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Saint Francis

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St. Francis dressed in the robes of the Franciscan order, surrounded by trees and birds
St. Francis dressed in the robes of the Franciscan order, surrounded by trees and birds

Saint Francis of Assisi is one of the most beloved of Catholic saints. He is the patron saint of wild birds and animals as well as ecology. He was also the founder of the Franciscan order. St. Francis is appealed to for the health, well-being, and protection of all animals, and for facilitating dream contact between beloved deceased animals and their grieving owners. His feast day is celebrated on October 4.

Francis was born in Assisi in Umbria in the year 1181 or 1182. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant and his mother was of noble blood. Francis was something of a playboy in his youth; his wealth and privilege put him in a position to enjoy the sensual side of life. He excelled in games and was both popular and frivolous. After being captured and taken prisoner for over a year during a skirmish with a near-by enemy city, Francis began turning his attention to matters of eternity and slowly separating himself from his previous interests. He became more religious and "married" himself to Lady Poverty, disavowing his family's wealth, wealth generally, and any honorific titles. This event also marked the beginning of many adventures that would culminate in Francis' founding of the Franciscan order; an order with the mission of preaching peace, forgiveness, and brotherly love. Unlike other Saints and even Apostles, Francis' preaching of love did not stop at people. He included animals and all of God's natural creation in his ministry. Legends of half frozen bees, hunted leverets, and even ravenous wolves seeking sanctuary with Francis are plentiful. He composed many praise songs to natural features and phenomena, the most well-known being his "Canticle to the Sun." He has a special affinity for all birds and is almost always depicted with a flock of birds surrounding him. He referred to them as his "little brethren."

St. Francis is usually depicted in the brown robes, knotted belt, and tonsured head of the Franciscan order. The brown of the robe is a "beast" colour indicating the affinity for God's natural creation. Trees, birds, and animals are present in images of St. Francis as well.

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