic education and acquiring a taste for asceticism. Eventually, when he was not yet fifteen, he took up the life of a hermit, living in a cave near his hometown of Paola.
In time, Francis attracted disciples, the foundation of a religious order he called the Minim Friars – a name reflecting the desire that they be counted the least in the household of God. Along with traditional religious vows, Francis added a fourth: that his followers abstain not only from meat but also from any animal products whatsoever. Beyond a spirit of penance, this strict diet also reflected the saint’s determination to extend the spirit on nonviolence to all God’s creatures. Among the miraculous legends associated with Francis are many involving the restoration of life to assorted animals, including a favorite trout, which a hapless cleric had caught and cooked.
In 1481, King Louis XI of France, facing death, begged Francis to come and heal him. Francis made a trip, traveling barefoot the whole way. Though he told the king that life and death were in God’s hands, he managed to reconcile the king to his fate and remained by his side until the end.
Francis died on Good Friday in 1507 at the age of ninety-one.