This paperback by William J. Short, Dean of the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California, is part of the Orbis Series "Traditions of Christian Spirituality" edited by Philip Sheldrake. The author salutes Francis of Assisi for bringing new vitality to the ancient Christian story: "He combined austerity of life with an infectious joy, service of the poor with lyrical delight in creatures, popular preaching with silent contemplation, and missionary journeys with long periods in mountain hermitages." Clare also was a creative architect of the new spiritual tradition. She fashioned a religious community of women marked by prayer, manual labor, and no stable sources of revenue.

These founding figures practiced poverty in response "to Christ Jesus who did not grasp or cling to divine status, but let go of it to be among humans as a servant." Francis and Clare diligently tried to walk in the footsteps of the Lord by serving others. Bonaventure (d. 1274) and John Scotus (d. 1308) organized the major themes and images of the Franciscan school into a coherent theological system. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (d. 1889) most vividly caught St. Francis's love of the natural world and translated it into wonderful poetry. To this day, the rich resources of the Franciscan tradition remain relevant to many of the needs of spiritual seekers.