Jesus left no formal religious rule for his followers. The closest he came was his proclamation of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers….
Francis took to heart this spiritual vision and translated it into a way of life. In various ways, other saints before and since have done the same. But for many men and women since the time of Francis, his particular example has offered a distinctive key to the Gospel—or, as Pope Francis might say, “a new way of seeing and interpreting reality.” Among the central features of this key: the vision of a Church that is “poor and for the poor”; a resolve to take seriously Jesus’s example of self-emptying love; the way of mercy and compassion; above all, a determination to proclaim the Gospel not only with words but with one’s life.
—from the book The Franciscan Saints by Robert Ellsberg