Editor's note:

Catholics and oth­er fans of Fran­cis of Assisi will be cel­e­brat­ing the sain­t’s feast day this week, so we thought it was a good time to share a bit from Richard Fos­ter’s Streams of Liv­ing Water about why St. Fran­cis was an exem­plar of the Charis­mat­ic Tra­di­tion (Spir­it-filled Life). Enjoy!

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Streams of Living Water

Every time I con­sid­er the Charis­mat­ic Stream I think of Francesco, a young man who lived at the height of the Mid­dle Ages. He was born and raised in Italy, but French influ­ences were also promi­nent from the out­set. His giv­en name at birth was actu­al­ly Gio­van­ni, but when his father, Pietro Bernadone, returned from a busi­ness trip to France, he imme­di­ate­ly changed the child’s name to Francesco, the Lit­tle French­man.” His moth­er, Pica, was French, and Francesco learned his mother’s native tongue at her knee. He par­tic­u­lar­ly loved the French bal­lads pop­u­lar­ized by rov­ing troubadours.

Before the Hound of Heav­en con­quered his heart, Francesco was the fun-lov­ing leader of a frol­ick­ing group of young men from the area. His first biog­ra­ph­er, Placid Her­mann, notes, Up to the twen­ty-fifth year of his age, he squan­dered and wast­ed his time mis­er­ably. Indeed, he out­did all his con­tem­po­raries in van­i­ties and he came to be a pro­mot­er of evil and was more abun­dant­ly zeal­ous for all kinds of foolishness.”

In his ear­ly twen­ties Francesco left home to fight in a bloody skir­mish with a neigh­bor­ing city, where he was tak­en as a pris­on­er of war. A one-year incar­cer­a­tion there, along with a one-year con­va­les­cence back home, proved to be a crit­i­cal turn­ing point. Dur­ing these dark, lone­ly months Francesco expe­ri­enced an ever-grow­ing, ever-deep­en­ing, con­vert­ing grace. Liv­ing as a her­mit beside the tum­ble-down, near­ly aban­doned church of San Dami­ano, he heard the debar Yah­weh (the word of the Lord) — Rebuild my church” — com­ing from the church cru­ci­fix. This Francesco did, at first by lit­er­al­ly repair­ing the ruined walls of San Dami­ano and then by under­tak­ing the far greater task of rebuild­ing the spir­i­tu­al heart of the church — a rebuild­ing that was des­per­ate­ly needed. 

Pietro Bernadone was livid about Francesco’s new life, espe­cial­ly the young man’s lav­ish gen­eros­i­ty to the poor with Pietro’s hard-earned mon­ey. Final­ly, in an act of des­per­a­tion, he hauled his recal­ci­trant son before the local bish­op, demand­ing jus­tice. Francesco respond­ed by renounc­ing all claims to his father’s estate and return­ing all goods — includ­ing the clothes off his back, so that he stood naked before the bish­op. He then turned to Pietro Bernadone, say­ing, accord­ing to Her­mann, Until now I called you my father, but from now on I can say with­out reserve, Our Father who art in heav­en.’ He is all my wealth and I place all my con­fi­dence in him.” 

And so, mind­ful of the jug­glers that accom­pa­nied the French trou­ba­dours, Francesco declared that he was Le Jon­gleur de Dieu, liv­ing in utter pover­ty and wan­der­ing through the towns and vil­lages, preach­ing the gospel. Many of the young men who had been part of his thrill-seek­ing cir­cle in ear­li­er days joined him. Anoth­er per­son joined him too — Clare Favarone, a well-to-do young lady from Francesco’s home­town. Thus began one of the great spir­i­tu­al move­ments of history. 

The sto­ry of that move­ment is so well known that by now you have prob­a­bly guessed that the Francesco I have been telling you about is none oth­er than the lit­tle, poor man of Assisi, St. Fran­cis. What an extra­or­di­nary sto­ry! What a pow­er­ful influence! 

To find out more about why Richard Fos­ter sees Fran­cis of Assisi as a piv­otal fig­ure in the Charis­mat­ic Tra­di­tion, join us on Friday.

Starting Soon: The 2020-21 Renovaré Book Club

An inten­tion­al way to read for trans­for­ma­tion not just infor­ma­tion. Runs Sep­tem­ber 2020 through May 2021.

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