Excursus of the Testament 1-3

Doing penance and showing mercy

Before moving on to Pietro Maranesi’s critical reading of the Testament of St Francis verses 4-13 it would be helpful to explore further in verses 1-3 of the Testament Francis’ understanding of “doing penance” and “showing mercy”. Insight into this is offered by the treatment by

Pietro Messa in Le Fonti Patristiche negli Scritti di Francesco di Assisi, (Portiuncula Edition, Assisi, 2006).

What is provided below is a detailed summary of the sections from pages 216-219; 236-264.

These pages of Messa help to demonstrate that this crucial experience at the beginning of the Christian conversion of Francis of Assisi as remembered by him towards the end of his life in his Testament is proffered a language and a theology by way of the Liturgy of the Hours to articulate succinctly the penance of showing mercy to the lepers. In the rhythm of the liturgical year, Francis, praying with the brothers, can continually ‘reread’ this primordial event in the light of the tradition, culture and language provided by the Fathers of the Church.

(Prepared in English by Gary Devery OFM Cap)

Table of Contents

The Fathers proffer a language: Testamentum 1-3

Francis and his first brothers underwent a gradual formation in theological and patristic culture assisted by the recitation in common of the Breviary of Innocent III. The breviary was composed by a priest of the Papal Court between the years 1212-1216, during the pontificate of Innocent III. Francis and his friars become protagonists of the liturgical reforms of Innocent III. The Breviary of Saint Francis, composed for private recitation, is in direct connection to that of Breviary of Innocent III.[1] It is through this lens of the reforms of Innocent III that Francis is regularly exposed to the patristic sources and their interpretation of the scriptures.

This patristic influence is manifested clearly in Chapter VII of the 1221 Rule. This influence of patristic thought, mediated by the liturgy and the monastic world, was through the contribution of actual quotations:

All the brothers should apply themselves to good works tirelessly, for it is written: “Always be doing some good work so that the devil finds you busy” [Jerome, Letter 124, 11]. And again: “Idleness is the enemy of the soul” [Rule of Saint Benedict, 48]. Thus the servants of God should always be busy praying or doing some good work.

Even if it is to be supposed that Cesario da Spira, assisting Francis, was the primary constructor of the paragraph, the thought of Francis remains consistent if it is compared to the 1223 Rule and the 1226 Testament:



Et fratres, qui sciunt laborare, laborent et eandem artem exerceant, quam noverint, si non fuerit contra salute animae et honeste poterit operari.

And the brothers who know how to work should work. And they should exercise the same skill which they (already) know, provided it is not contrary to the salvation of their souls and can be honestly pursued.

Et pro labore possint recipere omnia necessaria praeter pecuniam.

And for their work they can accept all that they need, except money.

Omnes fratres student bonis operibus insudare, quia scriptum est: Semper facito aliquid boni, ut te diabolus inveniat occupatum. Et iterum: OTIOSITAS INIMICA EST ANIMAE. Ideo servi Dei semper ORATIONI vel alicui bonae operationi insistere debent.

All the brothers should apply themselves to good works tirelessly, for it is written: Always be doing some good work so that the devil finds you busy. And again: IDLENESS IS THE ENEMY OF THE SOUL. Thus the servants of God should always be busy PRAYING or doing some good work. 

Et cum necesse fuerit, vadant pro eleemosynis sicut alii pauperes.

And when it becomes necessary, they should go seek alms like the other brothers.

1223 Rule

V. VI,2

Fratres illi, quibus gratiam dedit Dominus laborandi, laborent fideliter et devote, et hoc humiliter, sicut decet servos Dei et pauperatis sanctissimae sectatores.

Those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working may work faithfully and devotedly … and let them do this humbly as is becoming for servants of God and followers of most holy poverty.

De mercede vero laboris pro se et suis fratribus corporis necessaria recipient praeter denarious vel pecuniam,

In payment for their work they may receive whatever is necessary for the bodily support of themselves and their brothers, excepting coin or money.

Ita quod, excluso OTIO ANIMAE INIMICO, sanctae ORATIONIS et devotionis spiritum non exstinguant, cui debent cetera temporalia deservire.

So that, while avoiding IDLENESS, THE ENEMY OF THE SOUL, they do not extinguish the Spirit of holy PRAYER and devotion to which all temporal things must contribute.

Et tanquam peregrini et adventae in hoc saeculo… vadant pro eleemosyna confidenter…

As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, let them go seeking alms with confidence…

1226 Testament


Et ego manibus meis laborabam, et volo laborare; et omnes alil fratres firmiter volo, quod laborent de laboritio quod pertinent ad honestatem.

And I worked with my hands, and I still desire to work; and I earnestly desire all brothers to give themselves to honest work.

Qui nesciunt, discant, non propter cuiditatem recipiendi pretium laboris,

Let those who do not know how to work learn, not from desire to receive wages,

Sed propter exemplum et repellendam OTIOSITATEM.

but for example and to avoid IDLENESS.

Et quando non daretur nobis pretium laboris, recurrramus ad mensam Domini, petendo eleemosynam ostiatim.

And when we are not paid for our work, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door.

Coming from the patristic tradition, of the likes of Gregory the Great, Jerome and Benedict, is a spirituality of work whose finality is primarily moral. It is tied to the way in which to live out life on the practical level.[2]

In other writings of Francis this same influence cannot be grasped as clearly as the above with actual citations from the patristic sources. It can only be sought by considering assonances in the language and ideas expressed. It is not possible to indicate certain and sure sources of a particular thought expressed by the Saint, but it is possible to discern them from the cultural, spiritual, and theological context in which they were born. If this is true for any of his writings, it is much more so for the Testament, which is the work in which Francis expresses himself through the cultural accumulates he acquired throughout his life.

1.1 The Testament: Francis’ “rereading” of his experience

The Testament has a fundamental importance in knowing the Christian experience of Francis of Assisi. It contains decisive words and thoughts by which to understand his whole experience; it is the “sacred history of a conversion and a choice of life”.[3]

In the first part of the Testament, which could be defined as an historical-narrative, Francis describes the main events of the beginning of his Christian experience and of the minoritic fraternity. It is certainly not a purely chronological description, but a “rereading” that Francis makes of his own past in the light of subsequent experiences, a self-awareness of his Christian proposal in which the smallest term, wisely weighed, has a very precise meaning.[4] Using ideas and concepts learnt subsequently,[5] he narrates to himself and formulates for others the experience of his beginnings. His Testament, as autobiography is as much a rewriting of a life as is biography.[6]

As shown by what we have already said about the evolution of the liturgy within the minoritic fraternity and Francis’ contributions to the culture, it is possible to say that in the Testament he retraces the initial experience, rereading it, however, in the light of his later reflection, that is, as an “experiencing anew the initial experience”, “revisiting” what was decisive in his choice of life.[7]

This category of “re-experiencing” and “rereading” is valid for the entire first part of the Testament, but especially for the first three verses, which narrate the episode that began Francis’ penitential life.

1.2 Analysis of Testamentum 1-3

The first three verses of the Testament describe the incipit of a personal history that will soon become communal, unexpectedly taking on ever greater dimensions:

Dominus ita dedit mihi fratri Francisco incipere faciendi poenitentiam: quia, cum essem in peccatis, nimis mihi videbatur amarum videre leprosos. Et ipse Dominus conduxit me inter illos et feci misericordiam cum illis. Et recedente me ab ipsis, id quod videbatur mihi amarum, conversum fuit mihi in dulcedinem animi et corporis; et postea parum steti et exivi de saeculo.[8]

Our attempt will be to try to understand these few lines of the Testament in the light of certain patristic readings contained in the Ordinary of Innocent III. These will be simple juxtapositions relevant to a thematic similarity and demonstrating how Francis, consciously or unconsciously, drew from a religious tradition, which gave him not only a particular worldview, but also a language.

As J. Leclercq says about the comparison of Benedict with Francis, it is not on the basis of some text that a judgement can be made, but by penetrating through the context into the mindsets of St. Benedict and St. Francis and their respective cultures.[9]

2.2.1 Lepra in cordibus – in peccatis[10]

At Matins of feria VI in the octave of Pentecost, the readings consist of a homily by Ambrose taken from the Expositio in Lucam.[11]

Commenting on the healing of the paralytic and the murmuring of the Jews (cf. Lk 5:16, 18-26), Ambrose states that “sacerdos magnus lepram videbat in cordibus Iudaeorum; ostendit eos peiores esse leproso”.[12] Thus, according to the Bishop of Milan, there is a leprosy in the hearts of the Jews worse than the disease itself. This leprosy also ‘contaminat alios’[13] and it consists in unbelief, which leads to fear and calumny: ‘Nam si credidissent, non timuissent [….] quia non diligebant, calumniabantur’.[14] Opposed to this fear, which leads to calumny, is love: “dilectio timorem excludit foras”.[15]

Some aspects of Ambrose’s homily are present in Francis’ Testament: he describes himself ‘in peccatis’,[16] in which it was ‘amarum videre leprosos’.[17] The sight of lepers was bitter to him and therefore fearsome. Yet, Francis says “feci misericordiam”[18] and the fear of bitterness was converted into “dulcedo”.[19] This was the beginning of ‘facere poenitentiam’,[20] that is, of purifying what Ambrose called ‘lepra in cordibus’.[21]

To Francis it was bitter “videre leprosos”,[22] but the Lord led him among them and he “fecit misericordiam”[23] to them.

The same theme addressed by Ambrose is also present in a homily by Origen, which constitutes the Matins reading on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany.[24] Commenting on the prayer of a man who asks Jesus to be healed (Mt 8:1-4), Origen makes the leper exclaim: “Voluisti ut haec immundissima lepra super me veniret, sive propter mea peccata, ut correptus poenituissem; sive propter tuam prudentiam, ut mirabiliter me mundans magnificeris”.[25]

As for Ambrose, for Origen leprosy is linked to sins and is like an external sign of what is going on in the heart of the person. The sinner’s request to be healed is directly linked to the leper’s request to be cleansed.

The same terms ‘conversion from sin’, ‘lepers’, ‘penance’ are found in Francis of Assisi’s Testament, who does not, however, speculate, by referring to patristic exegesis, on the moral meaning of leprosy, but grasps lepers in their dramatic existential reality, so that seeing them is bitter to him.

Like Ambrose and Origen, Francis also relates penance to lepers, but far from an allegorisation and a symbolic interpretation,[26] places it within the human and social drama, and conversion occurs precisely in approaching this reality.[27]

2.2.2 Dulcedo intus et foris – dulcedo animi et corporis[28]

The notion that love is capable of transforming a- bitterness into sweetness was a common heritage of the Middle Ages, as evidenced by its use in troubadour and chivalric language. But, for Francis’ interpretation of it in the Testament, I believe one must refer above all to the patristic sources contained in the Breviary, which he certainly used, rather than to those of chivalric novels.[29] An influence from the preaching of the time and an Augustinian influence, regarding the theme of the bitterness of sin and the sweetness of mercy, in Francis’ text, has already been hypothesised: thus D. Vorreux affirms that the expressions of the Testament recall the spiritual experience described by Augustine.[30]

Lent is, par excellence, the period of penance, in which the faithful are called to conversion. The Matins readings on the first days of Lent are intended to explain the meaning of works of penance; in this context, on the First Sunday, we read a sermon attributed to Augustine, but is actually the work of Maximus of Turin.[31]

In it, the author explains in an allegorical way the episode from the book of Exodus of the bitter waters turned sweet by Moses’ staff (cf. Ex 15:22-25). The bitter waters are the Old Testament law not yet reclaimed by the “refrigerio misericordiae”.[32] Bitterness is immediately transformed into sweetness only where it is touched by the “lignum evangelicae passionis”.[33] The bitterness of the law is tempered by grace. Maximus of Turin concludes his homily by stating:

Amara enim est legis littera sine crucis mysterio, de qua ait Apostolus: Littera occidit (1Cor 3). At ubi passionis illi sacramenta junguntur omnis ejus spiritualiter amaritudo conditur; et de ea dicit Apostolus: Spiritus autem vivificat.[34]

For him the law is bitter and only the mercy of the gospel turns it into sweetness. If you stick to the letter/law there is a bitterness that kills, while the Spirit that vivifies is the mercy that gives sweetness.

Francis, in the Testament, states that the transition from bitterness to sweetness in seeing lepers is only possible through ‘facere misericordiam’.[35] Without it, the sight of lepers is bitter and unbearable.

For Francis, therefore, there is a bitterness that can only be transformed into sweetness if it passes through mercy, which becomes the discriminator between what kills and what vivifies. For him, as he states in Adm VII, study is also ambivalent: it kills if it is motivated by the greed to know and to have, it vivifies if the ultimate goal is the edification of others, the example. In fact, in Adm VII, quoting St Paul himself, the Saint states that ‘littera occidit, spiritus autem viviticat[36] (2 Cor 3:6) and comments that those who use study only to distinguish and enrich themselves are killed by the letter, while those who put into practice what they understand are vivified.[37]

The same theme of sweetness and bitterness can be found in a Homilia in Evangelia[38] by Gregory the Great, contained in the thunderstorm to The Sunday after Pentecost.

Commenting on the parable of the banquet, narrated in Lk 14:16-24, Gregory begins by emphasising the “carnalium et spiritualium deliciarum differentia[39]“. He distinguishes a “cibus vitae”[40] that to the palate of the heart is “dulcedo”,[41] which has been lost by man “cum in paradiso peccavit”[42]. He has now departed from it and “tantoque se amplius fastidii nostri morbus exaggerat, quanto magis ab esu illius dulcedinis animus elongat”[43]. And since “gustare intus nolumus paratam dulcedinem, amamus foris miseri famem nostram”[44]. Thus, sin prevented “gustare intus dulcedinem”[45], but it also made it so that there was only “fames nostra”[46] outside.

Recounting his conversio, Francis says that when he was in sin it was “amarum”[47] for him to see lepers, but after having used mercy with them “id quod videbatur mihi amarum, conversum fuit mihi in dulcedinem animi et corporis”[48]. The saint can taste dulcedo[49] not only in the soul, but also in the body.[50] At the end of his Testament, Francis confirms “intus et foris istam sanctissimam benedictionem”.[51] The pair “anima et corpus” is replaced by “intus et foris”;[52] both, however, indicate an appreciation not only of the interiority of the soul, but also of the exteriority of the body.[53]

It was precisely the experience of “facere misericordiam”[54] to the leper that made Francis taste the “dulcedo animi et corporis”[55], to the point of pushing him to “exire de saeculo”[56]. Gregory the Great, in his sermon, states that the admonition to “contemptus seculi”[57] is to invite “ad coenam Domini”[58], where “magnae sunt deliciae”[59]. Francis tastes the “dulcedo”[60] of “cibus vitae”[61] when “fecit misericordiam”[62], and before this experience he cannot but “exire de saeculo”[63] to participate in what Gregory calls “ad coenam Domini”[64], where there are “magnae deliciae”[65] in “facere misericordiam”[66].

Also taken from Gregory the Great’s Homiliae in Evangelia, it is one of the readings of the Commune of Saints ‘in natali Virginum’.[67]

Taking his cue from the parable of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish, waiting for the bridegroom, Gregory exclaims: “O si sapere in cordis palato possit, quid admirationis habet quod dicitur: Venit sponsus? Quid dulcedinis: Intraverunt cum eo ad nuptias; quid amaritudinis: Et clausa est janua?”.[68]

In this passage the bitter/sweet pair is found again, but connected to the reception of the Bridegroom. Francis also speaks of Jesus, the Bridegroom of the soul, in the Epistle ad fideles;[69] but in the Testament the bitter/sweet is still applied to the reception of the leper, not to that of the Bridegroom. Mercy, whether used or not with lepers, becomes the discriminator of bitter or sweet. We can say that, for Francis, the bridegroom to welcome, to wait upon in order to show mercy, is the leper. The welcoming of God is no longer that of a powerful, glorious and overpowering God who can be contemplated at the end of a difficult ascent beyond human relationships and almost outside the body,[70] but that of the God/man who can be encountered within the historical and social coordinates of the Incarnation. Contextually, it can be affirmed that the lepers, to whom the Saint uses mercy is the Bridegroom, whose sight is bitter for those who are “in peccatis”[71], but gives “dulcedo animi et corporis”[72] if they are received with mercy.

2.2.3 Dilectio proximi, dilectio Dei[73]

In the communal age, the charitable dimension was very much alive, especially among the laity, and was motivated by the conviction that the poor are a figure of Christ and a privileged means of access to God.[74] This conviction is founded in the Gospel, but was developed in the thought of the Fathers, whose reflection also found its way into the Breviary of Innocent III.

The Common of Saints begins with the celebration “in natali Apostolorum”, which has, as its second morning reading, a sermon by Gregory the Great,[75] taken from the Homiliae in Evangelia.[76]

Commenting on 1 Jn 4:20, Gregory thus admonishes the faithful: “Diligamus ergo proximum, fratres, amemus eum, qui juxta nos est, ut pervenire valeamus ad amorem illius, qui super nos est. Meditetur mens in proximo, quod exhibeat Deo, ut perfecte mereatur in Deo gaudere cum proximo”.[77]

Gregory states that love of neighbour is the way to be able to love God. Interestingly, the invitation is to love the one who “juxta nos est”[78], just like lepers, who were part of medieval society and whom Francis used to see, so much so that he said it was “amarum videre leprosos”.[79]

Gregory the Great maintains that love of neighbour is the way to ‘perfecte in Deo gaudere cum proximo’[80] and, in his Testament, Francis affirms the same reality when he says that ‘facere misericordiam’[81] led him to ‘dulcedo animi et corporis’[82].

Similar considerations to those of Gregory the Great are contained in Augustine’s sermon, taken from the Tractatus in Johannem and inserted as the second reading ‘in natali Apostolorum’.[83]

Augustine, commenting on the commandment of love in John 15:12, states that “nemo autem potest desperare qui diligit. Itaque ubi dilectio est, ibi necessario fides et spes; et ubi dilectio proximi, ibi necessario etiam dilectio Dei’.[84] For the Bishop of Hippo, love of neighbour leads to love of God and the two aspects cannot be separated. This concept soon became the heritage of the entire Church, and those who read Augustine’s sermon found formulated what had by then become a commonly acquired reality.

All this also passed into Francis’ spiritual and cultural accumulate as is witnessed at the beginning of the Testament: in speaking of his conversion as a passage from being “in peccatis”[85] to “exire de saeculo”;[86] he is narrating his conversion to God, yet he states that it all consisted in “facere misericordiam”[87] to the lepers. Love of neighbour led him to love of God.

Francis’ reading of the encounter with the lepers fits within the evangelical commandment of love, but also within the cultural, theological and spiritual heritage of the Middle Ages. In fact, the evangelical commandment of mutual love had been the subject of patristic reflection which, especially through the Liturgical Office, had become a common heritage.

Francis’ characteristic lies in having given this neighbour, who ‘juxta nos est’[88], a historical, concrete, social name; in having identified him with the lepers, thus emerging from a historical indeterminacy to which an overly allegorising reading of the Gospel often led.[89]

2.2.4 Facere poenitentiam – facere misericordiam[90]

In Francis’ writing, ‘facere poenitentiam’[91] and ‘facere misericordiam’[92] are one and the same. The first expression acquires its concreteness in the second, thus making mercy the focal and basic point of the Saint’s experience.[93] Here too, Francis inserts himself in and makes use, more or less consciously, of a patristic reflection on one of the central themes of the Gospel.

In one of the readings of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, taken from Gregory the Great’s Homiliae in Evangelia,[94] commenting on John the Baptist’s invitation to penance (Lk 3:11), the Roman Bishop states that “ad fructus poenitentiae pertinent opera misericordiae”[95]. Following the Gospel invitation, he maintains that “ipsa valde nobis necessaria dividere cum proximis debeamus”[96]. Gregory particularly emphasises that “inter haec autem sciendum est, quantum misericordiae opera valeant, cum ad fructus dignos poenitentiae ipsa prae ceteris praecipiuntur”.[97]

In his sermon, he inextricably links the ‘fructus poenitentiae’[98] with the ‘opera misericordiae’:[99] above all the works of penance directed towards conversion, the main one is mercy, love of neighbour.

Francis too, in the Testament, links penance to mercy: for him the “facere poenitentiam”[100] has no other meaning than “facere misericordiam”[101] to lepers. He himself, at the beginning of chapter XXII of the Regola non bollata, in describing an ‘itinerary of conversion’, recalls the Gospel commandment of love for one’s enemies.[102] It is precisely love for the forgotten neighbour, for the enemy, that becomes the place for sincere conversion: in Adm XXVII, which deals with the virtues as opposed to the vices, the counterpart of ‘superfluitas’[103] is not ‘paupertas’[104], but ‘misericordia’.[105] Paraphrasing Gregory’s statement, it can be said that for Francis “ad facere penitentiam pertinet facere misericordiam”[106].

The formulation “facere misericordiam”[107] is an expression present in the Gospel, both in the canticle of Zechariah: “Ad faciendam misericordiam cum patribus nostris, et memorari testamenti sui sancti”,[108] and in the answer given to Jesus, indicating who his neighbour is, in Lk 10:37: “At ille dixit: Qui fecit misericordiam in illum”.[109]

This expression contained in a homily by Augustine in the Tractatus in lohannem,[110] found in the Ordinary of Innocent III on the feast of Saint Lawrence the Martyr, describes an important aspect of Christian action.

Commenting on chapters 12-13 of the Gospel according to John, Augustine recalls 1 John 2:6, adding the following consideration: “Debet etiam, si porrigit esurienti panem, de misericordia facere, non de iactantia”.[111] The text emphasises the importance of the inner motivations that drive one to do a certain work: these must arise from the will to “misericordiam facere”[112]. According to Augustine, he who is driven by such motivation “Christo ministrat”, “minister est Christi usque ad illud opus magnae caritatis, quod est animam suam pro fratribus ponere”[113].

If in Tractatus 51, the saintly Bishop of Hippo uses the wording ‘misericordiam facere’[114] to emphasise the importance of the inner dispositions that substantiate a given attitude, in Tractatus 14 he uses the formulation ‘facere misericordiam’[115] to speak of God’s work towards sinful man. In fact, he states: ‘Si ergo venit ille, dimittere homini peccata, agnoscat homo humilitatem suam, et Deus faciat misericordiam suam’.[116] Man’s acknowledgement of sins is accompanied by the manifestation of God’s mercy.

In his commentary on John’s Gospel, Augustine uses the formulation ‘facere misericordiam’[117] only twice, namely: to name God’s work towards man’s sin and to indicate the disposition of mind that must motivate the believer in doing good. The man who acts with kindness towards his neighbour does so in a righteous manner if he participates in God’s own disposition of mind. We can say that for Augustine, ‘facere misericordiam’[118] towards one’s neighbour is really participating in God’s ‘facere misericordiam’[119] towards sinful man.

In the Testament, Francis describes the beginning of his ‘facere poenitentiam’[120] as stemming solely from his ‘facere misericordiam’[121] to the lepers; however, he does not pause to describe what this merciful care for the least of his time consisted of: it does not seem to be important. The biographers, on the other hand, in their efforts to narrate the story of the Saint, pause to describe the number of lepers, the circumstance, the gestures.[122] In the writings of Francis this whole set of details is absent;[123] the description of the event touches only on the motivation: the “facere misericordiam”.[124] In the works of Francis there is a constant, not to say increasing, attention to the interior motivations of action, to the contrast between “quaerere religionem et sanctitatem in interiori spiritu”[125] and “quaerere religionem et sanctitatem foris apparentem hominibus”.[126] Even poverty has value not in itself, but in terms of the motivations for which it is embraced[127] and the brothers must beware of wanting to “recipere gloriam et honorem”[128], not by doing, but by “reciting”.[129]

Attention to the inner motivations that move one to act and their consideration in the evaluation of the meaning, value and truth of every choice, was a characteristic of the religious life of the 11th and 12th centuries and Francis certainly absorbed these ideas.[130] What R. Paciocco hypothesises, that is, that Francis drew from a common cultural and spiritual heritage, after a careful analysis of the writings and religious context of the time, finds greater foundation when considering the text of Augustine, which Francis certainly knew.[131]

In the Lectiones of the Matins of the Ordinary of Innocent III, as far as I have been able to verify, the formula “misericordiam facere”[132] appears only in the above-mentioned homily of Augustine; such exclusivity and concordance with the formula used by Francis leads us to affirm that the passage from the Treatise of the Bishop of Hippo on the Gospel of John can help us better understand not only the language used by Francis, but also his slow deepening of the path of authentic adherence to “Christum sequi”[133].

This homily by Augustine is the only reading in the Breviary that contains the formula “facere misericordiam”[134] and, as mentioned above, in his Treatise on the Gospel of John, the Bishop of Hippo uses this expression only twice: once referring to God and once referring to man.[135] Considering, moreover, that in some medieval texts this expression is used to describe a profound inner disposition to forgive,[136] it is more than plausible to argue that in the Testament it describes Francis’ state of mind when working for the good of the lepers; this disposition towards his neighbour is the same as God’s disposition towards sinful man. Through a lexical analysis of Francis’ writings, it can be seen that he never employs the term “imitari/imitatio”[137], but the verb “sequi”[138]: what is proposed therefore is not a literal imitation of the example of Jesus, but a conformity lived in fidelity to his Spirit, to his deepest mystery.[139] Now such conformity is concretised in ‘facere misericordiam’. Using mercy with lepers for Francis meant, then, his entering into the dynamism of God’s love for man,[140] his participation in His merciful action. This attitude he recommends to the brothers, especially to the superiors when they have to deal with the brothers.[141]

To convert to God corresponds to ‘facere misericordiam’[142] to one’s brothers and sisters, especially to lepers. Augustine states that he who serves animated by mercy ‘Christo ministrat’[143], and the ‘opus magnae caritatis’[144] is to give his life for his friends.[145]

For Francis, the “vera latitia”[146] is “habere patientiam”[147] before the misunderstandings of the brothers, who are now “tot et tales”.[148] The “habere patientiam”[149] is therefore that “opus magnae caritatis”[150] that Augustine describes, the pinnacle of “facere misericordiam”[151]. And if this leads to sweetness of mind and body, its perfection leads to “vera laetitia”[152].

Augustine concludes his itinerary of mercy by stating that “sic ministrantem Christo honorificabit Pater eius, honore illo magno, ut sit cum Filio eius, nec unquam deficiat felicitas eius”.[153] For the Bishop of Hippo, the “facere misericordiam”[154] leads to being received by the Father “ut sit cum Filio eius”[155], that is, to the very mystery of the Trinity. This is the same itinerary of Francis, who always contemplates Jesus in Trinitarian relationship; indeed, it can be said that the centre of his attention is God “qui in Trinitate perfecta et Unitate simplici”[156] for ever and ever.[157]

2.2.5 Misericordia donum Dei est[158]

In De gratia et libero arbitrio, Augustine states that faith ‘Dei donum est’.[159] This passage is contained in the Matins reading of the commemoration of St Paul, 30 June.[160] Augustine categorically reaffirms that faith is a gift from God and that God’s mercy is directed towards man not so that he is already faithful, but to make him so.

Francis, speaking of his conversion, begins by affirming the primacy of God’s action: ‘Dominus ita dedit mihi…’.[161] Thus, it is not the saint’s ‘facere misericordiam’[162] that provokes the divine goodness, but it is the benevolence, the mercy of the Lord that leads Francis to show mercy to the lepers. The account is indeed centred on his conversion, but Francis refers everything back to the origin, to God himself.

For Augustine, faith is a gift from God, for Francis, the use of mercy ‘Dei donum est’[163]. We could well put the following statement on Francis’ lips: ‘Misericordiam consecutus sum ut facerem misericordiam’[164].

2.3 From the Christian experience of Francis to the interpretation of the biographers: from facere misericordiam to contemnere se ipsum[165]

The completed analysis of the first verses of the Testament has provided us with the opportunity to grasp, in the light of various texts, the language and concepts familiar to Francis, and his revisiting – at the end of his life – the beginnings of his Christian story. At that moment, he, also drawing, more or less consciously, from the previous patristic reflection transmitted by the liturgy, reaffirms that the specific of his vocation is the “facere misericordiam”[166] (as well as the choice of marginalisation, as F. Accrocca and G. Miccoli[167] argue that one is a consequence of the other).

For Francis, ‘facere poenitentiam’[168] has become ‘facere misericordiam’[169] in an interpersonal perspective.[170] He expresses the specifics of his own experience by ‘combining’, in a new way, two expressions coming from his previous linguistic heritage, but which did not appear to be combined.[171]

The ‘facere misericordiam’[172], however, before being an external or social attitude, has an inner value, manifesting itself externally in the precise historical-social context, linked to the marginalised situation of the lepers. In the light of what has emerged from the comparison between St Francis’ Testament and Augustine’s patristic reading commenting on the Gospel of John, we can affirm that the “facere misericordiam”[173] to which Francis refers has a spiritual, and therefore theological, dimension and is addressed to a concrete historical reality such as that of the lepers.

Nevertheless, Francis’ biographers – even the most recent ones – have not always considered the “facere misericordiam”[174] as the key to interpreting his gesture, placing it rather in the perspective of the Saint’s humbling himself, his lowering of himself, his search for poverty and marginalisation. Postponing a more in-depth analysis to a future study, the following comparison of different sources will be able to show the change of perspective in the consideration of Francis’ gesture:

Testamentum 2 Et ipse Dominus conduxit me inter illos et feci

And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed

Tommaso da Celano,

Vita prima 17,1-5

Deinde vero totius humilitatis sanctus amator se transtulit ad leprosos… sicut ipse in Testamento suo loquitur dicens:

“… et Dominus conduxit me inter illos, et feci misericordiam cum ellis”.

Exinde quoque coiepit seipsum magis c magis contemnere, quousque […] ad perfectam suimet vitoriam perveniret.

Then the holy lover of profound humility moved to the lepers and stayed with them… just as he said in his Testament:

“… and the Lord led me among them and I showed mercy to them.”

He then began to despise himself more and more, until by the mercy of the Redeemer, he came to complete victory over himself.

Giuliano da Spira,

Vita S. Francisci 12,1.7

Post hec humilis sui contemptor et iam se ab hominibus contemnens ad leprosos se transtulit.

After this, humbled by himself and already despised by men, he transferred himself to the lepers.

Thomas of Celano, Legenda ad usum chori 3.7 Interea plus ac magis se sibi vilescens, transfert se ad leprosos, et quot ante valde despexerat, omni

diligentia colit;…

Meanwhile, despising himself more and more, he transfers himself to the lepers, and those whom he had greatly despised before, he now cultivated with all diligence…

Tommaso da Celano,

Vita secunda 9,7-10

“Francisce”, inquit illi Deus in spiritu,”… contemne te ipsum…” … ne tamen velut mandati transgressor datae fidei frangeret sacramentum, ad deosculandum leprosum, equo lapsus accurrit…

“Francis,” God said to him in spirit, “… despise yourself…” …but not wanting to transgress God’s command and break the sacrament a of His word, he dismounted from his horse and ran to kiss him…


Legenda maior I,5,2

Recurrens autem ad perfectionis mente iam conceptae propositum et recolens, quod se ipsum oporteret primum devincere, si vellet effici Christi miles, ad deoscolandum leprosum equo lapsus accurrit.

Recalling the plan of perfection he had already conceived in his mind, and remembering that he must first conquer himself if he wanted to become a knight of Christ, he dismounted from his horse and ran to kiss him.


Legenda maior I,6,1-2

Induit ex tunc spiritum paupertatis…

… propter Christum crucifixum, qui juxta verbum propheticum contemptibilis ut leprosus apparuit, ut

semetipsum plene contemnere, humilitatis et humanitatis obsequia leprosis beneficia pietate prestabat…

From then on he clothed himself with a spirit of poverty,…

… because of Christ crucified, who according to the text of the prophet appeared despised as a leper, he, in order to despise himself completely, showed deeds of humility and humanity to lepers with a gentle piety.


Legenda maior II,6,3

Exinde totius humilitatis amator se trastulit ad leprosos eratque cum seis dilgentissime serviens omnibus propter Deum.

From there the lover of profound humility moved to the lepers and lived with them, serving them all most diligently for God’s sake.


Legenda minor I,8,3

Exinde totius humilitatis amator ad obsequendum leprosis se transtulit, ut dum miserabilibus et abiectis personis servitutis iugo se subderet, sui mundique contemptum perfecte prius disceret quam doceret.

Then as a lover of total humility he gave himself to the service of lepers, so that while he was subjecting himself to miserable and outcast people under the yoke of servitude, he could first learn perfect contempt of himself and of the world before he would teach it to others.


Legenda minor VII, 1,4

Flagrabat quoque desiderio magno ad humilitatis

redire primordia, ut leprosis, sicut a principio ministraret…

He burned with a great desire to return to the humility he practiced at the beginning, so that he might, just as he did at the outset, nurse lepers…

Legenda trium

sociorum 11.1.6

Cum autem quadam die Dominum ferventer oraret, responsum est illi: “Francisce, omnia quae carnaliter dilexisti et habere desiderasti oportet te contemnere ac odire…”. Exinde coepit magis ac magis seipsum contemnere donec ad sui victoriam perfecte Dei gratia perveniret.

One day, while he was praying enthusiastically to the Lord, he received this response: “Francis, everything you loved carnally and desired to have, you must despise and hate,…”. He then began to despise himself more and more, until, by God’s grace, he came to complete victory over himself.

Legenda trium

sociorum 11,11

Sed per Dei gratiam ita factus est leprosorum familiaris et amicus, quod, sicut in testament suo testatur, inter illos manebat et eis humiliter serviebat.

With the help of God’s grace, he became such a servant and friend of the lepers, that, as he testified in his Testament, he stayed among them and served them with humility.

As can be seen, we have moved from the “facere misericordiam”[175], with which Francis describes and interprets his experience with the lepers, to the “contemnere se ipsum”[176] of the biographers. Thus, Thomas of Celano in 1Cel, narrating the Saint’s conversion, takes up the Testament’s statement, but follows it with “an exegesis, or rather a variation on Francis’ direct testimony”:[177]

In tantum namque, ut dicebat, aliquando amara ei leprosorum visio exsistebat ut, cum tempore vanitatis suae per duo fere milliaria eminus ipsorum domos respiceret, nares suas propris manibus obturaret. Sed, cum iam gratia et virtute Altissimi, sancta et utilia inciperet cogitare, in saeculari adhuc habitu constitutus leprosum unum obvium habuit die quadam, et semetipso fortior effectus accessit, et osculatus est eum. Exinde quoque coepit seipsum magis ac magis contemnere, quousque misericordia Redemptoris ad perfectam suimet victoriam perveniret.[178]

The addition of this quotation to the text of the Testament insists on the fact that Francis began “seipsum magis ac magis contemnere”[179] until he reached “ad perfectam suimet victoriam”.[180] Later, Julian of Spires again quotes the Testament, but also accepts Thomas of Celano’s exegesis whereby he places the idea of “contemnere”[181] alongside “facere misericordiam”.[182]

Later, the Legenda ad usum chori of Thomas of Celano no longer mentions the Testament, but only leaves room for the idea of self-loathing.[183]

What in 1Cel is a simple exegesis of the Testament, in 2Cel becomes a “miraculous dramatisation”.[184] The “Dominus conduxit me inter illos” of the Testament passage is dramatised and God comforts Francis “in spirit” and imposes on him that attitude – “contemne te ipsum[185]” – which in 1Cel was posited by Thomas as a consequence of the encounter with the lepers. According to G. Miccoli, with regard to this fact, the themes of 2Cel remain substantially the same as those of 1Cel;[186] in reality that process whereby the “facere misericordiam”[187] has been replaced by the “contemnere seipsum”[188] has “come to maturity”. In the work of Thomas of Celano there was not only a simple exegesis of the Testament,[189] but a total change of perspective with which Francis’ attitude to lepers is seen, in which Celano makes his own positions already expressed by others, but of which Francis had been very careful not to appropriate.[190]

3Soc, although in chapter III it speaks of Francis’ contempt for the vanities of human things,[191] in chapter IV emphasises as a sign of Francis’ penitence his conversion with lepers;[192] the change of life therefore does not begin with poverty but with mercy.[193]

Thomas of Celano, Julian of Speyer and the author of the 3Soc in refering to the Testament, conveyed the perspective of ‘facere misericordiam’[194]. But even these seem more concerned with ebellishing their account by inserting a quotation from the Testament than with developing what the saint himself expressed.[195] In fact, after drawing from the Testament they are ready to add to it the ascetic motivation of humility and self-loathing. This perspective of “contemnere seipsum”[196] will develop more and more and with Bonaventure’s work, it will become the only one.[197]

The same transition also occurs in iconography: starting from the panel in the Bardi Chapel in Santa Croce in Florence, which is inspired by 1Cel,[198] one arrives at the cycle of frescoes in the Upper Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, which is inspired by Bonaventure’s LMaior. In the Bardi panel, the cure of the lepers precedes the death scene[199] and this placement is “a penetrating reflection on the words of the Testament” whereby “the love of neighbour, the understanding of pain and suffering constitute the holiness of Francis and marks as a culminating moment, in crescendo, the end of that exemplary life”.[200] In the frescoes of the Basilica of Assisi, as in other pictorial cycles, there will no longer be room for depictions of Francis with lepers.[201]

Francis’ experience is now traced, both in terms of written sources and iconography, within the framework of a spirituality of ‘contempt for the world’,[202] which has one of its emblems in Innocent III’s De miseria humane condicionis, normally known as De contemptu mundi.[203]

This is not to say that the theme of humility or the need to conquer oneself[204] was foreign to Francis, nor is it to say that in the development of the Order there was no room for the exercise of charity.[205] However, in the consideration of Francis’ spirituality by his biographers, poverty and contempt for the world became central at the expense of “misericordia cum”[206] (suffice it to think of the name ‘poverello’ by which the Saint of Assisi is still often referred to today). He became one of the models that, in the 13th century, were proposed to those who wanted to devote themselves to the lepers, in which, however, ‘contact with the leper rather than a moment of sharing in their lot represents an opportunity to heroically exercise victory over oneself and, by annihilating oneself, encounter Christ’.[207]

In the same hagiographic literature concerning people who lived in the Franciscan environment, and which has the Saint of Assisi as its paradigmatic model, penance consists mainly in the contempt of what is considered worldly; thus Giunta Bevignati states that Margaret, a penitent woman from Cortona, mode of behaviour was “in abiectionem sui”.[208] Even in the reflection on penitence by persons belonging to the Minorite Order, such as Anthony of Padua,[209] the perspective with which it is viewed has diverged from that of the Saint of Assisi.

This new perspective from which Francis’ Christian experience is viewed not only gives a different meaning to his choices, but also now renders as unobtainable the sources on which the Saint drew to formulate in the Testament the central moment of his life. He too drew from the patrimony of language and images that preceded him, and therefore also from the Fathers, but the biographers drew from the patristic tradition formulas that the Saint had not used.

2.4 Conclusion

At the moment of his conversion, Francis experiences a fact, a concrete episode in the historically documented social reality of lepers. At the end of his life, he recounts this beginning of his spiritual experience to the brothers in the Testament as an affirmation of the specificity of his choice. Of course, the fact remains the same, but it is revisited by Francis on the basis of his later reflection and what he has learned subsequently. The language he uses, made up of terms and expressions, has nothing new, being already present in the cultural landscape in which he lived and with which he certainly came into contact. This cultural context of Francis had a fundamental moment of growth in the recitation and listening to the Liturgy of the Hours as found in the Ordinary of Innocent III.

Now, Francis, wanting to express the beginning and the summit of his experience, uses this cultural accumulate that he has previously assimilated and that he now uses in a personal way. Thus, the bitterness of sin is transformed into sweetness not only of soul, but also of body. The most important change is that the ‘facere poenitentiam’[210] is juxtaposed not with ‘contemnere seipsum’[211], as was normally the case, but with ‘facere misericordiam’[212]. This juxtaposition must have seemed very strange to the biographers, so much so that within a few years the old pattern was re-established, whereby the Minoritic penitential life was again characterised as “contemptus mundi”[213]. This not only meant that the initial fact of Francis’ conversion was read differently from the way he himself had done it, but also that different passages and ideas were sought out and evaluated different from those that instead influenced, more or less directly, and more or less consciously, his thought and spirituality.

The episode of the encounter with the lepers can be an emblem of how the Christian experience e of Francis must be studied taking into account a before that formed a cultural, spiritual and also language background, a during that expresses the choices made by him drawing something from that background and leaving out something else, and an after that consists in the capacity or not of the biographers to grasp the specificity of his experience (I underline specificity and not originality because some themes were already present previously and Francis made them his own).

  1. Cf. P. MESSA, Le Fonti Patristiche negli Scritti di Francesco di Assisi, Portiuncula Edition, Assisi, 2006, pages 192-200.
  2. Cf. P. MESSA, Le Fonti Patristiche negli Scritti di Francesco di Assisi, page 229.
  3. G. MICCOLI, Francesco d’Assisi. Realtà e memoria di un’esperienza cristiana, (“Paperbacks”, 217), Torino 1991, 49.
  4. Cf. J. DALARUN, “Postfazione”, in F. ACCROCCA, Francesco e le sue immagini. Momenti della evoluzione della conscienza sotrica dei frati Minori (secoli XIII-XVI), (Centro Studi Antoniani, 27), Padova 1997, p. 239.
  5. Cf. I. BALDELLI, “Francesco d’Assisi e il volgare”, in Francescanesimo in volgare, 3-39, p. 29, where even with regard to the Canticle of Creatures he states that “the elements taken from the vernacular are closely joined by a broad psalmist lexicon and generically scriptural and Latin”.
  6. Cf. J. DALARUN, “Postfazione”, op. cit., 251.
  7. Cf. FM. ROMERO, Videre leprosos. Contenido y significado de la experiencra de Francisco de Asís entre los leprosos, según sus Escritos. Dissertatio ad Doctoratum apud Facultatem Teologiae Pontificii Athenaci Antoniani, (“Theses”, 302), Romae 1989, 131.
  8. Tests 1-3: Opuscula, 307-308: In this way did the Lord give me, Brother Francis, the grace to begin doing penance: when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world.
  9. J. LECLERCO, “San Benedetto, San Francesco e i loro carismi nella Chiesa”, in ID., Momenti e figure di storia monastica italiana, ed. V. Cattana, (“Italia benedettina”, 14), Cesena 1993, 3.
  10. Leprosy of the heart – of sin
  11. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op. cit., [153]; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal, op.cit., 324; AMBROGIO, Expositio in Lucam, V, 10-15, op.cit., 186-188.
  12. the high priest saw leprosy in the hearts of the Jews; He shows that they are worse than lepers
  13. contaminates others.
  14. For if they had believed, they would not have been afraid […] because they did not love, they were slandered.
  15. love excludes fear; AMBROSE, Expositio in Lucam, V, 10-15, op.cit., 188.
  16. in sin
  17. bitter to see lepers; Cf. Testament 1-3: Opuscula, 307.
  18. I showed mercy
  19. sweetness
  20. doing penance
  21. leprosy of the heart
  22. to see lepers
  23. showed mercy
  24. Cf. G. ABATE, “I primitivo breviario”, op.cit., [147]; S.J.P. VAN DJK, The Ordinal, op. cit., 168; Homiliarius Pauli Diaconi. Homilia LIV: PL 95, 1189-1191.
  25. You wanted this most unclean leprosy to come upon me, either because of my sins, so that, being chastised, I might repent; or because of your wisdom, so that, wonderfully cleansing me, you might be magnified: Homiliarius Pauli Diaconi. Homilia LIV: PL 95,1190.
  26. Cf. N. BÉRIOU – F.O. TOUATI, Voluntate Dei leprosus. Les lépreux entre conversion et exclusion aux XIleme et XIIIme siècles, Spoleto 1991, 33-80: “Les lépreux sous le regard des prédicateurs d’après les collections de sermons ad status du XIII° siècle”. The following statement by Louis IX of France is worth noting: when confronted with his steward who claimed he preferred to commit even thirty mortal sins rather than be a leper, he reproached him, telling him that there is no leprosy so foul as being in mortal sin: cf. LE GOFF, Saint Louis, op. cit., 345.
  27. It is very important to place Francis’ gesture within the whole movement of “conversion and exclusion” of lepers in the 12th and 13th centuries. Cf. N. BERIOU – F.O. TOUATI, Voluntate Dei leprosus, op.cit, especially pp. 11-19: “Entrer en léproserie: une expérience de conversion?”, and pp. 53-56: “Conversion monastique ou conversion intérieure?”. See also G. DE SANDRE GASPARINI “L’assistenza ai lebbrosi nel movimento religioso dei primi decenni del Duecento veronese: uomini e fatti”, in Viridarium Floridum. Studi di Storia veneta offerti dagli allievi a Paolo Sambin, Padua 1984, 25-59; ID., “Lebbrosi e lebbrosari tra misericordia e assistenza nei secoli XII-XIII”, in La conversione alla povertà, op. cit., 239-268.
  28. Sweetness within and without – sweetness of mind and body
  29. Cf. C. FRUGONI, Vita di un uomo: Franceso d’Assisi (“Struzzi”), Torino 1995, pages 23-24.
  30. See for example Saint François d’Assise. Documents, écrits et premières biographies, ed. Th. Desbonnets – D. Vorreux, Paris 1981, 104n which refers to “expérience spirituelle analogue décrit par saint Augustin, Soliloques 22″. This reference is no longer given in FRANÇOIS D’ASSISE, Ecrits, op.cit.
  31. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op cit, (153]; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal of the Papal Court from Innocent III to Boniface VIII and Related Documents, completed by J. Hazelden Walker (“Spicilegium Friburgense”, 22) Fribourg 1975, p. 190; MASSIMO DA TORINO, Sermo LXVII, ed. A. Mutzenbecher, (“CCL”, 23), Turnhout 1962, 280-282.
  32. refreshment of mercy
  33. wood of the evangelical passion
  34. Indeed, the letter of the law is bitter without the mystery of the cross, about which the Apostle says: The letter kills (1Cor 3). But when the sacraments of that passion are joined to it, all its spiritual bitterness is sweetened; and of it the Apostle says: But the spirit gives life: MASSIMO DA TORINO, Sermo LXVII, 4, op. cit., 282.
  35. showing mercy
  36. the letter kills, but the spirit gives life
  37. Cf. Adm VII; Opuscula, 8.
  38. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op.cit, [153]; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal, op.cit., 333; GREGORIO MAGNO, Homilia in Evangelia XXXVI, 1-5: PL 76, 1266-1269.
  39. difference between carnal and spiritual pleasures
  40. food of life
  41. sweetness
  42. when he sinned in paradise
  43. the more the disease of our loathing exaggerates itself, the more the soul withdraws from the eating of that sweetness
  44. we do not want to taste the ready sweetness inside, we love our wretched hunger outside
  45. tasting the sweetness within
  46. our hunger
  47. bitter
  48. that which seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of mind and body
  49. sweetness
  50. The originality of Francis’ affirmation can also be grasped by comparing it with the following expression of Thomas Aquinas, which sums up in itself an entire common way of feeling: “… illi qui servant mandata [scil. Dei] sunt in luctur: quia licet sint dulcia animae, tamen carni sunt amara, quae continue maceratur…[ those who keep the commandments [of God] are in the struggle: because although they are sweet to the soul, yet they are bitter to the flesh, which is continually mortified… “. Cf. TOMMASO D’AQUINO, In Orationem Dominicam videlicet “Pater noster” expositio, 3, in Opuscula Theologica, II, ed. M. Calcaterra, Rome 1954, 229. In the “Verba seniorum” instead, the bitterness experienced in this world will only become sweet after death: Vitae Patrum: PL 73, 758: “Si amaritudinem et laborem fugimus abstinentiae, et volumus in hoc mundo requiem habere, post exitum vitae hujus non percipiemus illa aeterna et vere dulcia bona, nec fruemur illis perpetuis beati paradisi deliciis [If we shun the bitterness and labor of abstinence, and wish to have rest in this world, after the end of this life we shall not perceive those eternal and truly sweet goods, nor enjoy those eternal delights of the blessed paradise]”.
  51. Testament 41: Opuscula, 317. INNOCENT III, Sermo III, in communi de evangelistis: PL 217, 605B: “… interior [est] spiritualis, exterior [est] corporalis…”. This sermon of Innocent III is found in the Breviarium Sancti Francisci f. 127vb as a reading for the feast of St Mark the Evangelist (25 April).
  52. It is precisely this involvement of the totality of the person of Francis, in its aspect of soul and body, of interiority and exteriority, that escaped C. Frugoni in his work on the stigmata, in which he reduces everything to the dimension of the spirit by relativising the bodily dimension. Cf. C. FRUGONI, Francesco e l’invenzione delle stimmate, op. cit., 148: “The Tau cross chosen by Francis, an abstract symbol synonymous with protection and salvation, not physical pain…”. Cf. also the criticism of this view by P. ZERBI, “”The Last Seal” (Par. XI,107)”, op. cit., 26.
  53. The participation of the body, with the soul, in the sweetness of the facere misericordiam, led Santi to affirm that “in Francis it seems that, at this moment in the history of spirituality, the history of the body and the history of work take a great revenge”. The author sees, in Francis’ affirmation, one of the causes for which some later Franciscans, such as Ramon Llull, would emphasise the “natural desire of the soul to be together with the body”. Cf. F. SANTI, ‘Santità dei secici e glorificazione della carne in Ramon Llull, in Santi e santità nel secolo XIV. Proceedings of the XV International Conference (Assisi, 15-17 October 1987), Assisi 1989, 174.182.
  54. showing mercy
  55. sweetness of soul and body
  56. leave the world
  57. contempt for the world
  58. invite to the Lord’s supper
  59. all is exquisite
  60. sweetness
  61. food of life
  62. showed mercy
  63. leave the world
  64. the invitation to the Lord’s supper
  65. great delights
  66. showing mercy
  67. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op.cit., 196; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal, op. cit., 467; GREGORIO MAGNO, Homilia in Evangelia XII: PL 76, 1118-1120.
  68. Oh, if he can be wise in the palate of the heart, what wonder is there when it is said: The bridegroom has come? What sweetness: They entered with him to the wedding; what bitterness: And the door was closed?: GREGORIO MAGNO, Homilia in Evangelia XII, 4: PL 76, 1120.
  69. Cf. 2EFi 51: Opuscula, 122: “… Spiritu Sancto coniungitur fidelis anima Jesu Christo [the Holy Spirit unites the faithful soul with Jesus Christ”.
  70. C. LEONARDI, “La spiritualità monastica dal IV al XIII secolo”, in Dall’Eremo al Cenobio. La civiltà monastica in Italia dalle origini all’età di Dante, Milan 1987, 212.
  71. sin
  72. sweetness to the soul and body
  73. Love of neighbour, love of God
  74. Cf. A. VAUCHEZ, “Une nouveauté du XII siècle: les saints laics de l’Italie communale”, in L’Europa nei secoli XI e XII fra novità e tradizione, 57-80, especially pp. 68-70.
  75. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario francescano (1224-1227)”, in MF 60 (1960), 47-240, p. 193; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal, op. cit., 456.
  76. GREGORIO MAGNO, Homilia in Evangelia XXX, 1-10: PL 76, 1224-1227.
  77. Let us therefore love our neighbor, brothers, let us love him who is near us, so that we may be able to reach the love of him who is above us. Let the mind meditate on the neighbour in what it presents to God, so that it fully deserves to rejoice in God with the neighbour: GREGORIO MAGNO, Homilia in Evangelia XXX, 10: PL 76, 1227.
  78. is near to us
  79. bitter to see lepers: Testament 1: Opuscula, 307.
  80. rejoice perfectly in God with one’s neighbour
  81. in showing mercy
  82. sweetness in soul and body
  83. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op.cit., 193; S.J.P. VAN DIJk, The Ordinal, op. cit., 456; AGOSTINO AURELIO, In Tobannis Evangelium tractatus LXXXIII, 3, op. cit., 534-536.
  84. but no one can despair who loves. Therefore, where there is love, there must necessarily be faith and hope; and where there is love of neighbour, there necessarily also is love of God: AGOSTINO AURELIO, In Iobannis Evangelium tractatus LXXXIII, 3, ор. cit., 536.
  85. in sin
  86. leaving the world: Tests 1-3: Opuscula, 307-308.
  87. showing mercy
  88. next to us
  89. Cf. G. MICCOLI, Francis of Assisi, op. cit., 52; F.M. ROMERO, “Videre leprososos”, op. cit., 58: “… los leprosos se equivalen a un verdadero sacramento de Dios y del hombre en este mundo [lepers are equivalent to a true sacrament of God and man in this world]…”.
  90. Doing penance – showing mercy
  91. doing penance
  92. showing mercy
  93. See F.M. ROMERO, “Videre leprosos“. Contenido y significado de la experiencia de Francisco de Asis entre los leprosos, segun sus Escritos. Dissertatio ad Doctoratum apud Facultatem Theologiae Pontificii Athenaei Antoniani, (“Theses”, 302), Romae 1989, pages 53-58, 332.
  94. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op. cit., [144]; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal, op. cit., 114; GREGORIO MAGNO, Homilia in Evangelia XX, 7-12: PL 76, 1163-1166.
  95. works of mercy belong to the fruits of penance
  96. It is very necessary for us to share with our neighbours
  97. But among these things it is necessary to know how much the works of mercy are effective, since they themselves are ordered to fruits worthy of penitence above all others: GREGORIO MAGNO, Homilia in Evangelia XX, 11: PL 76, 1163-1166.
  98. fruits of penance
  99. works of mercy
  100. to do penance
  101. showing mercy
  102. Cf. RnBu XXII,1: Opuscula, 279.
  103. excess
  104. poverty
  105. mercy: Cf. Adm XXVII: Opuscula, 81: ‘Ubi est misericordia et discretio, ibi nec superfluitas nec induration [Where there is mercy and discretion, there is neither excess nor hardness]’.
  106. to do penance is to show mercy
  107. show mercy
  108. To show mercy to our fathers, and to remember his holy coventant: Lk 1:72.
  109. but he said: He who showed mercy to him: Lk 10:37. On the possible influences of these passages on the Testament cf. F.M. ROMERO, “Videre leprosos“, op. cit., 42-43.
  110. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op. cit., 182; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal, op. cit., 426; AGOSTINO AURELIO, In Iohannis Evangelium tractatus LI, 9-13, op.cit., 442-445.
  111. He must also, if he hands out bread to the hungry, do it showing mercy, not out of boasting: AGOSTINO AURELIO, In lohannis Evangelium tractatus LI, 12, op.cit., 444.
  112. show mercy
  113. “He serves Christ,” “he is a minister of Christ up to that great work of charity, which is to lay down his life for his brethren.”
  114. showing mercy
  115. showing mercy
  116. If therefore he comes to forgive man his sins, let man humble himself, and let God show his mercy: AGOSTINO AURELIO, In Iohannis Evangelium tractatus XIV, 5, op. cit., 143.
  117. show mercy
  118. showing mercy
  119. showing mercy
  120. doing penance
  121. showing mercy
  122. See e.g. 1Cel 17: FF 292-293; 2Cel 9: FF 450-452; LMaior I,6: FF 785-786. Such detailed descriptions often draw on hagiographic models typical of the time, as shown by a commonality of elements between them and the account of the affability used by Robert the Pious with lepers written by a monk in the 11th century: cfr. J. LE GOFF, Saint Louis, op. cit., 384-385.
  123. Manselli rightly speaks of a “terse essentiality” in which “the decisive moment of conversion is reduced”. R. MANSELLI, “San Francesco dal dolore degli uomini al Cristo Crocifisso”, Analecta TOR 16 (1983), 194.
  124. It must also be stressed that biographers tend to present the experience among lepers as an episode circumscribed to a moment in the Saint’s life. In reality, this presence returns continuously in the life of Francis, as underlined by the example of the Umbrian leprosarium of San Lazzaro del Valloncello, in the Valnerina, a foundation of secular origins and character, but where “beatus Franciscus pluries venit ad dictum hospitale ad lavandum pedes leprosorum dicti hospitalis et ad visitandum eos [Blessed Francis came several times to the said hospital to wash the feet of the lepers of the said hospital and to visit them]”. The text is transcribed in the appendix to P. PIRRI, “S. Lazzaro del Valloncello. Memorie di un grande leprosario francescano dell’Umbria”, Archivio per la storia ecclesiastica dell’Umbria 2 (1915), 86. An analysis of this source is in L. PELLEGRINI, “Espressioni di minoritismo nella realtà urbana del secolo XIII”, in Esperienze minoritiche nel Veneto del Due-Trecento. Atti del Convegno nazionale di studi francescani, Le Venezie francescane n.s. 2 (1985), 68-71. Manselli argues that the piety that had prompted Francis to facere misericordiam with the lepers, “had extended to all the pain of men” and led to universal love; cf. R. MANSELLI, “San Francesco dal dolore degli uomini al Cristo Crocifisso”, op. cit., 206.As a pure trace of research, we can hypothesise that the same facere misericordiam is the motivation that drove Francis, and his first companions, to exhortatory preaching.
  125. to seek religion and holiness in the inner spirit
  126. to seek religion and sanctity outwardly visible to men: Cf. RnBu XVII,11-12: Opuscula, 273. For an analysis of this passage see F.M. ROMERO, Videre leprosos, op.cit., 314-319.
  127. Cf. Adm XIV: Opuscula, 72-73. Mercy and love precede poverty itself: cf. RnBu VIII,10: Opuscula, 257-258: “Fratres tamen in manifesta necessitate leprosorum possunt pro eis quaerere elemosynam [However, the brothers in the obvious need of the lepers can ask for alms on their behalf]”. Cf. also F. ACCROCCA, “Alla sequela di Cristo. Liturgia e carità nell’esperienza religiosa di Francesco d’Assisi”, Forma sororum 33 (1996), 301-303 in which the author, regarding the first verses of the Testament, observes how “the pauperistic moment, the choice of poverty, is absent in this summary of the initial moment of conversion”; R. MANSELLI, “San Francesco dal dolore degli uomini al Cristo Crocifisso”, op.cit, 194: “Now, if we think of how present and tense to the point of drama the question of poverty had become in those last years of his life and the saint’s desire to defend it at all costs, to ensure a series of safeguards that would ward off any danger of decadence, we could not but emphasise the circumstance that poverty is absent in that moment of [Francis’] greatest reversal of value”.
  128. glory and honour
  129. Cf. Adm VI: Opuscula, 67: … Wherefore it is a great shame for us, the servants of God, that, whereas the Saints have practised works, we should expect to receive honour and glory for reading and preaching the same.
  130. Cf. R. PACIOCCO, “Una coscienza tra scelta di vita e fama di santità. Francesco d’Assisi frater e sanctus“, Hagiographica 1 (1994), 207-226. On the rediscovery in the 12th and 13th centuries of the value of the individual, of the personal, inner self, cf. J. LE GOFF, St Louis, op. cit., 410-418.
  131. Another text by Augustine, found in the Ordinary of Innocent III on the occasion of the commemoration of the Apostle Paul on 30 June, after listing the works Paul had accomplished, states: “Primo ista bona opera, si non ea praecessissent cogitationes bonae, nulla essent [First, these good works, if they had not been preceded by good thoughts, would not have existed]”, Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op. cit, 178; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal, op. cit., 413; AGOSTINO AURELIO, De gratia et libero arbidtrio, VI, 16: PL 44, 891.
  132. showing mercy
  133. follow Christ
  134. showing mercy
  135. Augustine uses the expression facere misericordiam in his other works, for example in Doctr. Chr. 16: “Quid liberalius et misericordius facere potuit [What could he do more liberally and mercifully]?”, cited in A. FORCELLINI, Totius latinitatis lexicon, Prati MDCCCLXIII, IV, 141, as an example of the meaning the expression assumed in ecclesiastical Latin.
  136. Cf. Chronicon Salernitanum, ed. U. Westerbergh, (‘Studia latina stockholmiensia’, 3), Stockholm 1956, 74 in which it is narrated that Prince Sicard, to the man who was about to kill him because of his misdeeds, cried out: ‘Misericordiam […] nunc mihi facite [Have mercy on my now]’; GIUNTA BEVIGNATI, Legenda de vita et miraculis Beatae Margaritae, op.cit, 352 in which it is stated that the Lord, through Margarita, manifests his will that a prelate should forgive one of his subjects: ‘Quare volo quod debili faciat plenam misericordiam [Therefore, I want him to show full mercy to the weak]…’. Instead, DU CANGE, Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, IV, 410 states: ‘FACERE MISERICORDIAM, Poenitentiam regularem imponere. Chron. Mellicense, p. 438: ‘Fecimus Misericordiam Abbati post visitationem, et cum jam recipere deberemus resignationem, defecimus in notario’’.
  137. to imitate
  138. to follow
  139. Cfr. A. VAUCHEZ, “François d’Assise entre littéralisme évangelique et renouveau spirituel”, in Frate Francesco d’Assisi, op. cit. 194-195.
  140. This expression, used by Francis, is absent for example in Innocent I and Peter Cantore who use the words pietas, caritas, misericordia depending on the context: cf. G. GRACCO, “Dalla misericordia della Chiesa alla misericordia del principe”, in La carità a Milano nei secoli XII-XV. Atti del Convegno di studi, ed. M.P. Alberzoni – O. Grassi, Milan 1989, 33-35. Emblematic is the fact recounted by PIETRO CANTORE, Verbum abbreviatum, CXXIX: PL 205, 325: “Quidam paterfamilias leprosum recepit hospitem, quem in lecto suo posuit, audivitque a Domino, se Dominum in leproso recepisse [A certain householder received a guest who was a leper, and he laid him in his bed, and heard from the Lord that he had received the Lord in a leper]”.
  141. Cf. 2EFi 29.43: Opuscula, 119.121: “Iudicium enim sine misericordia erit illis qui non fecerint misericordiam”; “Cui autem obedientia commissa est et qui habetur maior […] in singulos fratres suos misericordiam faciat et habeat [For judgment will be without mercy for those who have not shown mercy”; “Now to whom obedience is committed and who is considered greater […] let him show mercy to each of his brothers and have them]…”.
  142. show mercy
  143. serves Christ
  144. work of great charity
  145. AGOSTINO AURELIO, In Iohannis Evangelium tractatus LI, 12, op.cit., 444.
  146. true joy
  147. to have patience
  148. so many and such (all and sundry): Cf. De vera latitia: Opuscula, 324-326. Interesting is the analysis that G. MICCOLI makes of the text, “Un’esperienza cristiana tra Vangelo e istituzione”, op.cit., 5-40, taken up by C. VATANI, La via di Francesco, (“Presenza di San Francesco”, 41), Milan 1993, 68-69.
  149. to have patience
  150. work of great charity
  151. showing mercy
  152. true joy
  153. so will his Father honour him who ministers to Christ, with that great honour, that he may be with his Son, and that his happiness may never fail: AGOSTINO AURELIO, In Iohannis Evangelium tractatus LI, 12, op.cit., 445
  154. showing mercy
  155. to be with the Son
  156. who is in perfect Trinity and simple Unity: EOrd 52: Opuscula, 149-150.
  157. Cf. the doctoral thesis obtained, with Chenu, at the Institut Catholique in Paris, by N. NGUYEN-VAN-KHANH, Le Christ dans la pensée de saint François d’Assise d’après ses écrits, Paris 1973, translated in Italian, Gesù Cristo nel pensiero di san Francesco d’Assisi secondo i suoi scritti, (“Presenza di San Francesco”, 32), Milan 1984; TH. MATURA, Dieu le Père très saint contemplé par François d’Assise, (“Présence de Saint François”, 33), Paris 1990; Italian translation, Francesco parla di Dio, (“Presenza di San Francesco”, 37), Milan 1992. Both works are taken up by C. FRUGONI, Francesco e l’invenzione delle stimmate, op.cit., 113-117. Interesting are the considerations of Miccoli who, in the face of the theses of Matura and C. Frugoni – who strongly emphasise Francis’ prevalent consideration of his divinity in respect to his humanity – underlines and highlights the importance in the Saint’s life of the Christum sequi and the Incarnation. Cf. G. MICCOLI, “The Writings of Francis”, op:cit., 59-60.
  158. Mercy i a gift from God
  159. is a gift from God: AGOSTINO AURELIO, De gratia et libero arbitrio, VI, 17: PL 44, 890-891.
  160. Cf. G. ABATE, “Il primitivo breviario”, op.cit., 178; S.J.P. VAN DIJK, The Ordinal, op. cit., 413; AGOSTINO AURELIO, De gratia et libero arbitrio, VI, 14-17: PL 44, 890-891.
  161. In this way did the Lord give me: Testament 1: Opuscula, 307.
  162. showing mercy
  163. is a gift from God
  164. I obtained mercy that I might show mercy
  165. showing mercy to contempt for oneself
  166. This was also highlighted by Manselli who, with regard to Francis, states that ‘his impact in the society of his time was not only determined by the preaching of poverty, but even more, and perhaps more, by his participation, with inexhaustible charity and love, in human suffering’. R. MANSELLI, “Nos qui cum eo fuimus”, op. cit., 279. See also M.A. LAVILLA, “La misericordia en San Francisco de Asís”, SelFran 26 (1997), 203-283.
  167. Cf. E. ACCROCCA, ‘Il Testamento di Francesco: l’eredità di un immagine’, in Francesco e le sue immagini, op. cit., 18-19.35; ID., ‘Francesco e la sua Fraternitas’, op. cit., 19-64 where the first chapter is entitled La marginalità tratto qualificante della sequela; ID., ‘Alla sequela di Cristo’, op. cit., 301-303, where the author states that ‘the specific characteristic of his conversion was the choice of marginalisation’. This last expression in Accrocca’s article is in bold and in the footnote he refers to G. MICCOLI, ‘Un’esperienza cristiana tra Vangelo e istituzione’, op. cit., 9. On p. 306, Accrocca states again that ‘the choice of marginalisation constituted the essential nucleus of his Christian proposal’, while on p. 307, he says that Francis’ personality ‘finds its summit in caritas, that is, in full solidarity with the poor’.
  168. doing penance
  169. showing mercy
  170. In the study F.M. ROMERO, ‘Videre leprosos’, op. cit., 31-35, the author makes a structural analysis of the first verses of the Testament and shows how the initial expression ‘faciendi poenitentiam’ corresponds to the last expression ‘exivi de saeculo’, while ‘facere misericordiam’ is the central passage of the passage. I believe that Romero’s analysis does not show how the expression ‘facere poenitentiam’ has been replaced by the expression ‘facere misericordiam’: thus the pattern of the formal structure of the passage, rather than A-B-C-D-B’-C’-A’, could be A-B-C-A’-B’-C’. On the other hand, in chapter XXIII of RnBu Francis, quoting Matthew 25,34, replaces the list of works of mercy that the damned did not do with the simple expression ‘agere poenitentiam’: RnBu XXIII,4: Opuscula, 288. Cf. the commentary by K. ESSER, ‘Penance according to Saint Francis’, Ant 51 (1976), 369-376.
  171. See, for example, UMBERTO DE ROMANS, Ad fratres de Poenitentia 4, in G.G. MEERSSEMAN, Dossier de l’Ordre, op.cit., 127, who makes “facere poenitentiam” consist of “deponere verecundiam humanam[overcoming human shame]”. Honorius III, in the letter Cum illorum, speaks of those who “penitentiam agunt […], castigando et in servitutem suum corpus redigendo [they do penance […] by chastising and reducing their body to slavery]…” (Ibid., 42). The same expression is contained in a letter, again by Honorius III, dated 1226-1227 (Ibid., 43) and taken up by Gregory IX in a letter dated 26 May 1227 (Ibid., 46-47). The 1212 Propositum of the Penitents, directed by the Poor Catholics, also speaks of “agere poenitentiam”, but makes no mention of “facere misericordiam” (Ibid., 286-287).
  172. showing mercy
  173. showing mercy
  174. showing mercy
  175. showing mercy
  176. despising himself
  177. G. MICCOLI, “La “conversione” di san Francesco secondo Tommaso da Celano”, SM ser. III 5 (1964), 184. In this elaboration of the Testament data by Thomas, what is evident is what G. MICCOLI affirms in, “La “question franciscaine” est-elle encore actuelle?”, op.cut., 280: “… Thomas devait esquisser un portrait de François conciliant à la fois sa “nouveauté”, qu’il voulait sauvegarder et qu’exigeait d’ailleurs le modèle hagiographique lui-même, et son insertion dans la tradition et la conception de la sainteté telles qu’elles s’etaient élaborées au cours des siècles [Thomas had to sketch a portrait of Francis reconciling both his “newness”, which he wanted to safeguard and which was also required by the hagiographic model itself, and his insertion into the tradition and the conception of holiness such as they had been developed over the centuries]”.
  178. [For, as he said, sometimes the vision of lepers was so bitter to him that, when he looked at their houses from a distance of nearly two miles in the time of his vanity, he stopped his nostrils with his own hands. But when, by the grace and power of the Most High, he was beginning to think of holy and useful things, he met a leper one day, still in his secular habit, and a stronger effect of his own accord came, and he kissed him. From then on he began to despise himself more and more, until the mercy of the Redeemer reached his perfect victory]: 1Cel 17:3-4: FF 292 (italics are mine).
  179. to despise himself more and more
  180. The importance of this complete victory over himself that Francis achieved is emphasised by Thomas also through the use of the rhetorical device of the cursus velox in the final “victoriam perveniret”. On this subject cf. M. BUTTARI, “Some considerations on the use of the cursus in the Vita I sancti Francisci of Thomas of Celano”, Schede Medievali 17 (1989), 327-335.
  181. to despise
  182. showing mercy: The Vita S. Francisci by Cesarius of Spira, often overlooked because it is judged to be a mere “cast” of Celano’s work, is actually an intermediate passage between 1Cel and Bonaventure’s Legenda; cf. E. PRINZIVALLI – L. FIORELLI, “Alcune riflessioni sulla Vita S. Francisci di Giuliano da Spira”, Hagiographica 3 (1990), 136-101.
  183. This evolution, whereby the theme of “contemptus mundi” acquires more and more weight, is also taking place in the community of San Damiano. In fact, an evolution from the sequela Christi to the fuga mundi, can already be seen in the years following the death of Francis: cf. G. CASAGRANDE, “Le compagne di Chiara”, in Chiara d’Assisi. Atti del XX Convegno internazionale (Assisi, 15-17 October 1992), Spoleto 1993, 392-393.
  184. Previous hagiographical models such as Sulpicius Severus’ Vita Martini may have influenced this ‘dramatisation’ of what is narrated in the Testament with great sobriety. See SULPICIO SEVERO, Vita di Martino, 18,3 (“Vita dei santi”, IV), Verona 1975, 44: “Apud Parisios vero, dum portam civitatis illius magnis secum turbis euntibus introiret, leprosum miserabili facie horrentibus cunctis osculatus est atque benedixit [But in the city of Paris, as he was entering the gate of that city with great multitudes going with him, he kissed the leper with a pitiful face, who was horrified by all, and blessed them all]”.
  185. despising himself
  186. Cf. G. MICCOLI, “La “conversione” di san Francesco”, op.cit., 784-785.
  187. showing mercy
  188. despising oneself
  189. Cf. G. MICCOLI, “La “conversione” di san Francesco”, op.cit., 784-785: “… both scenes [1Cel and 2Cel] are in this case an exegesis of the “Testament”: that is, they do not tell us “facts” to add to what the “Testament” already tells us; they simply dramatise, by introducing persons and dialogues, what in the “Testament” was rapidly and dryly presented as a practice of life that had become a reality of the spirit”.
  190. It is sufficient to compare with the following text from 1221, in which James of Vitry, speaking of those who dedicate themselves to the care of lepers, affirms: “Hii igitur Christi ministri, sobrii et parci sibi et corporibus suis districti valde et severi […]. Tantas autem plerumque pro Christo sustinent infirmorum immunditias et fetorum molestias pene intollerabiles, sibimet violentiam inferentes, quod nullum aliud penitentie genus huic sancto et pretioso in cospectu Dei martyrio posse arbitrer comparari [These ministers of Christ, therefore, are sober and sparing to themselves and very strict and severe to their bodies […]. They usually endure such unbearable filth and annoyances of the sick for Christ, inflicting violence on themselves, that I think no other kind of penance can be compared to this holy and precious martyrdom in the sight of God]”. In GIACOMO DA VITRY, Historia Occidentalis, op.cit., 147-148.
  191. 3Soc 7-10: FF 1379-1382.
  192. 3Soc 11-12: FF 1385.
  193. Cf. R. MANSELLI, “Nos qui cum eo fuimus“, op. cit., 28-29.
  194. showing mercy
  195. Also in the Dicta of Aegidius of Assisi the expression facere misericoraram, present only once, is not referred to man, but to God Himself. Cf. EGIDIO D’ASSISI, Dicta, op. cit., 39: “Si Deus facit misericordiam alicui magno peccatori, credis tu, quod minorem peccatorem relinquat? [If God shows mercy to a great sinner, do you believe that He will leave aside a lesser sinner?]”. Regarding an unpublished passage concerning Francis and quoted in the Expositio super regulam, J. Dalarun points out that the text in question “involves the idea of contemptus mundi, but contempt for the world is such a recurring motif in the Chronicon of Angelo Clareno, that it seems to me more spiritual than Franciscan stricto sensu”: J. DALARUN, “Afterword“, op. cit., 242-243.
  196. despising oneself
  197. Cf. G. CREMASCOLI, Exire de saeculo. Esame di alcune testi della spiritualità benedettina e francescana (sec. XIII-XIV), (“Pontificia Universitas Lateranensis. Theses ad doctoratum in S. Theologia”), Rome 1982, 53-120, in which the author analyses the presence of the theme of the exire de saeculo, from the Testament of Francis to the Quadragesimale de contemptus mundi of 1397 by Bartolomeo da Pisa, considering the works of the Saint’s biographers, Pietro Giovanni Olivi, Ubertino da Casale, Angelo Clareno, Jacopone da Todi and the Collatio de contemptu mundi, for centuries attributed to Bonaventure. It can be observed that the theme of contemptus mundi, with the passage of time, becomes more and more prominent in Franciscan spirituality, culminating in Bartolomeo da Pisa’s Quadragesimale, which, quoting Augustine, distinguishes two opposing loves: “… terrenus amor sui usque ad contemptum Dei, celestis amor Dei usque ad contemptum sui [earthly self-love even to the contempt of God, heavenly love of God to the point of self-contempt]”. On p. 124, Cremascoli himself affirms that “in Franciscan spirituality the exire de saeculo expresses the definitive choice made by the Saint of Assisi and the condition placed at the foundation of the life project he proposed”.
  198. Cf. C. FRUGONI, Francesco. Un altra storia, Genoa 1988, 9; ID., Francesco e l’invenzione delle stimmate, op. cit., 357-398. For C. Frugoni, the panel is from the early 1240s, while for Stein it is to be placed at the time of Giovanni da Parma, Minister General from 1247 to 1257. Cf. J. STEIN, ‘Dating the Bardi St. Francis Dossal. Text and Image’, FS 36 (1976), 271-297.
  199. Cf. C. FRUGONI, Francesco. Un altra storia, op. cit., 30-31; ID., Francesco e l’invenzione delle stimmate, op.cit., 378-379.
  200. C. FRUGONI, Francesco. Un’altra storia, op. cit., 31.
  201. To the best of my knowledge, nowhere in Assisi is there a painting or panel or ancient sculpture depicting Francis being with the lepers. Naturally, the question arises as to why this is so.
  202. Cf. A. VAUCHEZ, La spiritualité du Moven Age occidental VIII-XII siècles, (“Collecti SUP”, 19), Paris 1975, 43-51: “Vie angelique et mépris du monde [Angelic life and contempt for the world”. As an example, the following statement by PIER DAMIANI, Sermo XXXIII: PL 144, 678B: “Demus repudium mundo, praebeamus in nostris visceribus habitaculum Deo [Let us renounce the world, let us make a habitation for God in our bowels]…”. Analysing similar considerations, R. BULTOT, Christianisme et valeurs bumaines. La doctrine du mépris du monde en Occident de saint Ambroise à Innocent III, IV Le XI siècle. Pierre Damien, Paris, 1963, 122, states: “”Répudier le monde, lui donner la lettre de répudiation”, est chez Pierre Damien une autre formulation du contemptus mundi [“Repudiate the world, give it the letter of repudiation”, is with Pierre Damien another formulation of contemptus mundi]”. See also P. PALMERI, “”Perfectio” and “contemptus saeculi” in Pier Damiani”, Schede Medievali 10-11 (1986), 331-344. Interesting is a passage from the life of Anselm, analysed in R. BULTOT, Christianisme et valeurs bu-maines. La doctrine du mépris du monde en Occident de saint Ambroise a Innocent III. IV. Le XI siècle 2. Jean de Fécamp, Herman Contract, Roger de Caen, Anselme de Canterbury, Paris, 1963, 102-105. Anselm went to the Benedictine monastery of Bec, in Normandy, where Abbot Lanfranc of Pavia expounded to him the possible paths to holiness that he could take, among which were both contemptus mundi and ministrare misericordiam: EADMERO DA CANTERBURY, Vita sancti Anselmi 1,7: PL 158, 53-54: “Aut enim, inquit, monachus fieri volo, aut eremi cultor esse desidero, aut ex proprio patrimonio vivens, quibuslibet indigentibus propter Deum pro meo posse exinde ministrare, si consulitis cupio”. Following the advice of Abbot Lan-Franco, Anselm becomes a monk and chooses contemptus mundi: EADMERO DA CANTERBURY, Vita sancti Anselmi 1,29: PL 158, 66: “Inter haec, […] totam suae mentis intentionem in contemptum mundi composuisset…”.According to the testimony of Stephen of Bourbon, Valdesio was also animated by such spirituality: in fact, ‘rebus suis omnibus venditis, in contemptum mundi, per lutum pauperibus pecuniam suam proiciebat [Having sold all his possessions, in contempt of the world, he threw his money in the dirt for the poor]…’. See Quellen zur Geschichte der Waldenser, op.cit., 16. Here too, as with Francis of Assisi, one must ask whether the idea of “contemptum mundi” is Valdesio’s or Stephen of Bourbon’s; the latter hypothesis, considering also that the proceeds of the sale of the goods were disbursed for the benefit of the poor, seems the most probable.
  203. Cf. LOTARIO DEI SEGNI, De miseria condicionis humane, ed. R.E. Lewis, Athens 1978; R. BULTOI, “Mépris du monde, misère et dignité de l’homme dans la pensée d’Innocent III”, Cahiers de Civilisation Médievale Xe -XIIe – siècle 4 (1961), 441-456. On p. 456, Bultot, regarding the work of Innocent III, states: ‘Elle a un contenu doctrinal, à base de “platonisme”. Très positive dans l’ordre religieux, la vision d’Innocent III demeure lacunaire et unilatéralement dépréciative dans l’or-dre du corps, du temps et des valeurs profanes’. In the 12th and 13th centuries, as Bériou grasps, “longtemps avant les danses macabres et les transis, le lépreux mort-vivant offre en spectacle au monde la décomposition lente de son corps” (N. BÉRIOU – F.O. TOUATI, Voluntate Dei leprosus, Op.cit., 63), i.e. they are the obvious sign of man’s misery. Francis shows mercy to those who show the vanity of the world, and at the end of his life, he is able to appreciate all of creation, as shown in the composition of the Canticle of Brother Sun. The Saint recognises human misery, he does not despise it, rather he uses mercy on it precisely because it is such.
  204. See e.g. Adm XVI,2: Opuscula, 73-74: “Vere mundo corde sunt qui terrena despiciunt, caelestia quaerunt [They are truly pure in heart who despise earthly things and seek heavenly things]… “; RnBu XVII,14: Opuscula, 273: “Spiritus… vult mortificatam et despectam vilem et abiectam esse carnem [The spirit… wants the flesh to be mortified and despised, vilified and rejected].
  205. See F. DAL PINO, “Gli Ordini mendicanti e la carità”, in La carità a Milano, op. cit., 79-109.
  206. [mercy with]; It may be illustrative that Spe 44,3: FF 1915, wanting to explain why, according to a report taken from CAss 9,2: FF 1481, Francis “in principio religionis voluit quod fratres manerent in hospitalibus leprosorum ad serviendum eis [at the beginning of the religion he desired that the brethren should remain in the hospitals of the lepers to serve them]” states that this was desired by the Saint so that “ibi sanctae humilitatis facerent fundamentum [there they would form the foundation of holy humility]”, and not for “facere misericordiam”, as instead is attested by the direct testimony of the Testament.
  207. Cf. G. DE SANDRE GASPARINI, “Leprosy and Leprosariums”, op. cit., 267.
  208. [in the denial of self]: Cf. JUNIA BEVIGNATI, Legenda de vita et miraculis Beatae Margaritae, op. cit, 101-113. Considering that for Margarita Saint Francis was an exemplary model of holiness, it is legitimate to ask “which Francis” she is referring to: that of the Opuscula or that of the official biographies, especially Bonaventure? With regard to the interpretation of “facere poenitentiam” it can be said that its reference is to the figure of Francis presented by the biographies. Cf. Ibid., 41-45.
  209. Cf. M. D. ALATRI, “La penitenza nella leggenda “Assidua” di s. Antonio”, Il Santo ser. II 31 (1991), 371-378. The author, after affirming that “… [Francis] reflects very well the religious world, the ideas and intentions proper to Anthony” (pp. 377-378), emphasises that he is a voluntary penitent insofar as he despised the attractions of the world and that in this he is “genuinely ‘Franciscan’, committed as he is to following in the footsteps of the ‘viri penitentiales de civitate Assisii oriundi [penitential men from the city of Assis]'” (p. 378). That he is “genuinely Franciscan”, as a penitent, is correct, but then, in the concrete way of understanding this “facere poenitentiam”, he departs from Francis by never speaking of “facere misericordiam”. The same consideration applies to A. BASILE, “Dimensione penitenziale della vita cristiana nei sermoni di s. Antonio di Padova”, Il Santo ser. 18 (1978), 3-71, in which the author, on pp. 43-48, points out that penitence for Anthony is contempt of the world, of the body and of self; ‘Ex contemptu mundi nascitur odium peccati; contempta mundi pompa, clarius emicat sol gratiae; contemptus terrenorum fiduciam parit aeternorum [From the contempt of the world is born the hatred of sin; the pomp of the world being despised, the sun of grace shines more brightly; the contempt of the earthly gives birth to the confidence of the eternal]’. On p. 44n, Basile states: ‘This paragraph on contempt for the world allows us to grasp something of the Franciscan soul of St Anthony […]. It should also be remembered that contempt for the world constitutes one of the essential elements of medieval asceticism’ and refers to Innocent III’s De contemptu mundi. Basile’s assertion that Anthony’s contempt for the world is part of one of the essential elements of medieval asceticism – which has one of its emblems in the work of Innocent III – is correct, but I do not believe that one should recognise in this a Franciscan element of the Saint’s life, if by “Franciscan” one means something pertinent to Francis of Assisi.
  210. doing penance
  211. contempt for oneself
  212. showing mercy
  213. contempt for the world