Francis of Assisi was born Giovanni Francesco Bernardone. He was born of wealth, yet had very little formal training. When Francis was a young man, he lived a worldly life and fought in battles. It was not until he was captured and in prison for one year that he had a conversion experience. Although his life was short, from the onset of his conversion, he set out to help the destitute, lepers and preach the message of the gospel. Francis helped others in their time of need despite the fact that he was suffering himself. He suffered with illness and voluntary poverty. Francis was also in admiration of nature and all creation. Francis of Assisi not only lived in voluntary poverty, but also corporate and individual poverty. At one time, he even traded his own rich garments for a bishop's cloak. It was very unusual for laymen to preach outside the church and to do so without heresy.
Francis of Assisi was the exception, because he held the priests, bishops and popes in high esteem. Francis founded the order called the Franciscans. This order grew rapidly to 5,000 friars. The Poor Clares and the lay penitents also contributed to the order's large numbers.
Francis also had a love for nature and everything in creation. In one of his writings, 'Canticle of the Sun,' Francis refers to the sun and wind along with other aspects of creation as brother and the moon, mother earth and water as sister. In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared Francis the patron saint of ecologists. Francis is symbolized in art as the wolf, lamb, fish, birds, and the stigmata.
People in the church today still use these ideas of poverty, helping those in need, and preaching the gospel. In my experience, voluntary poverty is for...