Francis Bernadone gave birth to a charismatic movement that swept the world of his time. In the process he founded three orders: one for the brothers who followed him vowing to live "in obedience, without property and in chastity"; a second for women who made the same profession; and a third order for married persons who wished to follow while remaining in the lay world. The spirit of Francis, however, has never been contained by his orders, nor even by the Roman Catholic Church.
Charismatic movements often grow quickly toward formality and, ultimately, rigidity, as the original leader dies and the organization structures itself to continue with more people and places and new eras. Yet the charisma may underlie the institution and periodically break through to flourish once again.
The charisma of Francis continues to dwell with the institutions that found their origin in him, and new expressions continually emerge within that context. Peter Lippert, a Jesuit, wrote in 1927:
The fundamental newness, which is precisely the thing being sought today by countless attempts at innovation, is to be found only along the line of the original ideal of Francis....If God should someday deign to reveal the order of the future to his Church, the order so longingly sought by many of our best people, it will surely bear the stamp of Francis' soul and spirit.
Perhaps this spirit is best seen today in Charles de Foucald's Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus, and the Missionary Brothers and Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa, as well as in associated movements such as the Catholic Worker and Sojourners.
Francis gave only one mandate to his followers: to live an evangelical life, to love as Jesus did. The only real rule for the friars is the gospel. Throughout history friars have found many diverse and creative ways to bring the gospel to life.