Saint Francis of Assisi


Francis of Assissi was the founder of the Franciscan Order. Those who followed him came from all walks of life: rural and city, nobility and common people, academics, religious leaders, and merchants. Francis respected and served all of his parishioners, from poor to rich, from able-bodied to disabled. He asked that his followers observe his example and embrace a life of poverty that is dedicated to helping others. The Franciscan movement had a dramatic influence on Christianity and Christian society.

Franciscans differed from other Italian Christian sects in that they treated those with disabilities and those who were poor in a non-hierarchical way. Stiker comments on Francis's egalitarian views:

The poor became more than persons to be aided, they became charged with the greatest dignity … Francis [effected] a change of mentality with regard to those who were both rejected and aided (Stiker, 1999, p. 80-81).

Stiker continues:

The disabled person is [under Francis's preachings] elevated to a status previously unknown. Spiritually, mentally, he is more than integrated: he is magnified, exalted, overvalued (Stiker, 1999, p. 82).

Francis was the son of a prosperous Italian businessman, but gave up all of his material possessions to live among the poor, the sick and the disabled. He went further than others who had preached charity for the poor and disabled. He joined them in their indigence.

Once Francis ordered one of his disciples to preach his message. The man was reluctant. Francis insisted and ordered him to preach, half-naked. The person, it turned out, did not want speak because he stuttered. When Francis realized he had insulted the person, he, himself, took off his clothes, and began preaching.

Following his death, pilgrims went to the shrine to have their disabilities cured. Thomas of Celano writes in his Life of St Francis (1228):

At his tomb new miracles are constantly occurring, and … great benefits for body and soul are sought at that same place. Sight is given to the blind, hearing is restored to the deaf, the ability to walk is given to the lame, the mute speak, he who has gout leaps, the leper is healed, he who has a swelling has it reduced … so that his dead body heals living bodies just as his living body had raised up dead souls.

Francis is especially known for his support of the blind. He is said to have had problems with his own vision.

Writings of Francis of Assisi

Francis, Saint (1999). Francis of Assisi, The Saint: Early documents. NY: New City Publications.

Robinson, P. (1905). The writings of St. Francis of Assisi. Retrieved on May 1, 2010.

Writings about Francis of Assisi

Robinson, P. (1909). St. Francis of Assisi. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 1, 2010 from New Advent:, Retrieved on May 1, 2010.

Stiker, Henri-Jacques (1997) A history of disability. Tr, William Sayers. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.