Thursday, March 14, 2013

Francis of Assisi


Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) by José de Ribera (1591–1652), Circa 1642  

St. Francis of Assisi was born Francesco di Pietro di Bernardone in 1181 or 1182 and died on October 3, 1226.  He was baptized Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone. San Francesco d'Assisi (his name in Italian) would be pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX only two years after his death. This Catholic friar, who was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, earned his sainthood after  founding the Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis for catholic laymen and women. San Francesco is one of the most venerated religious figures in history and the namesake of the current Catholic Pope Francis (Papa Francesco).

St. Francis of Assisi
Religious, deacon, confessor and religious founder
1181 – 1182, Assisi, Umbria, Papal States
October 3, 1226 (aged 43–45), Assisi, Umbria, Papal States
Honored in
Roman Catholic Church,  Anglican Communion, Lutheran Church, Old Catholic Church, and New Age ecologists
July 16, 1228, Assisi, Italy by Pope Gregory IX
Major shrine
Basilica of San Francesco d' Assisi
October 4th
Tau cross, dove, birds, animals, wolf at feet, Pax et Bonum, Poor Franciscan habit, stigmata
Birds, Mammals & Reptiles; the environment; Italy; merchants; stowaways; cub scouts; San Francisco, California

The father of St. Francis, Pietro Bemardone, was a rich merchant who traveled through Italy and France, in the interests of his business. He has been represented by some as a hard, avaricious man; by others, as liberal and generous, but irascible and obstinate. The latter view seems to be the better supported.  

While Francis was working at his father's trade, he showed little liking for a merchant's career. We do know that he arrayed himself in the most costly clothes, and that it was customary for him frequently to invite his numerous friends to sumptuous banquets. At the same time he gave abundantly to his friends and to the poor. His father never thought of interfering with these habits. In fact he allowed Francis to spend money as freely as he wished. But when Francis gave up his worldly life, and resolved to follow Christ, a complete change appeared in the conduct of his father. He not only refused to cooperate in his son's good work as he had formerly encouraged him in his life of dissipation, but even disowned him and took from him the very clothes he wore.

In Francis's mother, Pica, a Provencal, according to tradition, we find a very different character. She was simple, affable, virtuous, yet at the same time energetic. She did not hesitate, in spite of Bernardone's orders, to break the chains which held Francis prisoner in a dark corner of the house. We know but little more about the parents of Francis. Yet, from what we know, we cannot help remarking certain general traits common to parents and son. We find in the latter strength of will much akin to the obstinacy of Bernardone. We also find in him the simplicity and affability of his mother, Pica. His early education was perhaps a little neglected, since the extravagant manners and princely ways of his youth were those of a spoiled child. Though he received little instruction from the priests of St. George's at Assisi, , calling himself an illiterate man, he did learn from the school of the Troubadours, who were just then making for refinement in Italy. He Specifically, he learned some Latin at the ecclesiastical school of Santo Giorgio, and also spoke some French.  Francis he was not very studious, and his literary and religious education remained rudimentary

A quick intelligence and early contact with business made up, to a certain extent, for this lack of schooling. He proved to be a "clever merchant." In this capacity he had frequent intercourse with men of different countries, and that he, like his father, traveled somewhat in Northern Italy and in Provence. Unfortunately, his early biographers confined themselves to the mere statement that he was a clever but nor really dedicated to his  merchant apprenticeship..

Some details concerning his worldly life and his early ambitions have been preserved. At the head of the young men of Assisi, he gave his time to poetry and gayety, to songs of love and pleasure, and the inhabitants of the little town wondered at the sight of his extravagant way of dressing, of the money which he spent or gave away lavishly, of the banquets to which he invited his numerous friends; and his own parents were heard to say, "Our son lives like the son of a prince."

When war was declared between Assisi and Perugia Francis, aged 20,  took up the cause of liberty, fighting with the people against oppression, against the lords. As a soldier he was brave but the Assisians were defeated.  Francis was taken prisoner and held captive for more than a year in Perugia.  He was devoted to his companions during their captivity. He contracted a low and persistent fever which appears to have turned his thoughts to the things of eternity; at least the emptiness of the life he had been leading came to him during that long illness. 

St. Francis returns from Perugia
Upon his release and his returning health rekindled his eagerness for  glory. He resolved to embrace a military career, and circumstances seemed to favor his aspirations. Walter of Brienne, a knight of Assisi was about to join "the gentle count",  who was then in arms in the Neapolitan States against the emperor.This news awakened in him the most ambitious hopes, and he decided to follow that knight. "I know," he said to his friends on leaving Assisi, "I know that I shall be a great prince." 

When he arrived at Spoleto, he had a dream. God appeared to him, and said,

"Who can do thee more good, the master or the servant?"
"The master," answered Francis.
"Why then hast thou abandoned the master for the servant, the prince for the subject? Return to Assisi, and there I will show thee what thou oughtest to do."

Francis, in his simple faith, obeyed what he believed to be the divine call, and returned to Assisi. For the last time, he consented to preside at a banquet. But, as the joyous guests paraded through the streets, dancing and singing, they saw that Francis had remained behind, motionless and plunged in deep meditation. They asked him laughingly if he thought of taking a wife.  He answered,

You speak the truth for I have resolved to espouse a wife nobler, richer, and more beautiful than all those that you know.

A new ideal had flashed before his eyes, an ideal to which he would consecrate his life. It was no longer poetry, war, or knighthood. After a short period of uncertainty he began to seek in prayer and solitude the answer to his call; he had already given up his gay attire and wasteful ways. It was a higher and more worthy ideal, the ideal of Christian poverty, of which he would henceforth be the champion. 

From the world to God, from God to poverty for the love of God, from poverty to social reform for the love of the poor of God, such were the steps in the mental process by which Francis became a reformer. He surrendered worldly ambitions to embrace the cause of God, even before his new ideal was well defined. Whether Francis had ever heard from the lips of his father returning from long voyages, or from his Provencal mother, the story of the of the orthodox Humiliati and of the heretical Waldenses and Albigenses to bring the Christian world back to apostolic poverty and simplicity, is not certain. But it is evident from the first biographies of Francis that in his early years he had a great love for the poor.

Though fond pleasure, he was moved to tears by the sight of misery, and he loved to relieve it. Once when busily engaged in his father's shop, he repulsed a beggar who asked him alms for the love of God. Immediately a feeling of remorse flashed over him. He ran after the beggar, put into his hand several pieces of money, and then took the resolution never to refuse alms to anyone who would apply to him in the name of God.  A little later, when on his way to join Gauthier de Brienne, richly attired as was his custom, he met a poor knight miserably clad. He was moved to such sympathy that he immediately divested himself of his costly garments, and forced them on the poor knight.

Francis's conversion marks an epoch in his love of poverty. From that time on, he became efforts more and more convinced that it was truly the state to which God called him; and, imitating the young knight who, for his first tournament, carefully concealed his identity until he received the laurels of victory, Francis went to Rome under the pretense of making a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostles, but in reality to try the state which he intended to embrace. He changed his rich garments for those of a poor man whom he met on the steps of St. Peter's, and representing himself as a beggar, he asked alms from those who passed. This was the apprenticeship through which he entered his new profession.

When he returned to Assisi, his determination was fixed. Poverty would be his bride, and to her he would consecrate his life. Sometime after his return, while he was praying before the Crucifix in the little church of Santo Damiano, he heard the voice of Our Lord:
Francis, do you not see that my house is falling to ruins? Go and repair my house.
Legend of St Francis, Miracle of the Crucifix  GIOTTO di Bondone(b. 1267, Vespignano, d. 1337, Firenze), Circa 1297-99: Giotto pictures Francis in a half ruined church, where the saint kneels before the painted crucifix, his arms raised in fright. This lively reaction and the perspectival structure make the events in the picture particularly vivid and intelligible. 

Francis understood these words as applied to the little chapel, which was indeed falling to ruins. He began immediately to beg and to carry stones, and to call on the passers-by to come and help him repair the house of God. But, after a time, as he told his brethren, it was revealed to him that the words of Christ applied, not so much to the material chapel which he had repaired, as to the Church which needed reform.

Shortly after hearing the voice in Santo Damiano, Francis was persecuted by his father, whom this transformation had angered. He stripped himself of his clothes in the court of the bishop of Assisi, and said,
I will return to my father even the clothes which I have received from him. Until now I have called Pietro Bernardone my father; from henceforth I will say in all truth: Our Father who art in heaven, you are my treasure and my hope
He called himself the "herald of God," and began his work of charity among the unfortunate in the leper house on  the Gubbio road.

On the 24th of February, 1209, he assisted at Mass in the church of the Portiuncula, which also he had repaired. At the Gospel, the priest read the words of Christ to His Apostles, when He sent them forth to preach the kingdom of God:
Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff.
This was a new revelation to him. He now saw his ideal of poverty more clearly and fully, and he realized that it was the ideal of the Apostles when they set out to win the world to Christ. This impression strengthened him in his determination: he left the church, threw away with horror the little money which he had received in alms, discarded his staff and his shoes, put on the rough habit of the Umbrian peasant, with a cord around his waist, and began preaching penance, evangelical perfection, and above all, peace. "May God give you peace!" was his motto, his salutation, the beginning and the end of all his exhortations and discourses.

He soon found disciples. "His language, simple, but inspired by the Holy Ghost, penetrated to the heart and to the marrow, so that those that heard him were struck with admiration." Bernardo of Quintavalle, the rich burgess of Assisi, and Pietro the canon, were the first to follow him. Though the ideal of Francis's life was already well defined, yet he wished to have a confirmation of it for the disciples who wished to join him. He said:
We shall go to church and seek in the Gospel what Our Lord has recommended to His disciples.
 According to the custom of the time, Francis opened the book of the Gospel three times at random, to know what kind of life they should adopt. The first time he read this passage of St. Matthew:
If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow me.
The second time he found these words of St. Luke:
Take nothing for your journey; neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats.
The third time he found the text of St. Matthew:
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
 Francis was overwhelmed with joy: God had given him another proof that he and his disciples must live up to the apostolic ideal of poverty in order to reform the world. He said:  
Brethren, this will be our life and our rule; it will be also the life and the rule of all those who will join our company.
Brother Egidio and a few others soon joined the little company, and Francis sent them to begin the work of reform: He said to them:  

Consider, my dear brethren, the vocation to which God has called you, not only for your own salvation, but for that of many, that we may go through the world, exhorting men by our example more than by our words to do penance for their sins, and to remember the commandments of God. Do not fear, though you be weak and ignorant, but announce penance simply, confiding in God who has conquered the world, for His Spirit will speak in you and through your mouth, and will exhort all men to be converted and to keep His commandments. You will find some men faithful, meek, and kind, who will receive you with joy and will hear your words. You will find others, and these far more numerous, who are unfaithful and proud; they will receive you with blasphemies, they will resist you and what you say to them. Take, therefore, the resolution to support everything with patience and humility. Then after some time many men will come to you, some of them noble and learned, and will go with you to preach to the kings, the princes, and the people, and many will return to God, who will multiply and increase His family in the entire world.

The preaching of the new apostles, if indeed it may be called preaching, was very simple. We are told that The man of God did not properly preach to the people, but when passing through towns and castles, simply exhorted them to love God and fear Him, and to do penance for their sins. And Brother Egidio would tell his hearers to believe Francis because he gave them excellent counsel.

The simplicity, poverty, childish joy, and enthusiasm of Francis and his followers were interpreted differently by those who saw and heard them: some thought they were drunk or insane, others admired them, were touched and joined them. There was no ceremony of initiation, no novitiate for the recruits; they gave their goods to the poor, and having put on the peasant's tunic and the cord, they went wherever Francis sent them, to preach penance and peace.

In spite of many failures and rebuffs, Francis had the most buoyant hopes for the future: the little company would accomplish its work for the reform of the world. He said to his followers:  
Be cheerful, be cheerful, and rejoice in the Lord. Let not your little number be to you a cause of sadness: God has revealed to me that He will deign to propagate throughout the world this family of which He is the Father. I would wish to be silent on what I have seen, but charity requires me to tell you. I have seen a great multitude of men coming to us, wishing to wear the habit of our company, and to follow the rule of our holy religion. The roads were filled with them. The French are coming, the Spaniards hasten to join us, the Germans and English are running, as well as an immense multitude from other countries. And even now the sounds of the footsteps of those who are coming and going where obedience calls them are ringing in my ears.
From the beginning of his work of reform, Francis had sought advice from the bishop of Assisi. The latter one day remarked that such a perfect renouncement of all earthly goods was very hard:
My lord," answered Francis, if we possessed anything, we would need arms to protect ourselves. For, from possession arise difficulties and disputes which put obstacles of all kinds to the love of God and our neighbor.This is why we wish to possess nothing in this world."
This answer pleased the bishop very much. But, as the little company increased in numbers and won success, Francis, as a most faithful son of the Church, wished to have the society approved by the Holy Father. The aim held up was the reform of the Christian world. Though approbation was not necessary at the time,' Francis thought that his great work should receive the blessing of the head of the Christian world. Having written a short rule, which has not reached us, but which his historians declare to have been composed mainly of words of the Gospel, he departed for Rome with his company, which at the- time was composed of twelve members.

He reached Rome in 1209, Innocent III being Pope. When he saw Francis and his companions, and learned their plans, he was much less enthusiastic than they. The Pope took time to consider the question before giving his approbation. Francis was by no means discouraged by this first sign of opposition. He secured the influence of the bishop of Assisi, then at Rome, and of the Cardinal of Santo Paolo, and returned to the Pope with a beautiful allegory of Lady Poverty, abandoned by the world and cherished by him and his followers. Pope Innocent was won. He gave his oral approbation:
Go in the name of the Lord, and preach penance to all as the Lord will inspire you, and when the Almighty will have increased your number, come to me again and I will do more for you and confide to you greater charges.
It was only later, in 1223, that the company was definitely approved. But, from this time, 1209, the reform movement assumed a character of its own and soon took an expansion which was little short of wonderful.

Whether Francis, in gathering around him a few disciples and in applying to Rome for the approbation of the little company, intended to found a monastic order or merely a lay association, is a matter of controversy. Perhaps the truth lies between the two extremes; and, if the fact is by no means clear in the legends of the saint and in his own words and actions, the reason may be that it was not yet clear in his own mind. As a matter of fact, either as a consequence of a reasoned plan, or by the force of circumstances, Francis founded both a monastic order and a lay association; or, to speak more correctly, he founded two monastic orders, which, later came to be called respectively the “Friars Minor" and the "Poor Clares," and the "Third Order," now known by that name and which was properly the lay association. These became for him the means by which he carried out his reform.

Saint Clare and sisters of her order, San Damiano,Assisi   --  Poor Clares were the second Franciscan Order to be established. Founded by Saints Clare of Assisi and Francis of Assisi on Palm Sunday in the year 1212, they were organized after the Order of Friars Minor (the first Order), and before the Third Order of Penance or tertiaries. As of 2013 there are over 20,000 Poor Clare nuns in over 75 countries throughout the world. They follow several different observances and are organized into federations. 

The first order included all those who, following in Francis's footsteps, were to be active workers in the field of reform. Each order had its own ideal, from which it received its character, and through which it was distinguished from others. Poverty was to be not only the favorite virtue of Francis and his first disciples, but the profession and practice of all those who joined the order. Francis made it the test of vocations to the community of the "Poor Penitents," or "Minores," as they were called later. No one could be received into the order unless he had sold his goods and given the product to the poor. He said to an applicant who had distributed his fortune to the members of his family:
Go your way, Brother Fly, you have not yet given up your home and your family; you have given your goods to your relatives and  robbed the poor; you are not worthy to become the companion of the poor of Christ. You have begun by the flesh; it is a dangerous foundation for a spiritual edifice.
Not only was every individual member bound to practice absolute poverty, but the communities themselves, and the order as a whole, were not allowed to possess anything whatever.1 It was the first religious order which, as a community, renounced the holding of property. In all other cases, though the individual religious did not possess property, the community could and did possess land, houses, and money. The "Minores," according to Francis's mind, were to own nothing beyond what satisfied the needs of the moment.

Francis's aim in demanding from his disciples’ absolute poverty was to give a lesson to the world. He believed in the force of example, and told his brethren that it was their vocation to go through the world exhorting men, rather by example than by words, to do penance for their sins and to remember the precepts of the Lord. He felt that the world could not behold this community in which the poverty of the members was equaled only by their charity and happiness, without realizing that other joys besides those supplied by fortune and power await those who seek them.

Francis was not content with mere poverty; labor and poverty were abhorred by the world, and Francis wished that his brethren, as well as the poor, should work, and thus give to the world an example of patience and happiness in poverty and labor. Preaching was naturally to be a means of propaganda; it was not the stiff, official, or scholastic preaching which was customary at that time, but rather popular appeals. The desire of Francis was that his companions, preaching to the people and for the people, in the streets or fields as well as in churches, wherever men could be gathered together, should preach from the heart, should preach peace, charity, Christian happiness, employing simple, ordinary language understood by all.

He gave his disciples the best examples of this popular preaching, when he took for his text the popular Italian proverb, "Tanto e il bene ch'io aspetto, ch'ogni pena m'e diletto;" when he spoke to the young lords after the tournaments in the castle yard, or to the peasants after having shared in their work in the fields, or to the people of Grecio assembled around the " presepio" in which lay the "Bambino."

Besides example and preaching, Francis demanded from the members of the first order the care of the lepers. In the beginning, the brethren lodged in the leper houses when on their travels through the country.8 One of the chief duties of the followers of Francis was to visit, assist and console their "Christian brethren," as he called those unfortunates. The poor, the destitute, were to be the objects of the tenderest care on the part of the brethren. They were to be welcomed at all times in the houses of the "Minores," they were to find in their company a new family, to share the alms which the brothers received or the food which they earned by the labor of their hands. Francis desired to form a community of poor men,—poor in reality and in sympathy.

This, in brief, was the character of the first order which Francis instituted for the reform of the Christian world. But not all could join the first order, nor, on the other hand, were all satisfied with merely hearing the zealous sermons and admiring the example of the brothers.

A second order, of which Clara was the first member, soon became a necessity and received a multitude of "Povere donne," who also practiced perfect poverty. But married people could not join either of these orders, and hence Francis was brought naturally, by the demands of his converts, to the idea of the Third Order. This was even more than the first an instrument of reform.

The aim of the Third Order was, of course, eminently religious; but its aim was more attainable by the multitude than that of the first and the second orders, nor did it require so active a part in the reform of the world. The rules of the first and second orders enjoined the observation of the Counsels; those of the Third Order enjoined only the observation of the Commandments. The "Minores" were to go through the world to preach to all penance and peace; the "Fratres de Poenitentia," as the members of the Third Order were called, were required to reform only themselves, and by their example, those with whom they were brought into immediate relation. But besides this religious object, there was a strong social feature in the constitution of the Third Order. The brethren were forbidden to carry offensive weapons, and to take solemn oaths; they were to contribute a monthly due to a common fund, and finally, to make their wills within three months after their admission into the order.

These four articles, considered in their relation with the needs and evils of the time, contained in germ a whole social reform. The serfs were obliged, in order to secure a protection much needed at that epoch, to take an oath of allegiance to the lord; but the lord too often abused the right thus obtained over his subjects, and forced them to take part in petty quarrels which he had with his neighbors or his vassals: the first and second articles mentioned above obviated this evil. Another right which was often used and abused by the lord was that of seizing the goods of the serfs who died intestate: hence the clause of the rule of the Third Order requiring the members to write their wills. The other article aimed perhaps still further; this monthly fee was to bind together all the members of the Third Order, and to give them the strength of union in assisting each other in case of sickness, death, or poverty; but besides, whether intended or not, it was to supply the serfs with a fund from which they could obtain means to redeem themselves from heavy services, or even to buy their freedom.

It is to be regretted that documents concerning the reform work of Francis are scarce and incomplete. His first biographers, after the manner of the Middle Ages, see in him only the saint; his reform work is touched upon only incidentally. The best sources are the archives of the places where Francis preached, or where the Franciscan influence was felt during the thirteenth century. Some work has been done on these documents. However, more remains to be done, and no doubt it will be, as the movement in Franciscan literature seems to be only in its beginning.

The first effect of the new movement was the infusion of a new spirit into the Christian world, and to this result both the first order and the Third Order contributed. Within a few years from the foundation of the first order, at the Chapter of 1219, the "Minores" numbered about 5,000, and included all classes of men, "rich and poor, nobles and villains, prudent and simple, clerics and laymen." This number alone shows how efficacious were the preaching and example of the first Franciscans. There can be no doubt that a much greater number, unable to leave the world, had been at that time converted by the brothers, and had returned to a life of penance, charity, and peace. The preamble and termination of all the exhortations of Francis and his companions was, "May the Lord give you His peace," and this peace was often the result of their efforts.

After a mission preached by Francis in Assisi the citizens of the town drew conjointly the charter which remains as a monument to the glory of the Reformer-Saint. It is said in this charter that between the " Majores" and the "Minores" of Assisi (i. e., lords and serfs) the following convention had been agreed upon: "Neither party will sign any treaty or pact with Pope, bishop, king, or any other, without the consent of the other party; they will live together in perfect harmony for the good of all," etc.

A few days before Francis's death, no longer able to preach, he converted, by a verse of poetry added to the "Cantico delle Creature" and sung by his brethren, the bishop and the mayor of Assisi, who embraced each other publicly and promised to live henceforward in peace and charity.

A letter in the archives of the city of Bologna has the following on the occasion of the passing of Francis through the town:
At the close of his sermon, he spoke only of the extinction of hatreds and of the necessity of concluding treaties of peace and union. He converted noblemen whose boundless ferocity and unrestrained cruelty had made blood flow throughout the country, and among whom many became reconciled.
What Francis did in his native town and in Bologna, he did also wherever he passed. Ascoli, Alviano, Greccio,' Perugia,* Arrezzo, and many other towns saw their inhabitants reconciled and brought back to the practice of justice and charity under the powerful influence of our reformer. The personal influence of Francis was multiplied many times by the action of his brothers, whom he sent -to the different provinces and countries to propagate the work of reform. Like Toscanella, Gubbio, Citta de Castello, Bevagna, Gaeta, in which the historians of St. Francis tell us that he not only performed miracles, but obtained numberless conversions. 

It is true, not all enjoyed the prestige of Francis, but all came from Francis, they had embraced his life, they brought his letters, his message of peace and happiness, and they were received as Francis himself. At the words of these apostles of love, men threw aside dissensions, hatreds, wars, and swore to practice the charity which Francis and his poor brothers practiced so well, that they might also participate in that joy which was characteristic of the Franciscan missionaries, and in the spiritual reward which they promised.

The work which the "Minores" began, by their preaching and example, the Third Order continued and perfected. Men were converted to a better and more Christian life by the friars, and these conversions were not only sincere, but as a rule, lasting. Some joined either the first or the second order, but the majority, obliged to remain in the world, entered the Third Order, the main object of which was precisely, to foster the Christian spirit of justice to all, of charity of the rich for the poor, and of patience and contentment in the poor themselves.

To what extent the Third Order spread, and with it this Christian spirit, which was the foundation of Francis's social reform, we learn from a contemporary letter: "The Brothers Minor and the Preaching Friars have created two confraternities, to which all, men and women, rush, so that there can hardly be found a person who does not belong to one or the other." The numerous bulls of the Popes, in favor of the members of the Third Order, point also to a wonderful development of this institution.

If Tommaso di Celano could say, in the first years of Francis's reform work, that the appearance of the country had been changed under Francis's influence, we may well imagine how, after the expansion of the movement through the activity of the first and third orders, a new spirit pervaded almost the whole Christian world, from England to Sicily, from Portugal to Hungary, and even as far as Palestine, Egypt, and Morocco.

The infusion of this practical Christian spirit, by which charity and peace were restored to the world, was certainly the main result of the reform movement originated by Francis; yet there is another result which, though more limited in extent, and beyond Francis's intention, had a great social and political importance. It is the share which the Franciscan movement had in the disappearance of the feudal system, particularly in Italy.

We have seen the social and political nature of the four articles mentioned when speaking of the rule of the Third Order: these articles, if carried out, meant to a great extent the emancipation of the serfs. That the fact eventually took place is known chiefly from the bulls of Honorius III and Gregory IX. The struggle for liberty began during Francis's very life, and continued after him.

On the 16th of December, 1221, Honorius III interfered in favor of the Tertiaries of Rimini. The people of Rimini had joined the Third Order in great numbers, thus avoiding the oath and the military service to which the lords endeavored to subject them; the Sovereign Pontiff, in virtue of the Papal authority, ordered the lords not to molest men who belonged to a confraternity the members of which professed to lead a Christian life, a life of penance.

It was like an inspiration to the rest of Italy, and a few years afterward, we learn from a contemporaneous document—the letter of Pierre des Vignes already quoted—that almost all Italy belonged to either the Franciscan or the Dominican Third Order. The lords tried by all means to retain their authority and their rights over their subjects, but to no avail.

On June 25, 1227, Gregory IX, by a new bull, solemnly approved the Third Order, and declared again that its members were not liable to feudal oaths and military service.The lords made a last effort against the movement towards liberty; they appealed to previous oaths, put a tax on those who refused military service, refused the money offered in exchange for services, and tried to make the whole corporation liable for the debts and delinquencies of individual members. Gregory IX again took the side of the people and insured them complete triumph. There were still, after that, local troubles, which he and his second successor, Innocent IV, settled in every instance in favor of the Tertiaries; but the victory had been already won; the feudal system had been sapped in its very foundation, and the Italian democracy had received a strength which was soon to render it victorious in its conflict with Frederick II of Germany.

While the Franciscan movement brought about a social revolution by the restoration of the Christian spirit and the emancipation of the serfs, it had also secondary effects which may not be overlooked. Francis's love for the poor, the sick, the lepers, has already been touched upon. This love was practical and efficient. Not only he, but all his followers, who were soon counted by thousands, and among whom were many who were noble and rich, gave up all they had to the poor. Not only did they distribute their own fortunes among them, but the product of their labor and the alms which they received also went largely to relieve the misery of the unfortunate. There is no doubt that, frequently perhaps, this relief was granted to unworthy, designing poor; yet it is evident that this displacement of wealth was on the whole beneficial.

The Third Order had also a common fund for the relief of poor members, and besides the spirit of solidarity which this institution fostered, and the good relations which it established between the rich and the poor, it practically relieved a great deal of misery, and at the same time paved the way for those beneficent "Monte di Pieta" which were organized two centuries later by the Franciscans, and particularly by the blessed Bernardino di Feltre.

Finally, the care of the sick and the lepers, most dear to Francis, was also an obligation of the Friars Minor, and was recommended to members of the Third Order.Leprosy was one of the scourges of Europe in the Middle Ages. It spread particularly at the time of the Crusades, and was at its height when Francis appeared. To the physical and moral sufferings of these unfortunates, who were condemned to a slow and painful death, were added the shame of a condition which was looked upon as typical of sin, and the complete separation from the rest of mankind. After a ceremony which resembled very much the rites for the dead, the leper was led to the lazar-house or to the solitary little hut which was to be his dwelling place for the rest of his life. Only at Eastertime was he allowed to leave this place and come to church; but even then he had to wear a special habit, he was obliged to warn passers-by of his presence by means of a rattle whose sound was abhorred by all; only wide roads were allowed to him, and he could touch nothing which was used by others.

As a rule, however, the lepers were not entirely abandoned. Their unfortunate lot excited the charity of the faithful, who rarely passed in front of their houses without dropping an offering into the wooden cup suspended before their doors, and the bishops were constituted their official protectors. Besides, a few orders arose in the twelfth century for the care of the sick, like the "Poor of Christ," founded by Robert d'Arbrissel in the diocese of Rennes, the "Brothers Hospitallers" of St. Anthony and those of the Holy Ghost, founded in the South of France. But these influences were only local and of limited scope. The work of Francis and his followers, on the contrary, was, we may say, universal. They went through all the countries of Europe, and everywhere their first care, after the preaching of the word of God, was given to the lepers. They lodged in the leper houses and there comforted and assisted these unfortunate people, washed their wounds and dispensed to them all the tender cares which their quick sympathy for all sufferers would suggest. The towns, of which they were the missionaries and reformers, were also centers around which the lepers were most numerous: hence the Franciscans became the apostles of the lepers as well as of the towns.

The members of the Third Order also were friends and protectors of the lepers. St. Louis, king of France, was accustomed to wash and dress their wounds with his own hands, and when dying, he desired that a part of his fortune should be consecrated to the building of two thousand leper houses. St. Elizabeth of Hungary and other members of the Third Order also gave immense sums for the relief of the lepers. The result of this care was evidently and it is a constant tradition that both St. Louis and St. Elizabeth belonged to the Third Order.

The wave of sympathy for these unfortunates brought about greater charity between the different social classes, and contributed largely towards that reform of the Christian world of which Francis had dreamt, and which to some extent he realized.


Thommaso Di Celano, one of the first historians of Francis, gives a detailed portrait of him which serves well as an introduction to the study of his character
Oh, how beautiful, how splendid, and how glorious was this countenance which reflected the innocence of his life, the purity of his heart, and on which could be continually read his burning love for God and for his neighbor. His was truly an angelic appearance. Sweet in his manners, he was of a tranquil nature; affable in his discourse, his exhortations were appropriate; he was faithful in his charge, foreseeing in counsel, and effective in his transactions; gracious in all, he was ever serene in mind and tender in feeling; he was constant in contemplation, prompt in pardoning, and slow to anger; gifted with a wonderful memory, he was sharp in discussion, circumspect in choice, and yet simple in all. Strict towards himself, he displayed the utmost consideration for others. Simple and eloquent in his speech, he continually spent himself in the service of others, and far from being haughty in his demeanor, he showed himself cheerful and kind to all.

In stature he was a little above the middle size; his head was round and not too large; his face was oval and his features drawn; his forehead was small and even; his eyes were of medium size, black and truthful; black hair, eyebrows straight, a nose fine, even and straight, ears erect and small, and flat temples, constituted the upper part of his countenance; his voice was vehement, sweet, clear, and sonorous; his teeth were closely set, even, and white, his lips small and thin; his slender neck was set on square shoulders, and his short arms ended in small hands with long fingers, the nails of which were projecting; his legs were slender and his feet small; his skin was thin and he was very lean; he was coarse in his attire, he slept little, and gave abundantly of the little he had; because he was most humble, he showed himself mild to all, and conforming himself to the customs of others, he surpassed the most holy in sanctity, and when among sinners considered himself as one of them.
We may rely on this picture as fairly accurate, since it was written two years after Francis's death. The minute description of his physique reminds one of the typical inhabitant of Southern Europe. The moral characteristics are those of the saint, such as he appeared towards the end of his life, when his nature had been broken into subjection by constant ascetical practices, and by the cares and worry of a founder's life. The holiness and virtues of the gentle Francis were very important factors in the influence which he exercised over his contemporaries.

One may not neglect them in any study of him. Francis is a canonized saint. The title Saint is universally applied to him, and it is as a saint that he is most securely fixed in the traditions of the Catholic Church. He was a saint before being a reformer. His love of God, and of everything which belongs to God, brought him to social reform.

Francis never separated in his own mind those two objects: God and reform; to reform God's world was for him only a way of loving God. In his youth he could not refuse an alms when it was asked him in the name of God. Love of God was the principle which inspired all his activity, hence he could not see the needs of the world which God had created and be indifferent to them.

His devotion to the person of Christ was most tender, and he had no other desire but to serve Him and bring all men to serve and love Him. He knew of no other reform but that of bringing back the Church to the purity of her first days, when she came immaculate and holy from the hands of her Founder. Hence he had taken the Apostles as models for himself and his followers. Their object was the same as that of the Apostles: the conversion of the world to the purity of Christ's ideal.

Again, Francis had the greatest horror for sin. It was for him the only evil. In the same way as he saw no other society but the Christian Church, so also he saw no social evil other than sin. Reform meant only the elimination of sin. Wars, dissensions, hatreds, violations of justice and charity, filled the world because of sin, and Francis set to work to bring peace, justice, charity, to establish the reign of virtue.

The contemporaries of Francis loved and admired his holiness. It made him the hero of the people. When he appeared in Assisi after his conversion, changed in habits, in looks, in manners, his former friends were ashamed of him, called him a fool, and threw mud and stones at him; and in the first years of his preaching, though some men admired him and his companions, and were touched by their words, others thought they were drunk or insane. Young women fled at their approach, and young men seized them by the hood and carried them on their shoulders. But the patience, humility and charity with which they met this rudeness, soon converted the hardest hearts, and it was not long before Francis became the idol of the Italian population. His travels through the country were like a triumphal march. Says Tommaso di Celano:
When he approached a town, the clergy rejoiced, the bells were rung, men exulted, women were filled with joy, children applauded; they often went to meet him in procession, threw branches and flowers on the road on which he was to pass, and received him amidst the singing of hymns and universal jubilation.
As he advanced in age, this popularity grew: "He is truly a saint, he is the friend of the Most High," they said. They esteemed themselves happy if they could only touch his garment, and sometimes the crowd around him was so dense that he could hardly proceed.

The popular belief in his power of continually performing miracles still further increased his prestige as a saint. The earliest records tell us that the birds of the air, the fishes of the sea, seemed to understand him and to love him; that fire ceased to burn at the sound of his gentle voice; that sickness, leprosy, even passion and vice, disappeared at his command. The Italians of the thirteenth century, so full of faith, so impressed by the reality of the supernatural, could not fail to be won by the man of God, and they followed him, fascinated by his holiness and power.

The student of the life of Francis should not fail to give due importance to this reputation for holiness which the saint enjoyed during his active career. The active, emotional, believing people, whose simple earnestness of faith disposed them to follow and obey those who represented God. Christ, or who showed by their lives that they lived in the presence of God, readily gave power to Francis by their willing obedience.
We may account for it as we will; historically.


1. The Emotional Man.
2. The Enthusiastic Reformer.
3. The Idealist.

Among the saints, some were inclined to sever relations with the world, and to live with God as exclusively as the limitations of life allowed. Few perhaps, have, more than Francis, lived with God and for God; at the same time, he never ceased to be interested in men. It has been said that he was the most human of all the saints. We would be tempted to add that he was the most human of all reformers. The reformer is sometimes taken up by an ideal, forgetting all else; his affections, his tastes, his sympathies for other interests disappear.

It was not so with Francis; the saint and reformer always remained the man, with all the emotions, the sympathies, the love, and the gentle feelings of the most refined human nature. Holiness did not destroy his tender affection for human nature, but rather elevated and sanctified it. His sympathies were not contracted by his reform work, as is so often the case with the modern reformer. There was nothing in the world, from the angels in heaven to the grass and rocks of the field, which was not the object of his love and admiration.

Trained by a tender mother, in a country on which nature had lavished all her riches and beauties, at a time when love and pleasure alternated with bitter rivalries and wars, and when chivalry and profane poetry had introduced a spirit of gallantry and an exquisite sensibility, the young Francis's emotional nature developed to such an' extent, that it remained unaffected by either the asceticism of the saint or the disappointments of the reformer.

The love which, from his boyhood, he had for the poor, the sympathy which he felt for the lepers from the time of his conversion, could not but increase when he consecrated himself to their service. However, he kept unto the end his love for nature, for poetry, for chivalry, and for everything which appealed to the more tender sentiments of the human soul. His heart was consumed by the passion of love. He loved God, he loved his dear poverty, his Lady Poverty, he loved men, particularly the poor, the weak, the sick, the unfortunate; but he also loved nature, irrational creatures, the birds and the fishes, the trees and the flowers, which were all his brothers and his sisters.

This love for God, and for everything which came from God, brought him to social reform. Francis saw the world from God's point of view; all was good because all came from God. "And God saw that it was good."1 Only one creature broke this beautiful harmony: man disturbed the general equilibrium. He did not return to God the praises due; he had forgotten his Creator; man was himself divided,—one nation at war against another, one class striving against another, the rich against the poor, the poor against the rich. There was no unity, no harmony, no beauty in the human world, and Francis set to work to repair the world of God and reestablish the lost harmony on the model of the Apostolic Church. As social reformer, he never ceased to be at heart a true artist, a man keenly alive to the sense of harmony, of beauty in the world; but more particularly in the world of men, in the Christian world, which he tried to bring back to its proper harmony with God the Creator.

Francis was a poet as well as an artist—he loved poetry, and favored the cultivation of its spirit in his community; he wrote it1 and used it as a means of social reform, a means which in that imaginative age often proved very effective. The sympathy of Francis for nature, his mystical contemplation of the world of God, his understanding of the harmonies of the universe, his burning love for all that came from God, could not fail to reveal themselves in poetic conceptions and poetic expressions. Tommaso di Celano tells us that he invited all beings,
 the rivers and the seas, the mountains and the valleys, men and angels, to praise their Maker, and he remained in the center of this concert like an inspired musician, summing up in his heart all the sublime harmonies, to offer them up in burning adorations to Him who is the source of all harmony and all beauty.
It was in one of these moments of poetic fervor that Francis composed the famous Canticle of Creatures:
Altissimo omnipotente bon Signore, Tue son laude. (Most High Almighty Good Lord, Yours are praise.)
Francis called himself an illiterate man, and though his humility may have exaggerated the sense of his limitations in learning, yet we know that his youth he never studied with great ardor, and that, in the first years of the -foundation of his order, he made very little of science. But we never find any such slighting opinion of poetry. On the contrary, he always cultivated it, honored poets, received them into his order with the greatest welcome, and encouraged them in the practice of their art.

We know that Brother Pacificus, the "King of verses," was a favorite friend of Francis, and that probably he retouched much of the saint's poetic compositions. Francis relied on poetry in his reform work: his brethren were to learn his poetic strains and recite them, like the troubadours and the jongleurs, on the streets, on the roads, on the public squares, to excite all to praise the Lord. "The most eloquent among them should preach to the people, and after the sermon all should sing the 'Laudes Domini' as the jongleurs of the Lord. Then after the singing of the 'Laudes,' the preacher should say to the people: 'We are the jongleurs of the Lord, and for this we wish to be rewarded by you; the reward shall be that you should do penance,'"—and St. Francis added:
What are indeed the servants of God but His jongleurs, who must raise their hearts to Him and fill them with spiritual joy.
This troubadour way of preaching the word of God could not fail to affect the souls of the romantic contemporaries of Francis.

The sentiments which he expressed in verse touched the heart and converted it in a way which directly promoted social peace. No other object was nearer to his heart. On the occasion of reconciliation between the bishop and the mayor of Assisi, he merely composed a few appropriate verses and ordered some of his brethren to go and sing in chorus, before the bishop and the officers of the town, the Canticle of the "Laudes Domini," with the addition of the new strain. Peace was immediately arranged.

The artistic and poetic nature of Francis was deeply imbued with the chivalric spirit of the time, and this feature of his character is also closely connected with his reform work and has left its imprint on the Franciscan movement of the thirteenth century. The institution of chivalry blended religion and military valor with the finest feelings of human nature. It had reached its highest development in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In Francis's time the armies of Europe and the military orders still offered to the world the example of courageous, fearless knights, ready to offer their lives for the sake of their religion and their God; but the finer feelings in chivalry, its sweet devotion to the poor, to the weak, to the widows, to the orphans, its veneration for woman, its amiable and poetic language, its courtesy,— to use a word which, derived from the manners of the feudal courts, expresses well the outward manifestation of sweet, kind, generous sentiments, had almost disappeared.

Francis was of a chivalric character before his conversion: his ambition was to become a knight, and he had not only the brave, generous self-sacrificing spirit of the ideal knight, but also his gentleness, amiability, tenderness, and sympathy for the weak, the poor, the infirm. When he entered upon the new life, he did not cease to be a true knight. He embraced the new career as a knight would espouse a great and noble cause in which his valor and generosity were to be put to severe test. His historian, Tommaso di Celano, calls him constantly, "the soldier of Christ." The conversion of the Church and the social reform which he contemplated, appeared to him as a chivalric enterprise.' His followers were his knights, or rather the knights of God. When Brother Egidio begged him to be admitted into the order: Francis answered,
Brother, you ask the Lord to receive you as His servant and His knight. This is no small favor. If the emperor were passing through Assisi, and if he were pleased to select a favorite, everyone would say, 'Pray Heaven it may be I.' How much more ought you to bless the great King of heaven for having cast His eyes upon you?
Later he was accustomed to say, in his chivalric style, that "Egidio was one of his paladins of the Round Table." In fact, this is the title which he gave to all his disciples:
These are my brothers, soldiers of the Round Table. The reward of their merits and of their works is the eternal kingdom which they have conquered by the violence of their humility, their simplicity, their prayers, and their tears.
Only with difficulty could one find a more natural or attractive combination of the religious and the chivalric spirit. To a novice who requested the permission to have a psalter, he answered again in his chivalric style:
Charles the Emperor and Roland and Oliver, and all the paladins, and all the robust heroes who were powerful on the battle-field, pursuing the heathens, sparing neither sweat nor labor, even unto death, conquered their enemies, and the holy martyrs themselves have died in the lists for Christ's faith. But now, there are many who are satisfied with reading the narration of their deeds and expect to receive honor and human praise.
His constant effort was to infuse into his disciples not only courage, but also affectionate sympathy for the weak, for the wronged, for all those who suffer—traits which had been the noblest ornament of chivalry.

He introduced into his order and into religion itself the tender human emotions, the sweet human love which, with Francis, from profane,became sanctified by being directed to the holiest and noblest objects of religion.

There was no chivalry without the "Lady"; the true knight always had his lady to whom he consecrated himself; he would go about in quest of adventures for the honor of his lady, whose beauty and perfections he wished to be known and admired by the entire world. The knight Francis could not fail to have his lady. She is the noblest, the richest, the fairest maiden whom men ever saw. But it is poverty which will be during all his life the lady of his thoughts, the lady of his heart, his spouse whom he loves above all things. For her he will go about the world and proclaim everywhere her beauty and glory. She has been neglected, forgotten, abandoned by the world; but now the world must know her again, love her and embrace her. She is all beautiful and the kings fall in love with her. To her Francis has vowed an eternal love, and it will be the first duty of his followers to love her and sing her grandeur.1 There is nothing more chivalric, more poetic, and, at the same time, more tender and sweet than the prayer of Francis in favor of Lady Poverty: "
She was in the crib, and, like a faithful squire, she remained well armed at your side during the great battle which you have waged for our redemption. In your Passion she alone has not abandoned you. Mary, your Mother, remained at the foot of the cross; but Poverty ascended with you the wood of the cross and pressed you to her bosom to the end. . . . She, attentive spouse, when you died with thirst, prepared for you the gall which you drank. You have expired in her sweet embrace  . . etc.
These same sentiments are found in all the religious and mystical poetry of Francis and his followers, in the "In foco l'amor mi mise," in the "Amor di Caritate," and many others belonging to the early Franciscan school. In all of them we see the sweetest love, the tenderest emotions of human nature as well as the refinement, the gallantry of that chivalry which, under the influence of the emotional, poetic and chivalric Francis, came then to the service of religion, and remained for a long time characteristic of the Franciscan movement, and to a great extent, of the Italian religious spirit.

Francis was a man of great ideals. He was a true and loving friend of the poor and all who suffered; he had all the chivalric sentiments of a knight. He was a poet, and in the real sense of the word, an artist. These varied powers were fused by a great enthusiasm which added immensely to his influence. This enthusiasm reveals itself from the very boyhood of Francis.

The eagerness with which he consecrated himself to the reconstruction of the church of Santo Damiano, adopted the life of the Apostles on hearing the Gospel of the Feast of St. Matthias at Santa Maria degli Angeli, preached to the people of Assisi and recruited his first companions, shows that his native enthusiasm had only increased under the influence of a higher and nobler ideal. A strong conviction had taken hold of his mind: the Church of God needed reform; he would accomplish this reform by bringing back the Church to the purity of its first days. This became the great object of his life. No difficulty could hinder him; in fact the difficulties which he met,—the tender reproaches of his mother, the severe and cruel action of his father, the jeers and scorn of his friends, the persecutions to which he and his companions were subjected during their first missionary travels, the divisions among his brethren, and later, the opposition of some of the highest members of the order,—all these, however deeply felt by his sensitive nature, did not deter him from his object. They became new incentives to redoubled efforts in the work of reform.

When we consider that the active life of St. Francis embraced only seventeen years (1209-1226), that during this short time he traveled through most European countries and through Egypt and Palestine, that he founded and directed the first order of the "Minores," the second order of the Poor Ladies, and the Third Order, in which all classes were united by a common rule and uniform life; when we recall that these

orders had, by the time of Francis's death, spread in all countries then known, and counted thousands of members in each country,—we may well be struck with astonishment at the immense activity displayed by the wonderful poor man of Assisi.

This activity, particularly during the first years of his missionary life, was accompanied by an intense and childlike joy, which sprung from his very passion for poverty and for the reform which he preached. This joy became characteristic of the Franciscan reform movement, and was one of its elements of strength. "To the devil and his followers belongs sadness, to us joy and happiness in the Lord,” he said to his brothers, and he made it a point of his rule of 1221, that they "should be careful not to show themselves sad and dejected, but rejoicing in the Lord, happy and courteous." In fact, for Francis, this joy was more than the mere external outburst of an exalted state of mind; it was a condition of success; the world cannot be reformed by sadness and melancholy, and "a joyful disposition has sometimes more influence on men than the good actions themselves; if a good action is not done fervently and joyfully, it rather causes sadness than incites to do good."
The disciples of Francis, faithful to the lessons of their master, imitated him so faithfully that Franciscan cheerfulness became proverbial. Living in a wooden house in Stinking Lane, Newgate Street, one of the most miserable and offensive quarters of London, and clinging together to warm themselves; or traveling through Germany, where the rude inhabitants with cruel levity stripped them of their clothes; or seized by the ferocious Saracens and thrown into dark cellars from which they were to go out only to be led to death,—everywhere they showed themselves to be happy and cheerful.
Egidio, one of the favorite disciples of Francis, would "kiss the grass, the stones, and other things of this kind for very joy." Poor with the poor, courteous with the rich, respectful toward ecclesiastics and princes, they made themselves all to all, adapting themselves to all circumstances, and spreading everywhere joy and contentment. People had never seen anything like these monks.
Traveling barefoot, working at the different trades and in the fields, eating with their fellow laborers, conversing with them, singing for them, begging when they had nothing to eat, and always happy and cheerful,—this was indeed a novelty in the Church, and quite a contrast with the rich, silent, and stern Benedictines, who were seldom seen outside of their monasteries. People began to realize that there is happiness outside of riches, outside of power, outside of worldly pleasures; that there is happiness in poverty, in suffering, in tears, in persecution. They had heard the Sermon on the Mount read to them perhaps—" Blessed are the poor . . . blessed are those who suffer. . . ."— but the truth of these words had never come home to them until they saw the poor Franciscans. It was a revelation to them, and a revelation which contained the germ not only of a religious but of a social reform as well.'

The emotional, enthusiastic, exalted nature of Francis indicates a great development of the imaginative faculties, which fact led some historians and psychologists to express doubt regarding his sanity. Some have made him a mere visionary, others a fanatic,' others an altruistic lunatic or a gentle fool. Indeed there was little reasoning in Francis. Emerson relates the meeting of Abul Khain, the mystic, and Abu Ali Seena, the philosopher, and tells us that on parting, the philosopher said, "All that he sees, I know," and the mystic said, "All that he knows, I see." Francis saw things more than he understood them: he saw poverty, his ideal; it was always present before his mind, like a most beautiful picture. It was not for him the result of a dogmatic or logical process, it was an intuition.

From the day when he had heard read in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli the Gospel narrative telling how the Apostles, on the counsel of Our Lord, embraced a life of poverty, to his last moments, when he wished to be put naked on the floor, in order to imitate the poverty of Our Lord dying naked on the cross, he never ceased to have his eyes fixed on this cherished ideal.
Many others have voluntarily joined the ranks of the poor of Christ; they have given their goods to the poor, in order to be poor themselves; or they have embraced religious poverty, renouncing every desire to possess the goods of this world; but for these poverty was a means, not an end. The danger in riches led some to make the sacrifice of material goods in order to protect their spiritual interests. Others have seen in this sacrifice a guarantee of humility, mortification, confidence in divine Providence. Others again have been struck by the words of Our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," and to gain the kingdom of heaven they have renounced the satisfactions of this life.
Reformers have adopted poverty as a condition, or even as a means, of social reform. By their doctrine and example they condemned the abuses caused by the possession of excessive riches, and exhorted the rich to live a simpler and more Christian life, the poor to bear with patience and even with joy the state in which Providence had placed them.

In Francis the process of mind was much simpler. It is true, for him poverty was a means of personal sanctification and of reform; but it was far more than that. It was for him what an axiom, an evident truth is for us. It was a concrete fact, always present before his mind; he saw it and loved it. He loved it for itself, not only as a means, but as an end. Regardless of its personal and social advantages, poverty was for Francis an all sufficient ideal: to contemplate, to love, to realize in himself and in others this beautiful ideal, would have been ample reward for him. For Francis poverty was not a privation, a sacrifice; but a treasure, a priceless pearl, which cannot but be cherished for its very beauty.

His mind was filled with the beauty of the ideal, rather than with the distress of actual poverty. Poverty was dear to him, no matter where it came from, or in whom it was found. His brethren were often inclined to distinguish between poor and poor, as we do to-day. But Francis did not discriminate between causes, merits, and effects in poverty. Francis was an idealist and poverty was his ideal.

The idealist, be he painter, poet, or reformer, proceeds by abstractions. The ideal which he has formed for himself may have its foundation in reality, but it is not the whole reality. All that may mar the beautiful picture is carefully left out. In fact there is no imitative art without a process of idealization. The painter who would attempt to reproduce in his landscape all details without discrimination, might well meet with failure, and the writer, if too realistic, may often offend the honest and delicate reader. The artist makes a careful selection, brings into light one order of facts or certain aspects of the reality which he wishes to represent. His ideal is not a mere fact, as found in nature, a reality pure and simple, but a fact divested of its grosser and less refined elements. Francis, an idealist, an artist, did not see poverty as we common mortals see it, caused by vice, intemperance, laziness; he did not see the poverty of the slums accompanied by filth and misery, resulting in despair, crime, suicide. In Francis's mind all these elements had unconsciously disappeared into the background. There remained one beautiful, idealized figure, the poverty embraced by Christ and His Apostles; the poverty abandoned, despised by an unchristian world, but dear to a follower of Christ and of the Apostles.

Francis did not possess a speculative mind; we find in him no taste for science and learning; he saw everything in concrete images; in the same way he pictured poverty to his imagination, as a natural living being. So also, he gave a sensible form to religion, to the Church and to everything more or less abstract. Religion for him was nothing else but Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem and his "sweet Mother Mary," and the saints. The Church appeared to him in the person of the Holy Father, the bishops and the priests. What he knew of the need of reform in the Christian world was nothing other than a keenly felt contrast between Christ and the Christian of his time; Christ poor, humble, loving, suffering; the Christian of Francis's time greedy, proud, selfish, bent on pleasure. The Apostles, by their preaching and their examples had transformed the world, and Francis saw no one who would follow the Apostles, imitate their virtues, their poverty, their zeal, and save the world.

A more philosophical mind might have minimized the evil, attributed it to circumstances which time would soon alter, studied the need of the age, tried to adapt the remedies used by Christ and the Apostles to the changed conditions of mankind. No such process takes place in Francis's mind. Christ, the Apostles, poverty, came to him as a commanding vision. Christ had said to His Apostles: "Take nothing for your journey; neither staff, nor scrip, nor money, nor bread; neither have two coats." For Francis there is  no compromise. These words of the Gospel are to be taken literally, and neither he nor his disciples will have staff or scrip or money or bread or two coats.

Many did not understand him; they derided his mode of life and his practices. Many of the most eminent men of the time opposed him. He had no eyes but for his cherished ideal, for the ideal of Christ and His Apostles; he had no ears but for the voice of God manifested to him in the Gospel and in his frequent intercourse with God. He was insensible to all else,—not only to mockery and opposition, but to honors as well.

His faculties were so much taken up with guarding his work, that purely human events made no impression upon him. Sometimes he seemed to be, as it were, unconscious of the excitement which his presence alone caused among the people. One day, toward the end of his life, as he was passing through Borgo San Sepolcro, a considerable crowd soon gathered to see him. A thousand persons touched him, pushed him, pulled him in every manner; he was insensible to all this; like an inanimate body, he saw nothing, heard nothing of what was going on around him. The travelers were already far from the town, the crowd had disappeared, when Francis, as if j descending from a better world, inquired of his companions whether they would soon reach Borgo San Sepolcro.

A mystic, an idealist, Francis was also a symbolist,—a feature of his character which may be counted as one of the factors of his success. The people of that epoch were not philosophers, but rather poets. In the thirteenth century the simple people saw nothing simply as it was; every creature was the symbol of something higher.

The imaginative Francis fully shared this characteristic of the age; for him also, all outward things had an inner symbolic meaning. He understood things best by analogies taken from the material world. The poor represented to him Christ Himself; to rebuke the poor was to rebuke Christ, and to love them was to love Christ. The doves represented purity, and he would protect them as his chaste "sisters." He could not see a lamb without thinking of the meekness and obedience of Christ On his way to the Sultan's camp, meeting two sheep, he said immediately to his companion:
"My brother, trust in the Lord. The word of the Gospel is realized in us: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.”
He would pick up carefully the letters which he found on the road, because he said they may form the name of Jesus.

It was also by symbols that Francis spoke to those around him, taught his novices and exercised his influence on the crowds. When he divested himself of his clothes before his father and the crowd which assisted at the judgment, this symbolic action made a deeper impression than a long discourse would have done.  When he ordered a brother to put a rope around his neck, and drag him half-naked to the place where criminals were executed, and to step on his prostrate form, he moved the people around him to compunction and to tears.

 Another time, seeing Brother Elia wearing a habit of a finer material than was the custom in the order, he asked him to lend him this habit. Elia did not dare to refuse, and gave it to him. Francis put it on, adjusted it carefully, and then walked around the room like a lord. Looking down on the  brothers who were there, he said with a majestic air, "God have you in His keeping, my good people;" then suddenly taking on a serious air, he threw off this habit, and said to Elia, "That is how the false brothers of our order walk." Then resuming his humble and natural gait, He said: "This is how the real Friars Minor walk."

We may well imagine how this symbolic way of acting and speaking impressed a people already inclined to see in everything the image and symbol of a great duty, of an important truth, of a supernatural fact. They had found in Francis a leader who thought like them, who understood them, and whom they understood. Not only did he put before their eyes an ideal which satisfied their longings and their best aspirations, but he presented this ideal to them in the way most calculated to make a deep and lasting impression.


1. Confidence In His Mission.
2. Personal Influence.
S. Francis As An Organizer.
4. The Catholic Reformer.

1.  A FACT which cannot fail to strike the readers of the first legends of St. Francis, is the conviction which he had of a divine mission confided to him, and the consequent firmness in maintaining the ideal by which he was to fulfil that mission and reform the Church of Christ.

Francis believed in the frequent and direct intervention of God in the affairs of this world, and had an unshaken conviction that he heard God or Christ speak to him. Since the appeal of Our Lord in the church of Santo Damiano and the subsequent revelation that the words, "Go and repair my house," applied to the house of Christ, Francis felt that he was charged with a great mission; that he had been chosen from all

others to reform the world. God sent him his first companions, and traced for the growing community their mode of life and activity. He said in his testament:
When the Lord had given me the care of my brothers, no one showed me what I should do,—but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the holy Gospel.
This conviction that his mission came from God rendered him uncompromising. He would suffer no half measures. It had been revealed to him that he and his companions in their work of reform were to live in poverty, and he would not accept a candidate who had not, from the first moment, sold all his goods and given his money to the poor; nor would he hear of a house being owned by the brethren, whatever might be the extenuating circumstances. His extreme severity in this respect can be accounted for only by the conviction that he was following an ideal assigned by God Himself.

Only once, when he gave his resignation from the office of minister-general of the order at the chapter of 1220, did he show signs of discouragement in the work which God had confided to him. The unfaithfulness of a whole party of brothers to Francis's ideal, his constant infirmities, his love of humility and obedience, were the probable causes of this action.1 We may say also that the desire to give himself entirely to his work of reform urged him to resign a function which was moreover not congenial to his nature. The office of minister general, since the wonderful development of the order, had become too absorbing. It required not only the continual presence of the minister at the headquarters, but also a great deal of routine work and constant attention to details of administration. Such a life, aside from being distasteful to a man of Francis's fiery nature, seemed to him an obstacle to the mission he had received from God. The call he heard in the church of Santo Damiano, "Go and repair my house," was still ringing in his ears: it was not to the administrative life of a ruler that God had destined him, but to the life of an apostle.

Though he was in this frame of mind, Francis did not abandon the direction of the Franciscan movement. Not only did he retain, at the request of his brethren, the title of minister general, while the acting minister bore the name of vicar-general during Francis's life, but he also continued to give to the order the general direction and proper spirit, leaving to his vicar the care of the temporal administration and of the details required by the government of so large a number of men.

In fact, he consecrated his first leisure time to the composition of the rule. The circumstances which attended his work show that Francis believed more firmly than ever in a divine mission to reform the world, and wished to maintain at all costs the ideal which he had received from Heaven. The first rule or rules which had governed the order until this time (1220) had proved insufficient.5 Controversies on different points had arisen during his trip to the Orient and had created difficulties. He immediately set to work to correct the points which were liable to be misinterpreted and to render any misconception of his ideal impossible.

The chapter on the prohibitions of the Gospel, "Nihil tuleritis in via," had been particularly attacked by some lax religious, and one of the ministers, after Francis's return, asked him what was the exact bearing of these prohibitions. Francis answered firmly:
"The sense is that the brothers must have nothing except a tunic, with a cord and drawers (femoralibus), as the rule says; and in case of necessity they may wear shoes."
The minister wished to obtain permission to keep a few books: "I will not," answered Francis, 
"I must not and I can not permit this against my conscience and the perfection of the holy Gospel which we have embraced."
Hearing that the ministers wished to have the chapter,"Nihil tuleritis,"removed from the rule, he cried out before some of his brethren:
My brothers, the ministers think that they will deceive the Lord and myself; but in order that my brothers may know that they are obliged to observe the perfection of the holy Gospel, I wish that in the beginning and in the end of the rule it should be written that the brothers are bound to observe strictly the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and, that my brethren may be inexcusable, I have always proclaimed, and I now proclaim, the things which the Lord has revealed to me, and which are necessary for my salvation and for theirs, and I will show them in my works, with the help of the Lord, and observe them as long as I live.
Later, when he had retired to a mountain with two brothers in order to write the rule that was later approved by Honorius III, some ministers went to Brother Elia, who was then vicar-general of the order, and asked him to intervene and beg Francis not to make the rule too difficult. Elia finally consented to go with them; but when they reached the place where Francis had retired and explained to him their request, he turned towards heaven and said to Christ: "Did I not say to Thee that they would not believe me?" Then, his historians tell us, they all heard the voice of Christ saying:
Francis, there is nothing in the rule which is thine, but it is all mine, and I wish the rule to be observed to the letter, to the letter, without gloss, without gloss, without gloss. I know of what human infirmity is capable and what is the power of my assistance; let those who do not wish to observe the rule leave the order.
Whether or not this supernatural intervention occurred, the fact remains that Francis did not yield, for he saw in the rule the will of God which he was commissioned to transmit to men. Honorius III, whom Francis requested to approve the rule, considered some parts too hard for human weakness, and advised him to mitigate or change some demands, and to suppress others entirely. But he was not more successful than the Cardinal of Santo Paolo and Innocent III. When Francis presented for the first time his project of life and work to Honorius, he said: 
It is not I, most blessed Father, who have put these precepts or these words in the rule, but Christ, who knows better than anyone all that is useful and necessary for the salvation of souls and of the brothers, as well as for the well-being and preservation of this order,—Christ, to whom all things which will happen in the Church and in our order are present and mam fest; therefore I must not and I cannot change or suppress altogether the words of Christ.

The mission which he had received was a specific one. He said to his brethren in a chapter:  
I do not want you to name to me any other rule the rule of St. Benedict, or of St. Augustine, or of St. Bernard, or any other way or form of life besides that which has been shown and given to me by the merciful Lord. The Lord has told me that He wished us to lead this new form of life.
The rule might not be changed any more than the Gospel itself: God was the author of it, Francis was only the instrument. Let the religious, the ministers, the Pope himself, attempt to mitigate it,—they are bound to fail.
"Woe to those brothers who oppose me in what I know firmly to be the will of God."
This question, thus raised against Francis himself during his lifetime, caused a schism in the community after his death, and led to most distressing consequences. Nothing shook the determination of Francis. He was well aware of the difficulties which the rule had already caused, and he was aware of the difficulties which it would cause, since he himself had predicted the events which were soon to take place." But he was doing that which he believed God had inspired him to do. He was accomplishing a mission received from above, and he remained inflexible.

He remained uncompromising to the end, and in his Testament, which, according to the Bull of Gregory IX, "Quo elongati," he dictated only a few days before his death, he recalled again the mission which he had received from the Most High, and the duty of all to follow the ideal which God had revealed to him:
And to my brothers, clerics and laymen, I command firmly in the name of obedience not to put any glosses on the rule or on these words, saying, It is in this way that they should be understood; but as the Lord had given me the grace to speak and to write simply and purely the rule and these words, so, also, purely and simply, you must understand them without glosses and fulfill them in holy observance unto the end.
These words had the authority of a founder and a divine legate. To add still further to the impression caused by his words, he ordered some ashes to be strewn on the floor of his cell, and then, taking off his tunic with difficulty, and assisted by his brothers, he stretched himself all naked on the floor; after a few moments of profound silence, he said to his brethren:
"I have done my work; may Christ teach you how to do yours."

2. The emotional, enthusiastic, and saintly Francis was the idol of the people. He thought like them, spoke like them, acted like them; he was for them the typical Italian, with all the characteristics, the spirit, the aspirations of the time. This was naturally a source of power for Francis. Few men of the time possessed sympathetic understanding of the people, combined with energy and influence, to equal Francis. Nothing could overcome him. His power was that of a great conviction and a great ideal: the conviction of a divine mission, the ideal of poverty. Francis believed he had seen Our Lord; he had received a mission to reform the world; and, deeply impressed with the importance and greatness of the task, he felt that he was speaking in the name of God, or rather that God Himself was speaking through him. He had taken from the Gospel, from the Divine Word, the ideal to which he had consecrated himself: it was the ideal of Christ, of the Apostles; he loved it passionately, and was eager to see it admired and loved by all those around him. In a religious and ardent mind like his, such a conviction and such an ideal were an extraordinary power,—a power which no human conviction, no human ideal could ever give; a power which no obstacle could check, and no heart resist.

In view of these circumstances, then, it is not surprising that success accompanied him everywhere. People found in him a leader who felt that he had a message to give to the world. He was in striking contrast with their bishop, whose sermons, generally cold and stiff, came from the head, rather than from the heart. Francis preached from the heart, and his words went to the heart. There was nothing formal, nothing official about these fervent appeals, made anywhere and at any time, and always with a power which suffered no resistance. Once, at the reiterated request of Cardinal Ugolino, he consented to prepare and preach a regular sermon before the Pope and the Roman Court. Francis, having ascended the pulpit, forgot all he had so carefully prepared, and was unable to say a word. He related in all simplicity and humility to the Pope and cardinals what had happened to him, and after having invoked the Holy Ghost, spoke so eloquently on a new subject that he moved all hearts and showed, says St. Bonaventure, "That it was not he, but the spirit of the Lord which was speaking."

He had nothing new to teach men: he was convinced that God had sent him to reform the Church, not to announce new truths. What he presented to them was the old Christian ideal which men had forgotten, or rather neglected. Faith was not lacking then, and it was enough to appeal to their hearts to produce an effect. Hearts were moved at the very sight of Francis: his mission, his ideal, his holiness were written on his countenance. Sometimes the inspiration did not come, and Francis had no word to say when people assembled to hear him. On such occasions he would simply bless the people, and go.1 His presence alone filled everyone with love for the man and for the ideal of which he was the perfect expression. But when to his external appearance was added the sweet but energetic sound of his voice, expressing in fiery words the deeply felt truths, the hardest hearts melted and were bent to his will.

Nor did this wonderful power of Francis stop at the conversion of men; he possessed a no less wonderful influence over those who entrusted themselves to his care and training. In the beginning of the order there was no novitiate; the candidates were immediately received into the order, and then began active work in the field of reform. Brought under the personal influence of Francis, they soon shared his convictions, and looked upon him as the man sent by the Almighty to reform the world. They accepted his ideal and loved Lady Poverty almost as much as he did. A few words from his mouth were sufficient to revive in them their early enthusiasm when it had waned. He said, in one of those few bursts of eloquence which his historians have recorded:
My brethren, we have promised great things, we have been promised greater things, let us keep our promises, let us sigh after God's promises. Short is the pleasure, the punishment is eternal. Small is the suffering, the glory will be infinite. All are called, few are chosen. To each one it shall be given according to his works.
If discouragement or trouble of any kind afflicted one of his brethren,
All the clouds were soon dispelled at the sound of his fiery eloquence, and all hearts became again serene.
This power over his disciples was still increased by the love which he had for each one of them, and by the readiness with which he discovered their needs, their desires, their temptations, and hastened to console or to help them.1 It was a power which men did not try to shun, but to which they gladly submitted, because it was full of charity, love and tenderness. It is scarcely surprising that Renan spoke as he did:
 Le grand mouvement ombrien du treizieme siecle . . . est, entre tous les essais de fondation religieuse celui qui ressemble le plus au mouvement galileen . . . Francois d'Assise (est) l'homme du monde qui par son exquise bonte, sa communion delicate, fine et tendre avec la vie universelle, a le plus ressemble a Jesus." Translation: "The great Umbrian movement of the thirteenth century ... is, among all tests religious foundation which most closely resembles the Galilean movement Francis of Assisi ... (is) the man of the world by its exquisite kindness, his communion delicate, fine and tender with universal life, is more like a Jesus. 

3. The splendid organization of the orders created by Francis, particularly of the first and third orders, if we consider it in connection with its historical circumstances, cannot fail to awaken a feeling of wonder. Compared with the powerful orders which had been the glory of the Church for centuries, the organization of the Franciscans still excites the greatest admiration. In the first order the institution of the general chapters for government, the election to the various offices without discrimination for or against members, whatsoever may have been their origin or their class before joining the order, are worthy of note. Those who ruled were called ministers by Francis, as it was intended that they should be really the servants of all. In the Third Order, the minister and members of the directory received their appointment and authority from the members. That these provisions were wise is shown in the actual success of the government of the body in each country of Europe, in the victorious resistance offered against attacks coming from the lords, and too often from the clergy, until then the ruling parties of the world.

We are naturally led to ask: To whom shall we give the credit of this extraordinary organization, which was to resist the storms of centuries? Some claim that Francis was not only a born leader but also a sagacious administrator, almost a statesman; or, at least, that he himself organized the Franciscan orders and directed the movement in the beginning of the thirteenth century.

Others have attributed to the Church the organization and direction of these orders, but they affirm at the same time that the intervention of the Church took place against Francis's will, thwarted his plans of reform, and largely impeded the beneficial results of the movement. The truth seems to be between these extremes. Francis did not possess the talent of organization; and, when he realized the need of organization, he not only allowed, but even begged, the Church to supply what was lacking in himself.

Francis was indeed a leader of men in the sense that he was full of enthusiasm and had the power to communicate his enthusiasm to others. The wonderful success of his orders, which revolutionized a large part of Europe in the beginning of the thirteenth century, is proof sufficient of his popular power. But this does not necessarily imply power of organization. The organizer must possess a clear view of the end to be attained, of its relations, resources and resistance, the adaptation of means; as also power of execution, keen appreciation of the circumstances of time and place, and good judgment of men in whom to trust. The leader must be able not only to convince, to infuse his enthusiasm into others, but also to govern them, to restrain them when over-confident, to incite them when relaxing, to maintain order and discipline.

Peter the Hermit and St. Bernard stirred up the people, and raised an enthusiasm which has perhaps rarely been equaled; but they lacked the power of organization, and they failed in their crusades. Pierre Waldo was an enthusiast, but the movement which he started soon degenerated into heresy and revolt; he lacked the practical talent to discipline men. The ardent and stubborn Luther started the movement of the Reformation, but it took the genius of Calvin to give it some theological coherence and firmer organization.

Francis originated a great movement, and filled with enthusiasm all those around him. But he lacked the practical talent of organization. He was the originator of the Franciscan movement of the thirteenth century; but the Church put order and discipline into the movement, and directed it in its mission. Francis, before his conversion, was only a clever thirteenth-century merchant and a pleasure-seeking young man.

His reform movement, once inaugurated, was to embrace the whole world; yet he was conscious of no fear; wise in temporal affairs, he became foolish in God's service. It is true "That which appeareth foolish of God is wiser than men," and that many of the methods of Francis, foolish in our eyes, obtained for him a success of which, humanly speaking, they gave no promise. However, judging Francis here as we would judge any social reformer, we must incline to the view that he did not possess the talent of organization, the practical sense of a good administrator.

Before going to Rome to apply for the approbation of the Pope, Francis wrote a rule for his first companions. This rule is lost; but we know it was only a collection of Gospel maxims and counsels, arranged under a few headings, and supplemented by a few directions.' The idea of Francis was to make Christ Himself the rule: Christ's words would be the words of the rule, which thus would carry in itself its own sanction. Yet the advisability of composing the rule of life of a developing community from Gospel texts, which are generally of difficult interpretation, is not beyond question. In fact, in his subsequent rules, Francis omitted more and more the quotations from the Gospel and reduced the evangelical maxims to more precise formulas.

As soon as Francis had gathered a few companions, he sent them out to preach penance and peace. No one knew where they were to go; they were sent out "into the four parts of the world." Abandoning themselves to luck, or rather, to the inspirations of God, as they believed, they traveled without any fixed itinerary. They did not, and should not, trouble themselves about food or shelter. Francis had said to each one of them: "My brother, leave all cares to God; He will provide for your needs." He had appointed to them no time for returning from their apostolic mission. When he wished to see them again, he prayed to God that He might inspire them with the idea of coming back to St. Mary of the Angels. There was indeed faith, but scarcely human prudence, in such a course of action.

So far no urgent need for a strong organization had been felt. The little company counted only a few members, who had all the fervor of youth, and if trouble or discouragement harassed any one, Francis always had the right word and the right remedy.

But, in course of time, the number of his followers increased; they became popular, and new postulants arrived every day. Stronger organization was necessary, as well as stronger discipline. Francis had become almost unconsciously the head of a numerous and promiscuous crowd. Lords and serfs, merchants and craftsmen, brigands and saints, poets and lawyers, priests and laymen, beggars and chevaliers had joined the order by the hundreds: it required a firm and skillful hand to govern and direct such an assemblage.

Yet, at this very moment, Francis meditated an apostolic mission to the Orient. His enthusiasm carried the day, and he actually left for the East. It is true he confided the government of the order to Pietro di Catania, a doctor in law, and well informed in this branch. But it seems little in conformity with the rules of human prudence for a founder to abandon his order to strange hands at the very time of its greatest development, when there was the greatest need to give to the young company the proper spirit and the proper direction. This was in 1213, four years after the foundation, and Francis left then for a distant country, hoping perhaps to meet there the death of a martyr.

Contrary winds through the ship on the coast of Ulyria. After some days' delay, Francis, seeing that there was no hope of reaching the Orient, returned to Assisi. But again the love of apostolic labors and the desire of martyrdom got the better of him, and he departed for Morocco. He did not go beyond Spain, returning on account of sickness.

It was nearly a year since he had left Santa Maria degli Angeli. During that time, and under the administration of Pietro di Catania, a large stone house had been erected by the people of Assisi for the new order. Francis was deeply affected by an action which marked a departure from his spirit and from the direction which he wished to give the new order.2 It seems that he should have profited by the lesson and understood the necessity of his presence and of his immediate direction. Yet, soon after the chapter of Pentecost of the same year (1215) he departed again, this time for France. When he reached Florence, Cardinal Ugolino, who understood better the needs of the rising order, prevailed upon him not to leave Italy at a time when his presence was so necessary. Francis, always respectful towards the prelates of the Church, having remained some time in Florence to treat with the cardinal concerning the interests of the order, finally returned to Assisi.

New disappointments awaited him there, which were in great part the consequences of faults of administration. The brothers whom he had sent to the four corners of the world, animated with the same enthusiasm which filled him, were now returning by little bands, disheartened. Neither they nor Francis had foreseen all the difficulties of a mission in foreign countries: being ignorant of the language, they were not understood, nor could they understand; their strange manners excited not edification, but ridicule.2 No one had foreseen that the source of their success in Italy, simplicity, poverty, childlike manners, might be a cause of failure in other countries, when not adapted to the changed circumstances. The missionaries were taken for heretics, as they had not even letters to prove their orthodoxy.

Francis understood then the necessity of a strong hand to guide the order, and recognized his own inability to discipline and direct it. He began to think there were too many Friars Minor: "Oh, if it were possible," he said, "that the world, seeing the Brothers only very seldom, should wonder at their little number."

He saw in a dream a hen which tried in vain to shelter under her wings her too numerous progeny, and immediately applying the vision to himself, he exclaimed: "Therefore, I will go and confide to the holy Roman Church my little chickens (pullos meos) whom I can no longer protect." In compliance with his request, a Cardinal Protector was appointed, whose office it was, according to Francis, "to govern, protect and correct the order."

Perhaps Francis relied too much on the Cardinal Protector for the work of administration. On the occasion of the general chapter in 1219, relying on the goodness of divine Providence, he neglected to make provision for the support of 5,000 brothers present. Immediately thereafter, Francis, carried away by his enthusiasm, left for Egypt. It was a fault which he soon recognized. The rumor spread in Italy that Francis was dead: it was the signal for disorder. A chapter was convoked in which, contrary to custom, only part of the brethren participated. They decreed some changes in the rule, particularly the introduction of fast days, which was contrary to Francis's spirit. At the same time, Brother Philippo had obtained from Rome several privileges for the Order of the Poor Ladies, and also modifications in their rule, all of which was against the spirit of Francis. Again, Giovanni di Capella, one of the first companions of the saint, had already taken steps to found a new order in which the lepers themselves would be admitted, and the rule had been presented to the Pope for approbation. Francis returned to Italy and endeavored to suppress the innovations. The spirit of change had crept in, however, and from it developed a tendency entirely opposed to the views of Francis. The division of the order into two branches, the Spirituals and the Conventuals, traces its origin here. Francis never ceased to protest against the new spirit, but he was not powerful enough to hinder it from spreading.

After his return from Egypt he resigned as minister-general, and appointed Pietro di Catania to fill this office. Pietro belonged to the first disciples of Francis, and represented his spirit well: but he died the following year (1221). Francis appointed the famous Elia di Cortona minister-general. He was greatly deceived in his judgment of this man, who lost no time in opposing St. Francis's ideal and modifying the work of the order, and finally gave the scandal of revolt and apostasy.

From that time till his death, in 1224, Francis took little share in the administration of the order, though he never again left Italy. He remained chiefly at Santa Maria degli Angeli, and continued until the last to protest against the innovations made. The situation was beyond his control. Not even the vigorous attempt made in his Testament to recall the ideal for which the order had come into existence, availed to prevent the crisis that came soon after his death.

It is said the curia was largely responsible for the difficulties which arose during Francis's absence in 1219. Cardinal Ugolino had been protector of the order for some time, hence he could not be a stranger to the different changes then taking place in the first order and in the Order of the Poor Ladies. We know in fact that he was to a certain extent responsible for these changes.  It is probable also that, after the death of Pietro di Catania, Cardinal Ugolino had something to do with the appointment of Brother Elia as vicar-general, for Francis would not have taken such an important step without the advice of the Cardinal Protector; we know alsc from the Cardinal's own words that when Elia was reappointed after Francis's death, it was through his instrumentality. So it would be unfair to lay all the blame of the first appointment on Francis.

The ecclesiastical advisers and protectors of the movement may have committed faults as well as Francis. Yet we must, at the same time, give them credit for what they did in favor of the Franciscan movement. Undoubtedly, they had in this movement a share greater than is generally supposed. The young and emotional Francis had awakened enthusiasm and inaugurated the work; but the representatives of the experience and the old traditional wisdom of the Church, in which reason, cautious and provident, rather than imagination and youth, ruled, lent to it consistency and order.

But before developing this thought, we may draw a few conclusions suggested by the facts related in this section. Francis did not possess talent for organization. It was no easy task to maintain order among sc many men and to direct them towards such a  high ideal as he had set up for them. The absence of the qualities which would have been needed in such circumstances, appears as the natural consequence of the idealistic, mystic, emotional, and enthusiastic character of Francis; the talent of administration required reason rather than imagination, reflection and prudence wore than enthusiasm.

Francis was a man of strong faith. He relied for success not on human methods, but exclusively on Providence; and he recommended to his disciples not to care for the morrow, but to trust in God. The supernatural played an important part in St. Francis's life; and he certainly thought that faith, love of Christ, trust in the Creator and Provider of all, availed more than any efforts of men.
Francis could not see the logic of a course combining human with divine wisdom. An attempt to assure through human means the preservation and success of his order, would have been, in his eyes, a crime. Keeping this in mind, we cannot wonder that Francis cared little for a form of organization which would have made his order too much like those already existing, and that he had recourse to it by necessity and not by choice.

It must not be forgotten that it is largely the contrast with older orders, the simplicity of the first Franciscans, the absence of all formality, and of everything having a tendency to attract respect more than popularity, which explain the earlier success of the movement. But this very success made organization necessary. Without it, there was no possibility of keeping within the right bounds, and directing, a large number of men, and a stronger hand than that of Francis became a necessity. Moreover, Francis's plan of reform contemplated mainly the reform of the individual. He aimed at the individual, and only through the individual at society and the Christian Church. His order, as he intended it, was simply a collection of men carrying into practice as perfectly as possible the principles of the Gospel. Believing in the reform of the individual as the only means of reforming society, he depended on the influence of man on man to obtain the end in view. Hence, the thought of an order acting on society was far from his mind. He saw only the poor Friar, in his poor clothes and his simplicity, converting the peasant and the lord, the artisan and the merchant, and all his efforts were directed to the training of good Friars. Though he had a great personal power over individuals, when they became too numerous, and personal influence on them became impossible, difficulties arose. Then the need of organization was felt. Organization was not a part of Francis's ideal, nor of his plans for the reform of the Christian world. The Church, at the demand of Francis, intervened and brought to the movement order and method, and thus insured the success of the Franciscan movement.

4. It would be beside the present purpose to go at length into the question of the relations between Francis and the Church. The works of Sabatier and Thode have given rise to an immense amount of literature on this subject. A short review of these relations will demonstrate two points connected with the character of Francis as a reformer: that Francis was before all a most devoted son of the Catholic Church; and that the Church supplied largely, in the Franciscan movement, what Francis lacked— method and system.

Francis, educated by a Catholic mother in the very center of Catholicism, remained all his life a most faithful subject of the Catholic Church. Any impartial reader of the first legends of the saint, whether written by the Spirituals or by the partisans of Brother Elia, will find at every step new proofs of this perfect and sincere submission of Francis to the Church, which he called lovingly "his Mother," and to her ministers, in whom he saw the representatives of God on earth.

Before he embraced the apostolic life he made a pilgrimage to Rome, the center of Catholicism, and there bestowed a generous offering on the tomb of the Apostles. It was in Rome, too, that he put on for the first time the habit of a beggar and took his place among the poor that crowded the porch of St. Peter's to solicit the alms of the pilgrims. On his return to Assisi it was to the bishop that he confided the inspirations which he had received from God and his plans for the future.'

As soon as he had gathered a few companions, he said to them: "I see, my brethren, that God in His mercy wishes to increase our company. Let us therefore go to our Mother, the holy Roman Church, and announce to the Sovereign Pontiff what the Lord has begun to do through us, that we may achieve what we have undertaken according to His will and by His command."1 This step was the more remarkable, as there was then no law obliging the religious orders to solicit a formal approbation from Rome.

During all his life, Francis never took any important step in his reform movement without first asking the approval of the Church. When he wished to sail for Egypt he first went to Rome and begged Innocent III to bless his enterprise. He humbly submitted to the counsels of Cardinal Ugolino when the latter opposed his trip to France; and it was in order to practice better this absolute submission to the Church, that he asked the Sovereign Pontiff to appoint a protector of the order who would represent the Church.

Pope Innocent III has a dream of St. Francis of Assisi supporting the tilting church attributed to Giotto 

He frequently recommended submission not only to the Sovereign Pontiff and the Cardinal Protector of the order, but also to all bishops and priests. His brethren were obliged to ask the approval of the ordinary of any place where they were about to establish a convent, or to preach.' Their object was to assist the clergy in their work, but this they were to do in all humility. They should respect even the poorest  priests as their masters.

In his definitive rule he recommended to them that they should always be "submissive and subject to the holy Roman Church, prostrate at her feet, and steadfast in the Catholic faith."

Nor did this love of Francis for the Church and her ministers ever decrease, for, a few days before his death he wrote in his Testament:
"The Lord gave me, and gives me, on account of their order, so great a faith in priests who tive according to the rules of the holy Roman Church, that, even if they persecuted me, I would have recourse to them . . . however poor they may be, I would not preach against their will. I wish to fear, love, and honor them, and all others as my lords, and I will not consider sin in them, because I see in them the Son of God and because they are my masters. . . ."'

Sentiments more Catholic could not be expressed, and to pretend to see in Francis anything but a most strictly Catholic reformer would be a gross historical error. Francis's language and conduct in this respect cannot leave room for the slightest doubt. Nor is this conduct a mere expression of the ideas or customs of the time: most of the reformers in St. Francis's time acted not only without the approbation of the Church, but in direct opposition to her.

The Franciscan reform movement, on the contrary, was the joint work of Francis and the Church,—Francis contributing the enthusiasm, the Church giving method and order; Francis offering to the depraved world an ideal, the Church reducing this ideal to practice.

The first official act of the Church in connection with the movement of reform contemplated by Francis, took place when he went to Rome with his first companions to ask the approbation of his rule and his enterprise. The hesitation of Innocent III has been interpreted by most non-Catholic historians as the first obstruction thrown by the Church in the way of the Franciscan movement. Yet his hesitation seems not only justified by the circumstances, but suggested by a consummate prudence, and later developments have shown how wise was the conduct of the Pontiff: "My sons," he had said to Francis and his companions,
.. the life which you wish to lead seems to be very hard and rigorous. Your fervor, I know, is so great that I cannot doubt your perseverance. But we must also think about those who will come after you, and we must be careful not to impose on them obligations which they would not be able to carry.
 It seems as if the experienced Pontiff had foreseen the troubles which were to arise from the difficulties of Francis's ideal and rule, and we can only admire his wisdom, if, delaying to a further time the official approval of the order, he wished to see first how this ideal would work in practice. The Cardinal of Santo Paolo assisted Francis in these first negotiations, and gave him important advice concerning the direction of the order. Later, this counsel was given by Cardinal Ugolino at the demand of Francis. 
"Without the Cardinal of Santo Paolo," says the Abbe Le Monnier,' " the order of the Friars Minor would perhaps never have come into existence; but undoubtedly, it would never have developed and would have hardly subsisted without Cardinal Ugolino."
The Cardinal acted wisely in opposing Francis's trip to France at a time when his presence was so much needed at headquarters. Again, the Protector of the order was present at the chapter of the Mats, in 1219, and took an active part in the deliberations. The brethren sent to foreign countries had, as we have seen, failed in their efforts. He obtained for them from the Pope official letters addressed "To the Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, Deans, Archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical Superiors," to all of whom the brethren were recommended as good Catholics, and members of an order approved by the Church. By this means many misunderstandings were avoided which had been the greatest cause of failure until then."

At the chapter of St. Michael, the next year, a Papal brief was read enjoining on all the guardians of the order not to admit anyone to profession until after one year's probation; and, after profession, no one was allowed to leave the order. This was a wise precaution, as, until then, all sorts of characters had been received into the order, with little or no probation,—a process which in the beginning had been successful, thanks to the personal influence of Francis and the fervor of the little band whose life was a continual novitiate. But the increase of the order demanded a more careful selection and preparation of subjects, and the measure enjoining this came from Rome most likely on Ugolino's suggestion.

That Cardinal Ugolino had also an important share in the preparation and approbation of the definitive rule, we know from his own words in the Bull "Quo elongati," which he wrote when Pope under the name of Gregory IX.

But if it is through the Third Order that the Franciscan reform movement became popular, and produced its most practical results, it is also there that we see most clearly the influence of the Church. Until lately, the origin of the Third Order was almost unknown. The first biographers of the saint, who mention its existence only incidentally, did not offer any precise information on its origin. The rule printed among the works of St. Francis was evidently not the original one, but was the rule approved by Nicholas IV in 1289.

In the "Liber de Laudibus Beati Francisci," written by Bernardo da Bessa, companion or secretary of St. Bonaventure, and edited for the first time in 1897, we read the following, which shows well the share of Ugolino in the organization of the Third Order, and needs no commentary:
"In the composing of the rules and form of life of these (Brothers of the Third Order), the Lord Pope Gregory of holy memory, then constituted in a lower dignity (when cardinal) and bound by ties of intimate friendship with Blessed Francis, supplied devoutly what the holy man lacked in the science of redaction."
Again, in the history of the Third Order by Mariano di Fiorenza (who belongs, it is true, to the sixteenth century, but who had, according to P. Sabatier, the advantage of working on documents which have not come down to us), we find this testimony, which confirms the information given by Bernardo da Bessa:
"After having prayed and being filled with the divine spirit, assisted by the counsels and help of the Lord Cardinal Ugolino, Cardinal of Ostia, who was later Pope Gregory IX, he (Francis) composed and wrote a short form of life (for the Third Order) in fourteen chapters. . . St. Francis remained with the Cardinal for the composition of this rule and told him what the spirit suggested to him, and the Cardinal wrote with his own hands and added a few things."

These words tell us what were the respective roles of the Church and of Francis in the creation of the Third Order, and in the reform movement which followed. When Pope Gregory IX protected the serfs against their lords by declaring the members of the Third Order free from oath and military service and entitled to all the privileges of religious, he was only carrying out a policy which he had carefully laid out with his friend Francis; the latter suggested, while he himself tested, corrected and approved, and we may well believe the historian of St. Francis when he wrote: 
Beatus pater (Franciscus) necessaria providebat, sed felix Dominus (Cardinalis) ilia provisa effectui mancipabat.

By: Stanley Yavneh Klos
Edited By: Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph.D.

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