St. Francis of Assisi, born in 1182, is the Catholic patron saint of animals and the environment. Legend tells us that St. Francis could communicate with animals. He is credited with popularizing use of the nativity scene to share the hope and joy of God's love. The son of a wealthy cloth merchant, St. Francis converted from a worldly youth to a poor, humble religious life of caring for the sick, especially lepers. St. Francis founded the Franciscan Order in 1209.