St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most beloved and familiar Saints of the Catholic Church. Born in Assisi, Italy ~1181 to a wealthy merchant, Francis grew to become a lover of extravagant things. His handsome features gallantry, and courteousness made him stand out amongst the Assisi nobles. Despite spending lavishly on himself, he seemed to have a natural inclination to helping the poor.
As a young noble, he fought in a minor battle against a rival city and was captured. While in captivity, the Lord spoke to Francis in a dream, giving Francis a vision of armor emblazoned with crosses with the message, “These are for you and your soldiers.” Francis’ life was forever changed. He began to abandon luxury and embraced poverty. A pivotal moment in his life occurred during an encounter with a leper as Francis was passing the Umbrian plain on horseback. Though he initially drew back from the leper, he girt himself with charity, embraced the sick man, and gave him all of the money from his purse.
Soon, God would say to him, “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” Not long after, Francis obtained a coarse woolen peasant tunic, threw aside all the worldly goods he still possessed, and began to preach far and wide of penance, brotherly love, and peace. His message was received with wonderment, drawing many followers to Francis. The rule of their lives was governed by the passages in the Gospels where the disciples of Christ left behind all things to follow Jesus.
As the influence of Francis and his friars spread, many lay people began to hunger for a deeper union with God and asked Francis for guidance into a holy lifestyle. Accordingly, Francis founded three Orders. His First Order was for men, who became friars. The Second Order was for women, as nuns, under the leadership of St. Clare. The Third Order was for the laity, and its Rule of 1221 is the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis.
St. Anthony of Padua
Saint Anthony was canonized (declared a saint) less than one year after his death. Though his work was in Italy, he was born in Portugal. He first joined the Augustinian Order and then left it and joined the Franciscan Order in 1221, when he was 26 years old. The reason he became a Franciscan was because of the death of the five Franciscan protomartyrs — St. Bernard, St. Peter, St. Otho, St. Accursius, and St. Adjutus — who shed their blood for the Catholic Faith in the year 1220, in Morocco, in North Africa, and whose headless and mutilated bodies had been brought to St. Anthony’s monastery on their way back for burial. St. Anthony became a Franciscan in the hope of shedding his own blood and becoming a martyr. He lived only ten years after joining the Franciscan Order.
So simple and resounding was his teaching of the Catholic Faith, so that the most unlettered and innocent might understand it, that he was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1946. Saint Anthony was only 36 years old when he died. He is called the “hammer of the Heretics” His great protection against their lies and deceits in the matter of Christian doctrine was to utter, simply and innocently, the Holy Name of Mary. When St. Anthony of Padua found he was preaching the true Gospel of the Catholic Church to heretics who would not listen to him, he then went out and preached it to the fishes. This was not, as liberals and naturalists are trying to say, for the instruction of the fishes, but rather for the glory of God, the delight of the angels, and the easing of his own heart. St. Anthony wanted to profess the Catholic Faith with his mind and his heart, at every moment.
He is typically depicted with a book and the Infant Child Jesus, to whom He miraculously appeared, and is commonly referred to today as the “finder of lost articles.” Upon exhumation, some 336 years after his death, his body was found to be corrupted, yet his tongue was totally incorrupt, so perfect were the teachings that had been formed upon it.