Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Franciscans -- 800 years of ministry


Whether or not you're Roman Catholic, you probably have a positive view of St. Francis. He's a saint for us all. He speaks to our sense of mercy and grace. His view of creation is inviting and empowering. Well, today marks the 800th Anniversary of the founding of the Franciscan Order -- February 24, 1209.

This description is found at Wikipedia:

At the end of this period (according to Jordanus, on 24 February 1209), Francis heard a sermon that changed his life. The sermon was about Matthew 10:9, in which Christ tells his followers that they should go forth and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was upon them, that they should take no money with them, nor even a walking stick or shoes for the road.[2] Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty.[2]

Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Evangelical precept, without staff or scrip, he began to preach repentance.[2] He was soon joined by his first follower, a prominent fellow townsman, the jurist Bernardo di Quintavalle, who contributed all that he had to the work. Within a year Francis had eleven followers. Francis chose never to be ordained a priest and the community lived as "lesser brothers," fratres minores in Latin.[2]

The brothers lived a simple life in the deserted lazar house of Rivo Torto near Assisi; but they spent much of their time wandering through the mountainous districts of Umbria, always cheerful and full of songs, yet making a deep impression on their hearers by their earnest exhortations.[2]

In 1209 Francis led his first eleven followers to Rome to seek permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new religious order.[9] Upon entry to Rome, the brothers encountered Bishop Guido of Assisi, who had in his company Giovanni di San Paolo, the cardinal bishop of Sabina. The Cardinal, who was the confessor of Pope Innocent III, was immediately sympathetic to Francis and agreed to represent Francis to the pope. Reluctantly, Pope Innocent agreed to meet with Francis and the brothers the next day. After several days, the pope agreed to informally admit the group, adding that when God increased the group in grace and number, they could return for an official admittance. The group was tonsured and Francis was ordained as a deacon, allowing him to read Gospels in the church.[10]

Not the calling to a life of poverty and service. Note too the Pope who authorized this movement -- Innocent III. Innocent was one of the most politically powerful of any of the Popes. And yet he was willing to grant to this movement a commission.

So, today we celebrate their ministry -- which at times, as with any institution, has diverged from its founders goals.

3 comments:

charles & jenny said...

The interesting thing about St Francis for me is how often his quote "preach the gospel, preach the gospel, preach the gospel, and if necessary use words" is used as a form of passive evangelism. The reality of his story is he went to the Muslim world, even put their God to the test to preach the Gospel. His boldness is a great witness to me in my often passive evangelism. I do have to live the Gospel.. but I also have to go as well!

Chuck

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Chuck,

I love the quote, used it in my sermon Sunday, but I also pointed out that in this day and age, we need to use words since our deeds need interpreting!

Anonymous said...

Great point!
Chuck