Francis was never a bookish man; he claimed to be unlettered and was cautious about his brothers getting bogged down in intellectual disputes or becoming proud of their academic achievements. In writing to St Anthony of Padua, he gave him permission to teach the friars as long as his teaching ‘(did) not extinguish the Spirit of prayer and devotion’.
Nevertheless, even within his own lifetime, the brothers were studying theology in order to carry out their ministry of preaching and as the order grew they established themselves as both students and teachers at the major universities throughout Europe, where friars like Alexander of Hales, St Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus developed a tradition of theology which emphasized the abundant goodness of God in all things, and the centrality of the Incarnation of the Word of God. Franciscan tertiaries like Angela of Foligno wrote of their mystical experience of the love of God.
This Franciscan intellectual tradition continues to this day not just in universities and seminaries but in the teaching and preaching ministry of Franciscan brothers and sisters.
(above l-r: St Anthony of Padua; John Duns Scotus)
(above l-r: Angela of Folign; St Bonaventure)