ENIGMA: St Francis of Assisi This biography of St Francis views him as an enigma. By all accounts he was a simple man with a complex character. Francis was born into a family life of wealth and privilege, yet he chose a life of extreme poverty and simplicity. He walked away from a promising career in his father’s successful cloth company and became noted for his asceticism, dislike of possessions, and total dependence on God to provide for all his needs. Although his early life was defined by hedonism and a carefree attitude to everything, he grew into a person of enormous religious conviction and spiritual focus. A largely uneducated man, he nonetheless became an effective and influential preacher and teacher with a simple but powerful message of the gospel of Christ. As an adult he preferred his own company and a solitary lifestyle, yet he developed a large brotherhood and built an enduring religious order and movement. He was noted for his humility and sincerity, but still served for a period as leader of the Order. He was so kind to others, but so hard on himself. Whilst his spiritual preference was towards prayer and contemplation, he dedicated his adult life to service and action. Although he was concerned about the spiritual state of the church, he never left it and always respected the authority of the church and its leaders, particularly the Pope. He was highly effective and successful in gathering people around him, but at the same time very single-minded and isolated within himself. He was poor in material terms, but rich in spiritual terms. He has much to teach us today!