Franciscan Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina chose took on the name of Francis upon being named Pope in March of 2013. Pope Francis is the first Franciscan Jesuit pope in the history of the Catholic Church.
Many in the international community view choosing the name Francis as a sign that the new pope aims to reform the Catholic Church and place emphasis on helping the poor of the world. Franciscans seek to live life in accordance with the life of St. Francis of Assisi which includes taking a vow of poverty and observing a simple interpretation of the Bible.
Here are some quick facts about St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan order.
1. At birth St. Francis was actually named John. His mother named him after St. John the Baptist. However after returning from a profitable business trip to France, his merchant father opted to name him after the country that generated his wealth instead.
2. Young St. Francis, inspired by Arthurian legend, wanted to be a knight and often wrote odes to courtly love. However his dream of knighthood was stifled by recurring bouts of tuberculosis and malarial fever.
3. The Order of Friars Minor, simply known to many as Franciscans, originated with Francis of Assisi himself. In modern times three different orders are members of thisl arger order: Franciscan friars, the Capuchins, and the Conventual Franciscans. They live by the Rule of St. Francis.
4. The Poor Clares, an order of nuns founded by St. Clare also fall under the Franciscan order. St. Clare escaped from her home with the help of St. Francis. He administered her religious orders which included cutting off all of her hair. The Poor Clares, originally called the Order of Poor Ladies, live the Franciscan vow of poverty.
5. Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee is the largest Franciscan University in North America. Founded in 1937, the school features undergraduate and graduate studies in subjects like business and management.
6. After the events of a Septmeber 11, 2001, a cross appeared made out of metal beams remained in the wreckage. Rescue workers lifted the cross to a more visible spot in memoriam and a Franciscan preist blessed it with holy water.
7. St. Francis of Assisi stripped naked in the town square of Assisi to cast of the wealth and power of his cloth merchant father. In this act of defiance, he severed ties with his father and chose the religious life of austerity that Franciscans seek to emulate today.
8. Franciscans are not just limited to the Catholic Church, the Anglican and Lutheran churches also have members who identify as Franciscan. Those following the teachings of St. Francis choose poverty emphasizing humility and simplicity.
9. St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
10. St. Francis endured stigmata, markings at the wrists and feet that shadow the wounds of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Members of the Franciscan order report the more incidences of stigmata than any other religious order.
11. The reach of Franciscans is wide ranging in both foreign and domestic missions. Franciscans hold teaching positions as well as positions in monastic life. Since the 15th century, Franciscans have been entrusted maitaining Roman Catholic interests in the Holy Places in Palestine.
12. Catholic churches across the world bless domestic animals in services on October 4th, The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi each year.