Some 800 years ago, society in medieval Italy was facing many of the same challenges that we face today. Violence, hatred, wars, and brutality were rampant. People were frivolous and pleasure seeking, and even the church was plagued by corruption. Onto this stage stepped Francesco Bernadone, spoiled son of a wealthy merchant, and dreamer of a life of chivalry.
But God called to him, persistently and asked him to “repair my church”. Although Francesco originally thought he was to repair the physical building of the church, he came to realize that it was the soul of the church that God was calling on him to minister to.
Leaving his home, family, social position and wealth, he dedicated his life to following Christ in simplicity and poverty. He became the St. Francis of Assisi whom we know today. His love and charisma were so contagious that soon others were attracted to the life that he was leading, and joined him in his search for God. They became the original Order of Friars Minor, whom we know of today as Franciscans.
St. Clare followed him, and there began the women’s religious order of the Poor Clares.
At the same time, many people who were not able to leave family and obligations felt pulled to live a simpler and more meaningful life. St. Francis called them to become what is today the Secular Franciscan Order.
The Secular Franciscan Order is NOT a CLUB OR SOCIETY, but an Order within the Church, in which the members, men and women, do not abandon the world, family of friends, but follow gospel values in their everyday lives in the work, with families, spouses, children, jobs and obligations. Their desire is to follow more closely the teachings of Jesus Christ, to live a life of simplicity and service, and detach themselves from the importance of material wealth. In short, they want their lives to “make a difference”.