A Time of Doubt

In the short span of 12 years (1209-1221), the Franciscans had grown from a small, Assisi-based fraternity consisting of Francis and four other brothers, to a large, “multi-national,” religious order with an approved Rule of Life, a Cardinal Protector (who would soon become Pope), and more than 5,000 brothers.  There was nothing in Francis’ life that prepared him for leadership of such a far-flung fraternity, which was already spanning the European continent and parts of the Middle East and North Africa.  He had been a spoiled dilatant, a would-be knight, a wounded warrior, a solitary figure, living a quasi-hermetical life, and now he was the “leader” of a growing, international community of brothers.  In the beginning, things just seemed to unfold, signs appeared along the way, and Francis followed the path in faith.  And people followed Francis.  Now most Franciscans had never met Francis and Francis’ model of leadership by example, which worked in 1209, but was not the one needed in 1221.  And so he stepped down as leader, leaving the Order in the care of the Church – at least as far as discipline and administration. Yet it was also clear that he hoped to preserve a superior authority, of a spiritual type, demonstrated in the way in which he lived the Rule of Life. Continue reading

Francis and the Crusades – Part 2

crusaders2The previous two articles give the background for Francis of Assisi’s mission during the time of the Fifth Crusade.  The previous article introduced two key ideas that seemed to be part of a strong spiritual movement in Francis’ time: peregrination pro Christo (“wandering for the sake of Christ”) which we would now call “pilgrimage,” and the long-established idea of Christian martyrdom.  We have already seen the friars “wandering for Christ” in their trips throughout central Italy. Continue reading

A Time of Doubt

In the short span of 12 years (1209-1221), the Franciscans had grown from a small, Assisi-based fraternity consisting of Francis and four other brothers, to a large, “multi-national,” religious order with an approved Rule of Life, a Cardinal Protector (who would soon become Pope), and more than 5,000 brothers.  There was nothing in Francis’ life that prepared him for leadership of such a far-flung fraternity, which was already spanning the European continent and parts of the Middle East and North Africa.  He had been a spoiled dilatant, a would-be knight, a wounded warrior, a solitary figure, living a quasi-hermetical life, and now he was the “leader” of a growing, international community of brothers.  In the beginning, things just seemed to unfold, signs appeared along the way, and Francis followed the path in faith.  And people followed Francis.  Now most Franciscans had never met Francis and Francis’ model of leadership by example, which worked in 1209, but was not the one needed in 1221.  And so he stepped down as leader, leaving the Order in the care of the Church – at least as far as discipline and administration.  Yet it was also clear that he hoped to preserve a superior authority, of a spiritual type, demonstrated in the way in which he lived the Rule of Life. Continue reading

Francis and the Crusades – Part 2

crusaders2The previous two articles give the background for Francis of Assisi’s mission during the time of the Fifth Crusade.  The previous article introduced two key ideas that seemed to be part of a strong spiritual movement in Francis’ time: peregrination pro Christo (“wandering for the sake of Christ”) which we would now call “pilgrimage,” and the long-established idea of Christian martyrdom.  We have already seen the friars “wandering for Christ” in their trips throughout central Italy. Continue reading

Francis of Assisi – a portrait in humility

saint-francis-of-assisi-cimabueWith the election of Pope Francis there seems to be a surge in wanting to know more about St. Francis of Assisi. There certainly is no lack of written material, scholarly, popular, and in between.  There is also a lot of marginal material out there.  Here is a list of readable and approachable books for the inquiring minds – and no it in no way approaches completeness.  Someone suggested that there is a new biography of St. Francis printed every year. I am not sure that is strictly true, but it sure seems like it. Continue reading