St Francis of Assisi believed so strongly that money was the root of all evil that he had forbidden his followers to ever handle it.
He refused to even touch any and all types of currency during the 13th century when coins started to be used more frequently in the western world.
He told the Roman Church leaders that his monks would never own anything, including the house, barn or stable they resided, nor the tattered clothes they wore.
I wrote a book about Francis and imagined how this must have come about. Francis came from a wealthy family and was groomed to take over the rich silk business that his father had created, helping to connect the east and the west via what is known as the old Silk Road. It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea all the way to the Mongol territory that later became known as China.
Francis’ father, Pietro, sold the goods from his warehouse and silk producing plant in the small town Italian town of Assisi. He was a clever businessman who realized that anything passing through France with a French label would sell more to the women of Assisi, especially the aristocrats.
He wanted to be seen as a purveyor of all things French that he renamed his oldest son the “Little Frenchman.” He called his son by the name of Francisco rather then the name his mother gave him at birth.
Francis was named John after John the Baptist. He was baptized “Giovanni.” That changed when the father returned three months after the birth from a trading jaunt away from Assisi.
One day I imagined that Francis had seen his father go into the private money room which Pietro always kept locked. This time, however, the door to the study remained open, and Francis saw his father sitting at a table covered by several inches of gold and silver coins and rare jewels of various colors.
What disturbed the young man barely out of his teens was the adoration his father seemed to have for the coins. Francis saw his father plunge his hands into the money and shower the coins over his head as he moaned and appeared to lick the coins falling back to the table. There was pure love in his father’s eyes and in his gestures. Francis nearly threw up, but snuck away never forgetting the image the rest of his life.
When it came time for him to denounce his father before the local bishop and strip himself of all titles and his clothing, Francis easily recalled that scene and never forgot how corrupting it seem to be for his father, a man who often beat him and, on at least one occasion, chained Francis in a closet when the young man returned home from a battle where he was nearly killed and imprisoned.
That is why he never touched money and maybe why his hands were later marked with the stigmata of Christ while hanging on the cross.