The Franciscan Order; a Victim of Its Own Success
The Franciscan movement was a religious order that arose out of one man's ideologies and beliefs. St. Francis of Assisi's ideals of absolute poverty, obedience, humility, and simplicity were uncomplicated and basic, but during his life and even shortly after his death these ideologies were gradually shifting and causing a great amount of debate. The immense size of the Franciscan Order combined with the mass amount of popularity that the Order gained made changes in the ideology and objectives of Francis' messages and teaching almost an inevitable necessity. Some could argue that in many ways the Franciscan Order's original ideologies were a victim of the movement's success. This is evident in the main rules of the Order, what the
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Franciscans began to serve in a number of different ways. Some took offices as bishops, others as inquisitors, and even others as school masters. These offices created many problems and contradictions to Francis' original ideas on humility, poverty, and simplicity. An office in no way offered humility, because the individual was gaining prestige and power, an office did not support poverty as it provided an income, and an office did not provide simplicity as it added many facets to the basic life that a Franciscan Friar was supposed to lead. Soon becoming a Franciscan friar was a way of gaining worldly success rather than assisting other and imitating the life of Jesus Christ. These offices also bred contempt for the Order. They were gradually seen as hypocritical. One of the main issues faced with the Franciscan Order once Francis died was the idea of absolute poverty, or usus pauper. As the Order grew the idea of absolute poverty became less and less popular. Francis had taught that money was untouchable, that no friar was to own land, and that all his followers were to live in absolute poverty. In his final Testament, which Francis wrote near death, he redefined his ideas of poverty. He stated that his Testament was final, and that all in his order were bound to follow it. Upon his death, the friars turned to the Pope Gregory to guide them.