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
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 Companions, 33
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
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
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
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
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.'
Saint Francis regarding the goodness of God
(directed to non-birds … but notice the connection)
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
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 Mother Church.
From the third Letter to Agnes of Prague:
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.
8. 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!