After years of hostilities, Assisi managed to organize a small army, including chivalry from Spoletto. A young, brave and elegant Francesco Bernardone charged out of Assisi to battle against his neighbouring Italian town of Perugia. On November of 1202 they were ready to face Perugia’s army, but as they failed in the battle, Assisi was defeated, and its knights, imprisoned. Among them, a young knight Francesco would wait a whole year before he could go back home.
Finally, as he was welcomed back, Francis realized his motivations had changed.
Previously, whenever he saw a leper on the road, he spurred his horse to flee. But one day, as he galloped by, Francis thought he recognized Christ in the contorted face of the outcast. Abruptly he stopped, dismounted, kissed the leper, gave alms, seated the man on the charger and led the way to the leper’s destination. Before this experience, Francis so loathed the sight of lepers that he would look at their houses only from a distance of two miles while holding his nose.
From now on, he would be caring for lepers and praying in deserted chapels. Pietro Bernardone, his wealthy father, was exasperated by this religious fanaticism and eventually disowned his son. In turn, Francis will renounce all right to his inheritance.
Upon abandoning his own wealth, Francis determined that there must be no man anywhere poorer than he. No matter what rags Francis might be wearing, should he meet upon a beggar dressed even worse, Francis would immediately remove his own clothing and give it to the beggar. “I think the great Almsgiver would account it a theft in me,” he said, “did I not give that I wear unto one needing it more.”
Learning to live among the destitute was no easy transition for the once wealthy Francis. It was humiliating when first he took a beggar’s sack, went with it into town, and begged for alms from door to door. And he thanked God who had transformed the bitterness to sweetness for him.
After fulfilling a life of penance, Francis declared about himself:
“I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.”