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The Writings Of St Francis Of Assisi



This short anthology of the writings of St. Francis includes a wide sampling of his writings. Of general interest here is the transcendent Canticle of the Sun, a prayer which lucidly describes a universe alive with joy, and praises 'Brother Sun...Sister Moon...Mother Earth'.




The Writings of st Francis of Assisi



The literary materials for the history of St. Francis are more than usually copious and authentic. There are indeed few if any medieval lives more thoroughly documented. We have in the first place the saint's own writings. These are not voluminous and were never written with a view to setting forth his ideas systematically, yet they bear the stamp of his personality and are marked by the same unvarying features of his preaching. A few leading thoughts taken "from the words of the Lord" seemed to him all sufficing, and these he repeats again and again, adapting them to the needs of the different persons whom he addresses. Short, simple, and informal, Francis's writings breathe the unstudied love of the Gospel and enforce the same practical morality, while they abound in allegories and personification and reveal an intimate interweaving of Biblical phraseology.


Not all the saint's writings have come down to us, and not a few of these formerly attributed to him are now with greater likelihood ascribed to others. The extant and authentic opuscula of Francis comprise, besides the rule of the Friars Minor and some fragments of the other Seraphic legislation, several letters, including one addressed "to all the Christians who dwell in the whole world," a series of spiritual counsels addressed to his disciples, the "Laudes Creaturarum" or "Canticle of the Sun", and some lesser praises, an Office of the Passion compiled for his own use, and few other orisons which show us Francis even as Celano saw him, "not so much a man's praying as prayer itself".


In addition to the saint's writings the sources of the history of Francis include a number of early papal bulls and some other diplomatic documents, as they are called, bearing upon his life and work. Then come the biographies properly so called. These include the lives written 1229-1247 by Thomas of Celano, one of Francis's followers; a joint narrative of his life compiled by Leo, Rufinus, and Angelus, intimate companions of the saint, in 1246; and the celebrated legend of St. Bonaventure, which appeared about 1263; besides a somewhat more polemic legend called the "Speculum Perfectionis", attributed to Brother Leo, the state of which is a matter of controversy. There are also several important thirteenth-century chronicles of the order, like those of Jordan, Eccleston, and Bernard of Besse, and not a few later works, such as the "Chronica XXIV. Generalium" and the "Liber de Conformitate", which are in some sort a continuation of them. It is upon these works that all the later biographies of Francis's life are based.


Recent years have witnessed a truly remarkable upgrowth of interest in the life and work of St. Francis, more especially among non-Catholics, and Assisi has become in consequence the goal of a new race of pilgrims. This interest, for the most part literary and academic, is centered mainly in the study of the primitive documents relating to the saint's history and the beginnings of the Franciscan Order. Although inaugurated some years earlier, this movement received its greatest impulse from the publication in 1894 of Paul Sabatier's "Vie de S. François", a work which was almost simultaneously crowned by the French Academy and place upon the Index. In spite of the author's entire lack of sympathy with the saint's religious standpoint, his biography of Francis bespeaks vast erudition, deep research, and rare critical insight, and it has opened up a new era in the study of Franciscan resources. To further this study an International Society of Franciscan Studies was founded at Assisi in 1902, the aim of which is to collect a complete library of works on Franciscan history and to compile a catalogue of scattered Franciscan manuscripts; several periodicals, devoted to Franciscan documents and discussions exclusively, have moreover been established in different countries. Although a large literature has grown up around the figure of the Poverello within a short time, nothing new of essential value has been added to what was already known of the saint. The energetic research work of recent years has resulted in the recovery of several important early texts, and has called forth many really fine critical studies dealing with the sources, but the most welcome feature of the modern interest in Franciscan origins has been the careful re-editing and translating of Francis's own writings and of nearly all the contemporary manuscript authorities bearing on his life. Not a few of the controverted questions connected therewith are of considerable import, even to those not especially students of the Franciscan legend, but they could not be made intelligible within the limits of the present article. It must suffice, moreover, to indicate only some of the chief works on the life of St. Francis.


The writings of St. Francis have been published in "Opuscula S. P. Francisci Assisiensis" (Quaracchi, 1904); Böhmer, "Analekten zur Geschichte des Franciscus von Assisi" (Tübingen, 1904); U. d'Alençon, "Les Opuscules de S. François d' Assise" (Paris, 1905); Robinson, "The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi" (Philadelphia, 1906).


.mw-parser-output .dropinitialfloat:left;text-indent:0.mw-parser-output .dropinitial .dropinitial-flfloat:left;position:relative;vertical-align:top;line-height:1.mw-parser-output .dropinitial .dropinitial-initialfloat:left;line-height:1em;text-indent:0 The opuscule which St. Francis called his Testament is a precious document of the highest authority. Renan forsooth denied its authenticity, but rashly, for, as M. Sabatier rightly remarks,[1] this is not to be questioned.[2] The Testament corresponds throughout with the other writings of St. Francis, and moreover reveals his character and spirit in every line. But we are not reduced to internal proofs for its genuinity. All the historians, including Thomas of Celano,[3] and St. Bonaventure,[4] mention it,[5] while Gregory IX cites it textually in his bull Quo elongati of September 28, 1230. We know from this bull that the Saint's Testament was published a few days only before his death.[6] Everything seems to point to its having been written at the hermitage of the Celle near Cortona, during St. Francis' last visit there (summer of 1226), though some think it was dictated to Angelo Tancredi, one of the Three Companions, in the little hut nearest the Portiuncula which served as an infirmary and in which St. Francis died.


St. Francis lives faithfully to a popular ecology that involves the relationship between humanity and other creatures. Although, he certainly loved nature, Francis never used the term natura but instead chose biblical terms and ideas that he found particularly in the psalms and canticles of the bible which he prayed daily. Such prayer together with his interaction in the world informed his vision of creation. By us getting to know St. Francis himself - through his writings and the early stories about him - we discover his extraordinary relationship with all creatures inspired by scripture and learn how we ourselves might relate to nature and the world in a new way; how to relate to God's creation as members of God's family.


Some writings of St. Francis referring to creatures: The Canticle of the Creatures, The Letter to the Faithful, Exhortation to the Praise of God, A Salutation of the Virtues. Some stories relating how St. Francis viewed creatures: Christmas Crib enacted by St. Francis, Our brother & sister creatures, St. Francis' love for the birds, St. Francis and the lambs, Feeding animals and birds to celebrate Christmas, How St. Francis addressed a rabbit as brother, St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio.


There are many editions of the writings of St. Francis, and biographies about him, but here in one volume are both, plus the complete text of the late medieval work, The Little Flowers, which did more to establish the legend of the man than any other work.


With hundreds of visitors the writer recently visited St. Anne de Beaupré, twenty miles out from Quebec, Canada, where over 150,000 pilgrims annually seek physical health or spiritual help at the noted French Catholic church. An onlooker is thrilled by the implicit faith of the pilgrims in the efficacy of the water bottled from the fountain at Beaupré and the life-giving power of relics in the hands of officiating priests, which relics the devotees devoutly kiss, seeking succor of some kind. The same uncritical spirit held even greater sway in the days of St. Francis, and is to the present day in evidence in the writings on Francis and other saints by Goerres, Edward Vogt, Montalembert, de Malan, Cotelle, M. Bihl, Beissel, Gassenmeyr, and others.


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