And this I was reading two months ago, not foreseeing how it would take on new significance. From the New Yorker, Joan Acocella on The Radical Vision of St Francis of Assisi:
Always, the objection is the same—that we can’t have radicalism and the Church—and it makes some sense. (Do you want to go around with a begging bowl? Do you want Giotto not to have created his frescoes?) Francis didn’t believe it, though. He insisted that he was a good Catholic and that his principles came straight out of the Bible. Therefore the Church, which was supposedly there to spread the message of the Bible, should align itself with him. Even before he died, most Franciscans rushed to a middle position, but some people noticed, over time, that at least one person had lived by the principles laid down by Christ and by the leaders of most of the world’s major religions. Vauchez takes comfort from this. He cites the nineteenth-century historian Ernest Renan, who said, as Vauchez summarizes it, that the example of Francis “constitutes proof that Christianity, at least once, has been lived by a human being in all its radicality within the context of a historical life: this allows us to sustain the hope that this great movement, taken and distorted by the Church, might be able one day to resume its influence.” But only one person, only once: this is a small sample.