The Franciscan Vocation
"This is how God inspired me, Brother Francis, to embark upon a life of penance. When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them. When I had once become acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became a source of spiritual and physical consolation for me. After that I did not wait long before leaving the world.....When God gave me some friars, there was no one to tell me what I should do; but the Most High himself made it clear to me that I must live the life of the Gospel."
St. Francis wrote his Testament shortly before his death in 1226. In this document he talked about his personal vocation and how that evolved into the vocation for an Order of Friars.
The Vocation to the Religious Life involves both the personal, individual call and the corporate life of the community. At the heart of Francis' personal vocation was the call to a closer relationship with God. Francis yearned passionately to know Jesus and to be with his God. The stigmata, in which Francis exhibited the wounds of Jesus, illustrates the close identification he attained with Christ. It was his intention to live the Gospel life, as he understood it.
For Francis this meant being sent out as an apostle to preach the good news and to heal. It meant to imitate the poverty, simplicity, humility and compassion he saw in the life of Jesus. When his personal charisma began to attract followers and "God gave him brothers," Francis and his community had to find a corporate expression of Francis' vocation. They developed a community life which attempted to live out Francis' vision of the Gospel life with the addition of fraternal charity.