Tag Archives: friars

Francis of Assisi’s penitential lifestyle – how it began


St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

Francis, renouncing everything for the love of God

In preparation for teaching Resources for Radical Living with my partner in crime, Mark Van Steenwyk, I’ve been re-reading Paul Sabatier‘s ground-breaking Vie de S. Francois d’Assise, though in a new, annotated English edition. This is The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis, ed. with intro and annotations by Jon M. Sweeney (Brewster, MA: Paraclete, 2003)–well done and informative in its many annotations.

Since in Resources for Radical Living we are using Francis as a case study in penitential living, I have been looking for material in Sabatier on the penitential life. Plenty of suggestions show up early in Sabatier’s text about why Francis lived the way he did: he was a party animal early in life with too much money and not enough sense, who eventually had a serious illness and came to see the emptiness of his former hedonism. Then, impetuous in doing good as much as he had been in his frivolities, he turned to Christ for answers, and he took the Gospel message not just seriously, but literally.

Sabatier tells all of this in his chapter six: “First Year of Apostolate (Spring 1209 – Summer 1210)”:

After hearing the gospel passage preached to him about selling all you have, going, and following Christ, “Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff” (44),

The very next morning Francis went up to Assisi and began to preach. Continue reading

Glimpses of Francis of Assisi, from Mark Galli


Saint Francis of assisi in his tomb

The following are brief excerpts and quotations I marked while reading Mark Galli’s Francis of Assisi and His World (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002). Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today and former managing editor of Christian History, did his homework well, and this little book, like Chesterton’s biography of Francis, is full of insights. Galli does tend to find “legalism” in medieval monasticism, and has cautioned evangelicals about their “romance of the cloister.” But his understanding of the sacrament of penance (see below) is more nuanced than that of most Protestants. Continue reading

St Francis of Assisi: Redefining discipleship


I am fascinated by Francis.

Francis of Assisi (1181/2 – 1226) was, I think, a man in many ways well ahead of his time. Being human, he was not without his oddities and peccadilloes. But he drank deeply from the sorts of spiritual wells that have more recently animated the charismatic movement.

He took monasticism to its next logical step in living what Weber would later call a “worldly asceticism”: his model of Imitatio Christi understood as a vigorous and peripatetic service to the world transformed medieval religious life. The Franciscans and Dominicans both lived it out for centuries after his death, though often in ways that would have made poor Francis’s hair curl.

He recognized with laser clarity the toxicity of wealth and the heroic measures necessary to save oneself from pride.

What a saint was Francis! Still today I am challenged every time I read of his life.

All of this I was beginning to discover in 1994, at age 31, as I moved on from both my Christian tutelage in the charismatic movement and my secular vocation in corporate communications to the full-time study of church history Continue reading

Religion & science post #2: The Christian DNA of modern genetics


The “fathers of modern science”–that is, men (very few women) in the 17th century who launched the specialized fields of study within the hard sciences–were almost all Christians who studied science to “think God’s thoughts after him.” I’ll post again listing their names and fields. But one of the most fascinating cases of the NON-conflict between science and Christian faith was the monk Gregor Mendel, whose researches helped found the modern science of genetics. I dug up some info on Mendel for a Christian History e-newsletter. As with many of these posts from my Christian History days, you’ll probably find that the links are out-of-date and possibly non-functional. But the story is still a fascinating one, I think:

The Christian DNA of Modern Genetics
Though open to frightening ethical abuse, genetics has been a Christian vocation since Gregor Mendel did his famous pea-plant experiments in the mid-nineteenth century.
Chris Armstrong

If canonization as a saint were—as some observers fuzzily imagine—a sort of Rotarian medal for service to humankind, the nineteenth-century monk-scientist Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) would have gained the honor long ago.

Of course, these days, not everyone may be so happy about placing a halo over the man who shows up in school science texts as the father of modern genetics. Recently, a few bad apples have been threatening to spoil the whole harvest of genetic science with wild claims about human cloning‘s potential benefits. If we bought the theories of some biological determinists, we would need only to get our hands on Saint Gregor’s relics—just a cheek cell or two would do—and we could create a whole army of scientific geniuses. Continue reading