Introductory 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.