T

he life of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) as related by followers who gather after his death to tell stories so that Leone can record them: a privileged and virile youth, a prisoner of war, an heir who turns away from his father and gives all to the poor, a beggar for others, and an inspiration to friends who accept the Gospels' life of poverty. He seeks the Pope's blessing, and he endures persecution at the hands of the family of Chiara Offreduccio (1194-1253), who becomes St. Clare. Many join the order he has established and then rebel at his expectations. In near despair - and ill - he writes a Rule to take to the Pope; then, the Lord sends him a message. He dies smiling.

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