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- St. Francis and the Obscure Logic of Cultural Influence
St. Francis and the Obscure Logic of Cultural Influence
Do you have what it takes to leave behind a long-lasting institution?
In 1206, a wealthy Umbrian merchant catches his 24-year-old son giving away to beggars ludicrous sums from the family fortune. Rather than apologize and cease his absurd behavior, the young man chooses to renounce normal life altogether.
He commits to a life of absolute poverty, often sleeping outside, and—famously—talking to animals. He believed this was necessary to love God fully. He relinquished all of his possessions, accepting only the barest peasant's tunic, and set out from his family's home in Assisi as a commonplace beggar.
Yet Francis was overjoyed and supremely confident.
Verona, Italy by Ian Webb.
Word of this strange man gets around. By 1208, he had only ten committed followers.
Here is what he tells them:
With inexplicable confidence in this preposterous goal, they march barefoot in the snow toward the Rieti Valley, finding nothing but rejection, hatred, mockery, and violence.
Most people thought it was somewhere between idiotic and offensive that these men, many of which were well-to-do previously, would wander around begging for alms.
On many nights they were denied lodging they were so detested. One history tells of blood in the footprints they left behind in the snow.
Today, there are about 650,000 members of the Franciscan Order, including four hermitages in the Rieti Valley serving Franciscans eight centuries later.