Francis’ conversion came in 1201, during his deployment to Perugia and Spoleto. He fell ill, and a voice in a vision told him to return to Assisi. After much prayer and discernment, he renounced his old ways, and lived a life of poverty, obedience and chastity. He distributed his riches to the poor, living only on what he received from others. Francis loved all of God’s creation - animals, birds, plants, and nature and had a great gift of speaking to all living creatures. He also loved the poor and the outcast.
In 1207, in a church in San Damiano, he heard a voice saying, “Francis restore my church, which you see is falling down.” Francis listened and did all he could to restore his Father’s house in many places in Italy.
Francis preached God’s love and invited people to join him in serving God and his people through simple ways. He founded the Order of Friars Minor in 1209.
Francis was a miracle healer. He once washed a man afflicted by leprosy and also prayed for the demon to leave the man. Miraculously, the leper was healed and began to feel great remorse and repentance for his sins and reconciled with God.
Francis was praying on the mountain of Verna during a forty-day fast in preparation for the feast of St. Michael and had a vision on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and received the stigmata. Suffering from these stigmata and trachoma, Francis received care in several cities to no avail. He was brought back to a hut next to the Porziuncola and died on October 3, 1226, singing Psalm 142(141) – I cried unto the Lord with my voice.
Pope Gregory IX canonised St Francis on July 16, 1220. He is the patron saint of animals, environment and one of the 2 patron saints of Italy, together with St Catherine of Siena.