Historical sources on the life of Saint Francis clearly indicate this preeminent love in the heart of Saint Francis. On the morning of February 24, 1208 A.D. at the Portziuncula, outside Assisi, he declared: ‘This is what I want; this is what I long for with all my heart.’
The Saint said this as a reaction to a passage of scripture that the priest had explained to him at the Mass in honor of Saint Matthias, the Apostle – our Lord sending out the Apostles and establishing the apostolic life of mendicancy.
This form of life was the essential hallmark of the spirituality and religious consecration of the Poor Man of Assisi. This is the key to his life and love of Christ Crucified.
It follows then, that true devotion to Saint Francis necessitates the essential adoption of the evangelical life of mendicancy in all its rigor and simplicity, not because Saint Francis lived it, but because Christ taught it.
Such devotion requires, then, nothing less that a return to and resolute observance of the precepts of the Rule of Saint Francis. This is the form of life that the Saint wanted expressly to hand down to his children as a perpetual inheritance and heritage. This Rule embodies simply and rigorously the principles of the life that Christ taught to the Apostles.
To be a true son of Saint Francis is to be an observer of the Rule. One who finds the essence and form of his life, vocation, and charism, not in the constitutions or statutes or customs and practices of the Franciscan community to which he may belong; but rather, one who finds essence and form of his consecrated life and vocation; indeed of his very identity and destiny in the Rule of Saint Francis, and holds this to be the very day to day discipline that guides his personal life and apostolate.