Franciscan Spirit Blog

St. Francis, Poet

The spirituality of St. Francis is not so much about the heroic deed as it is about the heroic love with which even the smallest deed is done. That is very clear from the quintessential story of Perfect Joy. 

It is not what Francis and Leo endure from the abusive brother that counts. It is, as Francis says to Leo, when we bear such abuse and suffering, “remembering the sufferings of Christ, the Blessed One, and how He taught us to bear all things for love of Him, then write down, Brother Leo, ‘This is perfect joy.’”


The following are from or about St. Francis.

Let your discourse be brief, because the Lord’s words were few when he was on earth.
—Rule of 1223, Chapter IX

And after the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what to do; but the Most High revealed to me that I was to live according to the Gospel. And I had it written down in brief, simple words, and the Lord Pope confirmed it for me. And those who came to receive this life gave everything they had to the poor; and they were happy with one tunic patched inside and out, and with a cord and breeches. And we had no desire for anything else.
The Testament of St. Francis

To all Christians: religious, clerics, and lay people, men and women; to all who inhabit the whole world, Brother Francis, your servant and subject, offers the homage of reverence, true peace from heaven, and sincere love in the Lord. Since I am everyone’s servant, I am bound to serve and minister to everyone the fragrant words of my Lord
—Letter to All the Faithful, Second Version.

At one time St. Francis struggled within himself whether he should live a life of contemplation or the life of a preacher. He shared his struggle with the brothers close to him saying: In prayer we talk to God and listen to him, and we walk with the angels. But in preaching, we have to descend to the human and live among others as one of them, thinking and seeing and hearing and speaking only on the human level. But, in favor of preaching, there is one argument which seems to count more than all the rest in God’s eyes and it is this: the only-begotten Son of God, who is Infinite Wisdom, descended from the Father’s embrace to save souls. He renewed the world by his own example, bringing the word of salvation among human beings. The price of this salvation was his Precious Blood, which washes us clean, and is a fortifying drink.

He kept nothing for himself, but generously gave his all for our salvation. We then are bound to act always according to the model which we see shining in him as on a high mountain. Therefore it seems more in accord with God’s will that I leave the repose of contemplation and go out into the world to work.

All-powerful, eternal, just, and merciful God, grant that we poor creatures might do, by your grace, what we know you want us to do, and to want always what is pleasing to you, so that interiorly cleansed and enlightened, and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, we might follow the footsteps of your Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by your grace alone come to you, O Most High, you who live and reign glorified in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, God Almighty, forever and ever. Amen.
—Letter to the Whole Order

I admonish you and encourage you in Christ to show all possible reverence for the written words of God wherever you may find them; and if you come upon God’s words, and you see that they are not being cared for or are piled up sloppily or are scattered about, gather them up and care for them, for in honoring the words, you honor the Lord who spoke them.
—Letter to the Whole Order

Receiving the stigmata of Christ was an experience akin to a divine anointing of the good knight. The Lord whom he was late to love has now sealed Francis with his own wounds, a symbol of Francis’s identification with the Poor Crucified Christ. It was on Mount La Verna that Francis was moved to sing the mantra-like song of the lover, a litany of love and praise:

You are holy, Lord,
God alone, You
who work marvels.
You are strong,
You are grand.
You are most high.
You are the Almighty King,
You, O Holy Father,
King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one,
the Lord God of gods;
You are the Good,
every good,
the highest good,
the Lord God, living and true.
You are love, charity.
You are wisdom.
You are humility.
You are patience.
You are beauty.
You are safety.
You are rest.
You are joy and gladness.
You are our hope.
You are our justice.
You are temperance.
You are all our treasure overflowing.
You are beauty.
You are meekness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our strength.
You are refreshment.
You are our hope.
You are our faith.
You are our charity.
You are our total delight.
You are our eternal life,
great and wondrous Lord,
God All-Powerful,
merciful Savior!


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