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But before he left Francis had to have a suit of armor and a horse -- no problem for the son of a wealthy father. One day while riding through the countryside, Francis, the man who loved beauty, who was so picky about food, who hated deformity, came face to face with a leper.And not just any suit of armor would do but one decorated with gold with a magnificent cloak. Repelled by the appearance and the smell of the leper, Francis nevertheless jumped down from his horse and kissed the hand of the leper.The bishop was very kind to Francis; he told him to return the money and said God would provide. He not only gave back the money but stripped off all his clothes -- the clothes his father had given him -- until he was wearing only a hair shirt.In front of the crowd that had gathered he said, "Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father.

He gave himself to partying with as much joy and abandon as he had before the battle.Slowly companions came to Francis, people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for garbage to eat..loving God.With companions, Francis knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life so he opened the Bible in three places.He begged for stones and rebuilt the San Damiano church with his own hands, not realizing that it was the Church with a capital C that God wanted repaired.Scandal and avarice were working on the Church from the inside while outside heresies flourished by appealing to those longing for something different or adventurous. (He was never a priest, though he was later ordained a deacon under his protest.) Francis was not a reformer; he preached about returning to God and obedience to the Church.

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