In this thesis, Francis of Assisi's vocation of humility is given its unique place in the heritage of Christian humility, and situated in relation to the early Franciscan vocation of humility that followed and the Bonaventurian vocation of humility that then concluded the infancy of First Order Franciscan development.
Francis's vocation of humility was constituted by a unique blend of subjection, self-sacrifice, inversion, and freedom from worldly constraints. The characteristics that these elements gave rise to included: living the Gospel and the Rule, seeking to be the Lesser Brother in every sense, loving and honouring all brothers equally, obedience, humility in deeds and words, and the exhibition of humility that could not be mistaken for lack of strength or determination. These elements and characteristics form a framework with which to analyse the subsequent early First Order vocation of humility and the vocation of humility under Bonaventure.
Studying these three vocations highlights continuities and divergences in formation and complexion. Varying levels of reference to earlier ideas of Christian humility are detected, as are differing approaches to challenges posed by the temporal and ecclesiastical spheres. Of particular interest are diverse responses to four points of contention that have preoccupied other contributors to the heritage of Christian humility: the optimal exemplars for the pursuit of the relational, action-based life required by internal humility; humility as abrogation of power versus humility as a source of power; spiritual advancement through grace versus the possibility of attaining it to some degree through merit; and the extent and level of involvement in the temporal world compatible with Christian humility. The responses of Francis, the early First Order, and Bonaventure to these points of contention differentiate them from each other, and their theological ancestors, and provide a fresh perspective on early Franciscan Order history.