“When God gave me some friars, there was no one to tell me what I should do; but the Most High himself made it clear to me that I must live the life of the Gospel. I had this written down briefly and simply and his holiness the Pope confirmed it for me.” (Testament of St, Francis)
“The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God – laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.
In various ways and forms but in lifegiving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.” (Art. 1, SFO Rule)
Let us go back in time, 800 years, to April 16th, 1209, to the Lateran Palace in Rome. Picture the papal throne room of Pope Innocent III, decorated with rich mosaics and tapestries. The Pope himself is seated on his throne, surrounded by his cardinals and other officials, all decked out in their rich robes. The hubbub in the room dies down as twelve men enter the chamber. These men are dressed in habits of rough cloth and are barefoot. They and their leader, Francis Bernardone of Assisi, has been the subject of much discussion and debate. The Pope has made his decision; he gives his approval to the little Rule of life Francis had written, using mostly phrases from the Gospel. And so the Order of Friars Minor is born.
However, it was more than just a new religious Order that came into being. Fathers David Flood, OFM, and Thadee Matura, OFM, in their book, describe it as “the Birth of a Movement.” From that small group of men, that little plant, three great branches have grown; Friars, Poor Clares, and Seculars. Each branch made up of people, inspired by Saint Francis, who strive to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in their times, each in their own unique way.
During this 800th anniversary year, let us read again the stories of Francis’ life, read and reflect on his writings and be inspired again to go out into the world and proclaim in words and example the Good News.