So what happened to the Franciscan Movement after Francis. Well, during his lifetime actually, strife began to build. While Francis had wanted his friars (which he called The Friars Minor to differentiate from anything major) to remain completely possession free, in total poverty, soon with the growth of the movement men began to push for a lessening of the Rule (a monastic or mendicant Rule is the guidebook for how they live their lives). With thousands coming they needed housing and some argued they could not possible remain completely poor–they needed to eat! And have a roof over their head!
This progression bothered Francis right up to his death. And while it would be easy to look back romantically at Francis’ life and say they should have not ever left the intent of the founder, truth is something had to be done to accommodate the people attracted to his way of life.
And why were so many attracted to him? Simply put I believe it is because he was offering a counter way of life that was so radical it seemed miraculous to many. The society in those days (see if this rings a bell for us about today) was top down–the rich were powerful, controlled most of life in the towns and cities, and had little concern to the poor. What Francis offered was the alternative…he said God wishes all of his creatures to be loved and loving, even the poorest of the poor.
In our next installment we will discuss Francis’ relationship with nature and animals. This too was different that most had experienced…