Bonaventure, Major Life
No human tongue could
describe the passionate love with which Francis burned for Christ …. He
sought to love God in everything. He delighted in all the works of God's
hands(1), and from the vision of joy on
earth his mind soared aloft to the life-giving source and cause of all.
In everything beautiful, he saw him who is beauty itself, and he followed
his Beloved everywhere by his likeness imprinted on creation; of all creation
he made a ladder by which he might mount up, and embrace Him who is all-desirable.
He seemed to perceive a divine harmony in the interplay of powers and faculties
given by God to his creatures.
Thomas of Celano, Second Life, 103
A famous theologian asked Francis to interpret the text of Ezekiel, 'If thou proclaim not to the wicked man his wickedness, I will require his soul at thy hand.'
Francis said: 'I would take it that the servant of God should be so aflame in his life and his holiness that he would reprove all wicked men by the light of his example and by the words of his conversation. So I say, the splendour of his life and the renown of his fame will proclaim to all their wickedness.' That man, therefore, went away much edified, and he said to the companions of Francis: 'My brothers, the theology of this man, based upon purity of life and contemplation, is a soaring eagle; but our learning crawls on its belly on the ground.'
Legend of the Three
The bishop received Francis
with kindness, but said: 'It seems to me that it is very hard and difficult
to possess nothing in the world.' To this blessed Francis replied, 'My
Lord, if we had any possessions we should also be forced to have arms to
protect them, since possessions are a cause of disputes and strife, and
in many ways we should be hindered from loving God and our neighbour. Therefore
in this life we wish to have no temporal possessions.'
The Admonitions - Writings of Saint Francis
Loving one's enemies
Our Lord says in the Gospel,
'Love your enemies' (Matthew 5:44). A man really loves his enemy when he
is not offended by the injury done to himself, but for love of God feels
burning sorrow for the sin his enemy has brought on his own soul, and proves
his love in a practical way(2).
Regarding perfect obedience
That man relinquishes
all that he possesses…. who entirely offers his very own self to obedience
in the hands of his prelate. And whatever he does and says, that he himself
knows, which is not contrary to the will of the latter, as long as what
he does be good, is true obedience. And if when the subject may see better
and more useful things for his own soul than those which the prelate may
command him(3), may he not fail to fulfil
them. For this is loving obedience (cf. 1Peter 1:22), since it satisfies
God and neighbour.
On the Body of the Lord
The poverty and humility of Christ are constant themes in the writings of Francis, as is Francis's emphasis on the Eucharist, which he identifies as "our daily bread" in the paraphrase of the Lord's prayer.
Behold, every day He humbles
Himself (cf. Phil 2:8), just as when from royal thrones (Wisdom 18:15)
He entered into the womb of the Virgin; every day He comes to us presenting
Himself humbly; everyday He descends from the bosom of His Father to the
altar … just as to the holy Apostles in true flesh, so now He shows Himself
to us in the Sacred Bread.
So that no one may be proud, let him glory in the Cross of the Lord
Therefore how can you glory? For if you were so subtle and wise that you had all science and knew to interpret every kind of tongue (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28) and to search subtly after celestial things, in all these things you cannot glory; since one demon knew of celestial things and now knows of earthly things more than all men.
On the imitation of the Lord
The Good Shepherd…endured
the passion of the Cross to save His sheep. The sheep of the Lord have
followed Him in tribulation and persecution, shame and hunger, in infirmity
and temptation and other things; and on account of these they have received
from the Lord everlasting life. Whence we should be greatly ashamed as
servants of God, because they did holy deeds but we by reciting
them wish to receive glory and honour.
Saint Francis's Letter
to a Minister
There should be no friar
in the whole world who has fallen into sin, no matter how far he has fallen,
who will ever fail to find your forgiveness for the asking, if he will
only look into your eyes. And if he does not ask forgiveness, you should
ask him if he wants it. And should he appear before you again a thousand
times, you should love him more than you love me, so that you may draw
him to God; you should always have pity on such friars.
Legend of Perugia, 62
In the early days of the
Order, when the brothers lived at Rivo Torto, there was a brother who prayed
little and did no work, who never went begging, for he was ashamed, but
he ate well. Considering his behaviour, blessed Francis was warned by the
Holy Spirit that this brother was a sensual man. One day he said to him:
'Go your way, Brother Fly, for you wish to eat the fruit of the labour
of your brothers, while you remain idle in the vineyard of God. You resemble
Brother Drone, who gathers nothing, does no work, but eats the fruit of
the activity of the working bees(4).' He
left without even asking forgiveness, for he was a sensual man.
Mirror of Perfection,
Francis rebukes a gloomy friar(5)
Why are you making an
outward display of grief and sorrow for your sin? This sorrow is between
God and yourself alone. So pray him in his mercy to pardon you and restore
to your soul the joy of his salvation, of which the guilt of your sins
has deprived it. Always do your best to be cheerful when you are with me
and the other brethren; it is not right for a servant of God to show a
sad and gloomy face, to his brother or to anyone else.
Writings of Saint Francis on true wisdom
We must all be on our
guard against pride and empty boasting and beware of worldly or natural
wisdom. A worldly spirit loves to talk a lot but do nothing, striving for
the exterior signs of holiness that people can see, with no desire for
true piety and interior holiness of the spirit. It was about people like
this that our Lord said, 'Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.'
(Matthew 6:2) The spirit of God, on the other hand, inspires us to …. Humility,
patience, perfect simplicity, and true peace of heart.
Bonaventure, Major Life
The sermon to the birds (actually related to holy poverty)
'My brothers (the birds),
you have a great obligation to praise your Creator. He clothed you with
feathers and gave you wings to fly, appointing the clear air as your home,
and he looks after you without any effort on your part.'
Writings of Saint Francis
regarding the goodness of God
(directed to non-birds … but notice the connection)
Almighty, most high and
supreme God, Father, holy and just, Lord, King of heaven and earth, we
give you thanks for yourself. Of your own holy will you created all things
spiritual and physical, made us in your own image and likeness, and gave
us a place in paradise, through your only Son, in the Holy Spirit.
Letter To The Faithful II
This rather rambling document, with none of the poetry normally associated with Francis's popular works, illustrates Francis's continued stress on the Scriptures, the Eucharist, poverty, the humanity, particularly the Passion, of Christ, and penance. "The words and the blood" were dominant themes in all of Francis's spirituality.
I have proposed by these present letters and announcements to repeat to you the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word of the Father, and the words of the Holy Spirit, which are spirit and life (John 6:64). This Word of the Father--so worthy, so holy and glorious--the Father of heaven has announced by Saint Gabriel His angel in the womb of the holy and glorious Virgin Mary, from whose womb He received the true flesh of humanity and of our fragility. He, (who) is (2 Cor 8:9) above all things, willed in the world with the Blessed Virgin Mary, His Mother, to chose poverty.
And near His passion He
celebrated the Passover with His disciples and taking bread He gave thanks
and He blessed it and broke it saying: "Take and eat, this is My Body."
(Mt 26:26) And taking the chalice He said: "This is My Blood of the new
testament, which for you and for the many will be poured out in remission
of sins." (Mt 26:27) Then He prayed to the Father saying: "Father, if it
can be done, let this chalice pass from me." And His sweat became as drops
of blood flowing down upon the earth (Lk 22:44). However, he laid down
his own will for the will of the Father, saying: "Father, Thy will be done"
(Mt 26:42); "not as I will, but as Thou" (Mt. 26:39). Of whose Father such
was the will, that His Son, blest and glorious, whom He gave to us and
who was born for us, would offer his very self through His own Blood as
a Sacrifice and Victim upon the altar, not for His own sake, through whom
all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3), but for the sake of our sins, leaving
us an example, so that we may follow in his footsteps (cf. 1 Pet 2:21).
And He willed that all might be saved through Him and that we might receive
Him with a pure heart and our own chaste body.
Letter to the Faithful I
All who love the Lord
with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their
virtue (cf. Mk 12:30) and love their neighbors as they do themselves (cf.
Mt 22:39), and hold their bodies in hatred(6)
with its vices and sins, receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
and bring forth fruits worthy of penance: O how blessed and blest are those
men and women, while they do such things and persevere in them, since upon
them rests the Spirit of the Lord (cf. Jn 14:23), and they are sons of
their Heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are
spouses, fathers and mothers of Our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50). We
are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is joined with Our
Lord Jesus Christ. We are His brothers, when we do the will of the Father
who is in Heaven (Mt. 12:50). Mothers, when we carry Him in our heart and
body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) by divine love and a pure and sincere conscience;
we give birth to Him by holy work, which should shine upon others as an
example (cf. Mt 5:16). O how glorious it is, holy and great, to have a
Father in Heaven! O how holy, to have such a Paraclete, beautiful and admirable,
as a Spouse! O how holy and how beloved, very pleasing, humble, peaceable,
sweet, lovable and desirable above all things to have such a Brother and
such a Son: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down His soul for His sheep
(cf. John 10:15)
On true and perfect joy
….What is perfect joy?"
A messenger comes and says that all the masters of Paris have entered the
Order, write, "not true joy." Likewise that all the prelates beyond the
Alps, archbishops and bishops; likewise that the King of France and the
King of England (have entered the Order): write, "not true joy." Likewise,
that my friars went among the infidels and converted them all to the faith;
likewise that I have from God this grace, that I make the sick healthy
and work many miracles: I say to you that in all these things there is
not true joy.
But what is true joy?
I return from Perugia and in the dead of night I come here and it is winter
time, muddy and what is more, so frigid, that icicles have congealed at
the edge of my tunic and they always pierce my shins, and blood comes forth
from such wounds. And entirely [covered] with mud and in the cold and ice,
I come to the gate, and after I knock for a long time and call, there comes
a friar and he asks: "Who is it? I respond: "Friar Francis." And he says:
"Go away; it is not a decent hour for going about; you will not enter."
And again he would respond to my insistence: "Go away; you are a simpleton
and an idiot(7); you do not measure up to
us; we are so many and such men, that we are not in need of you!" And I
stand again at the gate and I say: "For the love of God take me in this
night." And he would respond: "I will not." I say to you that if I will
have had patience and will not have been moved(8)
(upset), that in this is true joy and true virtue and soundness of soul.
The Testament of St. Francis made at Siena
I bless all my friars,
who are in religion and who will come even until the end of the age. Since
on account of my weakness and the pain of my sickness I cannot manage to
speak, in these three words I am briefly making clear my will to my friars,
that is: that, in remembrance of my blessing and my testament, they love
one another, that they always love and observe our Lady Poverty, and that
they be faithful and subject to the prelates and all the clergy of Holy
From the third Letter to Agnes of Prague:
Therefore, dearly beloved,
may you too always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). And may neither bitterness
nor a cloud overhwhelm you, O dearly beloved Lady in Christ, joy of the
angels and crown of your sisters!
Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!Since you have cast aside all things which, in this deceitful and turbulent world, ensnare their blind lovers, love Him totally Who gave Himself totally for your love. His beauty the sun and moon admire, and of His gifts there is no limit in abundance, preciousness, and magnitude.
Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!
Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance!
And transform your whole being into the image of the Godhead itself through contemplation!
So that you too may feel what His friends feel
as they taste the hidden sweetness
which God has reserved from the beginning
for those who love Him.
From the Fourth Letter to Agnes:
Happy, indeed, is she
to whom it is given to share this sacred banquet,
to cling with all her heart to Him.
Whose beauty all the heavenly hosts admire unceasingly,
Whose love inflames our love,
Whose contemplation is our refreshment,
Whose graciousness is our joy,
Whose gentleness fills us to overflowing,
Whose remembrance brings a gentle light,
Whose fragrance will revive the dead,
Whose glorious vision will be the happiness of
all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Letter to Ermentrude of Bruges:
Our labour here is brief, but the reward is eternal. Do not be disturbed by the clamour of the world, which passes like a shadow. Do not let the false delights of a deceptive world deceive you. Close your ears to the whisperings of hell and bravely oppose its onslaughts. Gladly endure whatever goes against you and do not let good fortune lift you up; for these things destroy faith, while these others demand it. Offer faithfully what you have vowed to God, and He will reward you.
2. The Latin text translates literally as "And manifests love for such a one in deeds."
3. Definitely true, and laudable, in Francis's own case. Not all of the prelates he encountered would have considered him a model of obedience in the conventional sense…
4. Franciscan tradition, though "stressing the positive" in preaching (by word and example), also saw fraternal correction as an essential act of charity. Friars, who often had only one companion, were to make known serious violations of the rule to the other - who was expected to reprimand and penance his brother. There also was a telling and lovely custom, when one observed the Rule's direction to "immediately and humbly ask pardon" of another whom one had offended, for the "hearer" to then ask forgiveness for "provoking" him. It is unfortunate that the potential for great concern and charity was not always fulfilled, when friars did not possess the degree of love and prudence which Francis did.
5. There are many incidents recorded which testify to Francis's tender, encouraging approach to those who were ill, troubled, tempted, or anxious with guilt. The nuance here is in Francis's full awareness both that the pain one feels in true contrition is not the sort people wish to share at large, and that the sort of sorrow the friar was displaying is unlikely to be related to contrition.
6. In the 1983 editions of the Rule, where selections of this letter serve as a prologue, this line has been revised to "who despise the tendency of their humanity to sin."
7. When Francis was replaced as Minister General of the Order, his main opponents, using his lack of education against him, basically made this very charge.
From one as loving and sensitive as Francis, and who frequently needed
other friars to comfort him through nights of insomnia and fear, this is
a very powerful statement. Note that it is not the rejection that
is perfect joy!
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