The people of St. Francis’ time, both the hierarchy and the simple faithful, recognized him as a particular prophetic instrument of the Holy Spirit. He created a movement that set the world on fire and it spread like fire. His movement was both traditional and innovative. I wonder if in the providence of God Pope Francis’ name has a significance beyond what even himself might have anticipated. St. Francis was an instrument of the Holy Spirit to reform the Church in difficult times. But his innovation was not without its own problems. Reform typically initiates a crisis from which equilibrium only emerges after time and much difficulty.
St. Francis’ spirit of obedience to the Church manifested itself, not only in an evangelical desire for reform and the simple gospel life. It also showed itself in a docility to the prescriptions of reform promulgated by the Fourth Lateran Council. In fact, St. Francis made sure that the simple gospel life of the friars was protected from pride and error by his instance, stated at both the beginning and end of his Rule, that the friars remain humble and submissive to the Holy Roman Pontiff. Continue reading