st. francis - Francis of Assisi has become probably the...

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Francis of Assisi has become probably the most beloved figure of the European Middle Ages, transcending time and religious divisions. He is remembered as taming the wildest of beasts with gentleness, captivating the birds in the air with his praise of nature, singing songs of love to the sunshine, moving the very stones to cry the praises of their common creator, and speaking familiarly with God, Francis seems to fit the needs of many people in a very special way. The Franciscan Order (OFM) have placed a sympathetic account of their founder's life on-line, and it may be accessed here. We are so fixed upon his gentleness, humility, trust in the morrow and simple joy of life that it is difficult to recognize him as a revolutionary figure, whose words and example sparked a movement that seemed to many at the time to endanger the very bases of civilization as they knew it. Such, however, was the case. In 1209, Francis and a few of his followers went to Rome to obtain papal permission to follow the way of life Francis had chosen. He intended to follow the example of Jesus in all ways possible, particularly in regard to Jesus' poverty. He and his followers were to own no property but would dress in the cast-off clothes of the peasants. They would live in huts of twigs and branches in the winter and wander the roads of Europe with the paupers, seeking work and eating only what they could earn. They would not subject themselves to a schedule, compose and follow complex rules, establish a hierarchy of officers, or or practice austerities beyond those imposed by their way of life. There would be no novitiate, and members could leave if they found that they could not meet the ideals of the group. They would not only care for the naked, hungry, thirsty, sick and oppressed, but would join them. Pope Innocent III (1196-1215) was moved by their idealism, but doubted whether they could live up to their aspirations. Nevertheless, he gave them permission to undertake the life they proposed and promised them his protection, although only orally and not through an official papal decree. He might not have done so if he had stopped to think that, without a rule or officers, each Franciscan was free to do whatever he (and later she) thought was right. Although the Franciscans gathered together once a year, it was to discuss and share their enthusiasm rather than to make rules and decide disputes. Francis felt that each person was responsible for his or her own actions, so it was an early element of Franciscan belief that each person had the right to refuse to obey any order (and perhaps law) that he or she felt was immoral or unjust. Francis and his followers returned to Assisi and took up the way of life that they had proposed. The movement spread in a way that neither the pope nor Francis had anticipated. Literally
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st. francis - Francis of Assisi has become probably the...

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