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From Conversion of the Heart to Conversion of Souls: The Development of Early Franciscan Missiology

The notion of “doing penance” (facere poenitentiam) was central to early Franciscan identity and constituted the primary focus of their preaching efforts among others. The foundational element of the evangelical life – for oneself as well as for others - was thus the conversion of the heart. But with the numerical and geographical expansion of the early fraternity well beyond the confines of the Spoleto Valley and the progressive clericalization of the order and its apostolate during the 1230s forward, the primary accent of their missionary preaching came to be placed on another kind of conversion: the conversion of souls to Christianity. Did the latter development erase the original message or did the former concern continue to enliven Franciscan preaching and identity?

Michael Cusato, St. Bonaventure University