Francis’ encounter with the leper: psycho-spiritual viewpoint

A reflection of Francis of Assisi’s encounter with the leper and his vocational journey. Christian experience between objectivity and subjectivity on some psycho-spiritual dynamical points.

Lam Vu OFM Cap

12th June 2006

Table of Contents

Francis of Assisi’s encounter with the leper is considered by Franciscan scholars to be a significant turning point of his life. In fact, most like Canonici agree that Francis’ encounter with the leper constitutes his real conversion.[1] He says that Francis first encounter with lepers was “an act of heroism, that becomes his first victory and his first moment of the fullness of joy”.[2] Yet, what really happened at this encounter? Did he really experience a spiritual experience, where he encountered the Lord? Or was it just a sense experience that was driven by his emotion or senses? How do we know that the experience was a perception or an image? None of Francis’ writing or his biographies suggests that it was any of these types of experiences. Micó says that “Reconstructing Francis’s image of God from his life and writings is a complicated task which is made even more difficult by his natural reluctance to reveal his most intimate religious experiences”.[3] The discernment is difficult. In state of conscious of the experience, religious experience challenges the person in the following questions: “What ought I to do?” (A moral question); “How ought I to respond to the message according to the will of God?” (A question of quality of the experience); “How ought I to respond after the experience?” (A religious or spiritual question). And this is my interest of examining the experience of Francis: If God was present in him, how did he respond to God in his life? How did he live the divine message out? Did he change in sense of self-transcendence? Thus, it is for these emerging questions that I wish to reflect the encounter of Francis with the leper in the light of the psycho-spiritual dynamic relationship between Francis and the leper, or the subjectivity and objectivity. There are three parts to this reflection paper: first, I shall define the term ‘spiritual experience’; second, I shall examine the dialectic of objectivity and subjectivity of this encounter; and finally, I shall examine the psycho-spiritual dynamic according to the four phrases of spiritual experience.

1. What is spiritual experience?

Spiritual experience is defined as “an opening of the human person to the transcendent Other who is simultaneously transcendent and immanent and that may – therefore – to be the last fundament of the relationship of the person with himself, the others and the world”.[4] P.Rulla describes “Religious experience is an experience of that which is ultimate, a mystery, the ‘known-unknown’”.[5] Ultimately the experience involves both parties, namely God and the human person; Spiritual experience can not be explained only on the part of the human person and nor of God. From the part of God, the experience is initiated by God. His presence in the experience is voluntary, freely given or gratuitous. The motivation of His presence is love, he comes to the person, calling him to stay in relation with him; God invites the person to enter into a love relationship with Him. Spiritual experience in this sense is an emotional experience, particularly of love. From the part of the human person, the experience takes place particularly in his interiority. The person does not experience God (his value) in perception, for no one has seen God. The person must be free and open in order to experience this relationship. More importantly is his capacity of responding in free and effective mode to God. And this is our point of focus, namely to discern: whether the person opens himself or herself genuinely to God? Whether his or her experience was a religious experience? We need to interpret the experience. Even though God is before us, without perception, still we need to reflect and deepen the experience, to understand the grace that we receive.

The imperative of the spiritual experience is “to take conscience of the free and self-transcendence objective values (= persona of Christi), that come to progressively modify our way of live”.[6] Spiritual experience is anthropology since the experience involves the total being of the person: his mind, heart and will. On the contrary, it is not theological nor it is biblical, where it demands us to reflect on the passage of the Gospel. The results of the experience always lead to two outcomes: the value of doing and living in the value. There are two types of values, namely nature values and transcendental value, which are religious and moral values.

2. Dialectic of objectivity and subjectivity

There are six orders of experience in the dialectic of objectivity and subjectivity in which we can put in relation to Francis’ encounter with the leper.

The first order is the notion of mediation. When an object is present in front of the subject, operations are to be immediate. Mediations are operative through the subject’s sense experience, with respect to what is represented or signified. In other words, the subject confronts the object in his total self, bringing with him in the encounter his past and future. Nevertheless, God (the object) communicates through the mediations between Himself and the person (the subject). God, who is a transcendent being, exceeds the power of person’s senses. The human person is capable of directly capturing God’s being or His communications to him.

The leper (the object) in front of Francis (the subject), was not only his neighbour to whom he was called to love but also his vocation. Francis’ nature value blocked him from facing the leper; his past experiences with lepers reminded him that he “had a natural horror of lepers” and so he “felt terrified and revolted” of the leper in front of him. However, out of the customary, Francis moved by his Christian love (his transcendental value), began to reflect and ponder that he “not wanting to transgress God’s command and break the sacrament of His word” (2Cel 9). Could it be that there was something about the leper that attracted Francis to himself? Spiritual experience in this sense is invisible and is an emotional experience, which is basically love.

In the second order of experience, the subject moves from the process of assimilation to adjustment. The human person (subject) has a capacity of adjusting to his environment, situation or in this case his new object. The process adjustment involves two distinguishing parts, namely assimilation and adjustment. Assimilation is an activity of the intellect, where it formulates a similar or known object in the mind of the subject; it brings what is external (the object) and assimilates it into the internal. Lonergan says that “assimilation brought into play the spontaneous or the previous learned operations employed successfully on somewhat similar objects or in somewhat similar situations”.[7] On the part of adjustment however, it involves a process of trial and error in which it gradually adapts and complement what the subject had previously learned in the operations.[8] In other words, the subject adapts to the object that is in front of him. Of important here, love penetrates in the object and gathers the interiority of it. Consequently, adaptation is a twofold process: the intellect assumes the person (subject) in himself while his love conforms him in front of the object. The intellect proceeds from the phenomena to the essence, while love takes the essence and knows how to recognise it in the phenomena.[9]

Reflecting on Francis’ process of adjustment to the leper, he overcame his fear of lepers, by assimilating, reflecting and pondering on his previous experiences with the lepers in respect to the transcendental value of holy matters (assimilation): “he started thinking of holy and useful matters” (1Cel 17). Celano describes that there was “grace and strength of the Most High” and something “made stronger than himself” helped Francis to adapt to the leper (adjustment). He overcame his fear of lepers by the love that was external to himself. Our question is where did this grace come from? Certainly it was a Divine intervention, but was it in the leper himself or external from him? Nevertheless, affectivity conformed Francis to the leper. He adapted to his reality (his fear of lepers), and respected the leper for who he was. He did not attempt to change the leper, instead he changed himself. In this sense, the experience was an affective experience.

Thus far, the human person, the subject, achieves self-transcendence only on the level of intelligence and reflection; such self-transcendence is only cognitive. The person as limited as he is, in the third order, enters into the encounter with a blocked memory and unintentional. Yet, if God does not permit the person to know or discover who He is, then the person cannot have the knowledge of God. Here, God comes or reveals himself voluntarily to the person. However, like the covenant relationship on Mt Sinai that demanded a real authentic reciprocity relationship between God and the Israelites, here also demands the will of both parties: God desires to be known and the person desires to know. So knowledge of God is only possible if He first allows us to know, in which is measured by how much is revealed to the person. On the part of the subject, it demands him to be free or in a state of liberation to accept the knowledge.

Francis entered the encounter with a blocked memory of his past experiences with the lepers; he was terrified of them. Francis expresses in his Testament that he was afraid of the lepers because he was in sin and so it seemed too bitter for him to see lepers. Nevertheless, he was conceived that it was Lord who led him among the lepers (Test 1-3) and so helped him to surpass his fear of them. The invitation to embrace the leper was initiated by God, and Francis responded to Him freely. So we can say that Francis saw something wonderful in the leper that attracted him to the leper.

The fourth order is the degree of presence in the spiritual dialogue between the subject and object. But the presence of the object is different from the subject. God is totally present, whereas the person is partially present. God comes into the experience totally conscious, totally present to Himself and totally experiencing Himself in the experience. The person, however, comes into the experience partially conscious, partially present to himself and partially experiencing himself in the experience. The encounter demands the person or subject to be total present, conscious, self awareness but he is restricted by his lack of perfection; it requires not only the person to be intrinsically intentional, but also to be intrinsically conscious.

Celano states that when Francis “mounted his horse and although the field was wide open, without any obstructions, when he looked around he could not see the leper anywhere” (2Cel 9). Many Franciscan scholars are convinced that it was Christ who was the leper. Canonici explains that

… he immediately turned over the proposition of perfection in his mind, the commitment to become the cavalier of Christ. With crude realism, Christ had to draw him close to the embrace of a man infected with leprosy, with the putrid body of bleeding ulcers: not only to contemplate and to mediate upon Him hanging on a painted cross, upon the altar. No, He is there, on the earth, in the body of the leper who appeared in front of him and blocked his way along the street.[10]

Nevertheless, limited by his imperfection, Francis did not recognise the Lord in the leper. Coming to the encounter, he did not suppose that this experience with the leper was just another experience that he had previous; for this experience was not intending but being conscious. The fact that Francis rationalised before he encountered the leper (whether to face him or not? How to respond to the leper?) it suggests that he was conscious of the encounter. Of importance here is his intentionality: he knew that he is afraid of the leper, yet still he desired to let go of his identity. Francis knew what he was doing, namely to overcome his fear, but was not certain what contained in the content of the encounter. There was a conflict and struggle within Francis, between his desiring to turn away or to confront the leper in love like Christ. He was not present totally. Celano describes that “He then began to consider himself less and less, until by the mercy of the Redeemer, he came to complete victory over himself” (1Cel 17). Thus, unless we empty ourselves we can never transcendence ourselves. In other words, to enter into relationship with the leper, he had to let go of his natural values, his fear and his imperfection in order to confront the leper and so became more perfect for God. No doubt there was a process of kenosis in Francis. God was hidden from Francis in this experience but he allowed him to grow and so slowly discovering himself. It seems that it was Francis who was searching actively, while God remained passive; however it was God who drew Francis to Himself. And so Francis found his identity. After the encounter Celano describes that Francis was “Filled with joy and wonder at this event” (2Cel 9). The rewards after a spiritual experience are peace and happiness, which initiates the person to desire for more.

In the fifth order, Lonergan states that there are types of knowledge, namely of facts and of born in love. The knowledge of fact does not create a dialogue and it is knowledge precedes love. On the contrary, the knowledge born of love goes beyond the knowledge of fact, in which it is operated by the first three levels of cognitive activity formed by experiencing, understanding and judging.[11] The knowledge born of love is when God floods the subject’s heart with His divine love. Here, the heart has reasons which reason does not know and that when the subject is taken by love, has a way of knowing which is different from the knowledge of facts. To obtain the knowledge born of love, a discernment of values and judgements of value of a person in love is needed.[12] Lonergan associates this love that God pours into the subject’s heart as knowledge born of religious love, namely faith.

Celano writes that Francis “made stronger than himself, he came up and kissed him” (1Cel 17). What changed Francis’s heart or made him to overcome his fear and gave the leper a kiss, which is a gesture of love? To me, his heart changed because he himself experienced the gratuitous gift of God’s love poured into his heart. It was because Francis fell in love with the God whom he knew loves him; it was God who first loved him allowed him to acquire the knowledge of love. Francis must had detached himself from what he had and was, from what he thought, desired and realised, in order to transcend himself toward God, since God alone is capable of responding to Francis, of fulfilling or resolving the continuous tension which pushed Francis ever forward. And this openness to theocentric self-transcendence was Francis’ openness to the spiritual dialogue with God. Francis did not only transcend himself in the knowledge of and search for the good, but also in love. True love means a losing of oneself and abandoning of oneself, in order to acquire it. Thus, he was in the same dynamic of love or being love and so he came down, or became lesser than himself in order to love and embrace the leper wholeheartedly. It was through God’s love that allowed him to surpass his nature values, and so to acquire self-transcendence values. Francis entered the dynamic of love.

Finally, a spiritual life is an experience of change or transformation; it is a search of the subject who arrives at an ontological change, particularly his conversion. Conversion is the way to self-transcendence. The true identity or self of the subject is inasmuch as he is self-transcending. For Lonergan a conversion or a new beginning is

To be liberated from that blunder, to discover the self-transcendence proper to the human process of coming to know, is to break often long-ingrained habits of thought and speech. It is to acquire the mastery in one’s own house that is to be had only when one knows precisely what one is doing when one is knowing.[13]

Yet, Christian transformation is a transformation of the subject who loves in a Christian way of focusing oneself on the objects that are loved by the Christian. St Paul says that Christian must achieve an act of detachment from himself in order to offer himself to God (cf. Rom 15:16). Christians ‘live no longer for themselves’ (2Cor 5:15) but for Christ and to imitate Christ who did not seek to ‘please himself’ (cf. 1Cor 10:33-11:1; Rom 15:1-3).

After the encounter with the leper, Francis “made his way to the houses of the lepers and, giving money to each, he also gave a kiss on the hand and mouth” (2Cel 9). Francis’ statement of conversion is in his Testament: “And afterwards I delayed a little and left the world” (Test 3). St Bonaventure describes his transformation:

From then on he clothed himself with a spirit of poverty, a sense of humility, and an eagerness for intimate piety. For previously not only had association with lepers horrified him greatly, so too did even gazing upon them from distance. But, now 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. He visited their houses frequently, generously distributed alms to them, and with a great drive of compassion kissed their hands and their mouths (LM 1,6).

3. Psycho-spiritual dynamical in four phrases of spiritual experience

Thus far, let us now look at the vocational journey of Francis in the four stages or levels of spiritual life. Vocational journey is a process and is collaboration between God and Francis: God gave, Francis received; God communicated and Francis listened. Our objective is to see how Francis moved, how he responded to God. If God was present in him, then God must adapt to him in every movements.

1. The Divine Call

There was no one moment where we can say that he received a calling from God, since before the encounter with the leper, God had try many times to reveal His message to Francis but he did not understand Him. For example “Francis, go and rebuild my house; as you see, it is all being destroyed” (2Cel 10) or “Who can do more for you, the servant or the Lord?” (2Cel 6). Nevertheless, the calling of Francis to establish a dialogue with God was a gratuitous gift of God. Consequently, Francis records in his Testament: “the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them” (Test 2). Francis’ declaration suggests that he experienced the overpowering of God’s love in his heart, in which it was an ‘operative grace’; God changed the heart of Francis from bitterness to a heart of sweetness and so called him to freedom for self-transcendence in love. God’s gift allowed Francis to have an apprehension of natural values, and also of self-transcendent values. In other words, he experienced his thrust or unlimited capacity for self-transcendence which was actuated and satisfied. By the action of God’s grace, Francis entered into a new dynamic and conscious state of love, and so, he became inclined to do good deeds, like ministering to the lepers, which he had previously unable to accomplished. Francis writes that “no one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel” (Test 14).

2. The Point of Departure of Human Cooperation

Accompanied the operative grace of God, was also His cooperative grace which influenced all the succeeding steps of Francis’ journey in vocation. Having experienced an overpowering of Divine love, Francis at this stage began to desire for the knowledge of this mystery. And so he went to the lepers’ houses desired to relive the same experience by “giving money to each, he also gave a kiss on the hand and mouth” (2Cel 9). Although we do not know what happened in the encounter, but Francis must had received a Divine ‘revelation’ of values which was both immediate and mediate, values which he did not appreciate previously. There could be also the impulse of love given by God to Francis to help him to discern and judge self-transcendent values. Consequently, God called Francis to abandon himself freely so as to receive the flow of Divine love distribution through his life and activity. God challenged Francis to transcend himself totally in a love of Him and neighbour which is similar to that which was inspired and presented in the life His Son Jesus. In other words, to transcend himself in living objective values, not subjective ones; in living values which are not of this world, but by what that were revealed to us in the Gospels and examples of Christ. Thus, self-transcendent values challenged Francis to live and love as Jesus did Himself.

Francis’ response to the challenge in a discernibile and evaluative manner concerning self-transcendence values, for he did not made the choice or decision about these values right away but he lingered a while. He declares in his Testament that “afterwards I delayed a little and left the world” (Test 3). He made a promise, but did not put them into practice. Slowly, he separated from his usual condition, namely his family, society and culture. Bonaventure relates that “He then began to seek out solitary places, favourable to grieving, where, with unutterable groans, he concentrated incessantly on meriting to be heard by the Lord after the long perseverance of his prayers” (LM 1,5). His usual prayer was “who are you and who am I?” There was a changed in the perception of himself and in the perception of the Other. The activity of discernment aroused the whole range of emotional resonances for Francis going with emotional and reflective emotional reactions to the world of the divine, and accordingly movements which brought joy, comfort and enthusiasm, or repulsion, resistance and distance. Celano relates that:

He prayed with all his heart that the eternal and true God guide his way and teach him to do His will. He endured great suffering in his soul, and he was not able to rest until he accomplished in action what he had conceived in his heart. Different thoughts followed one after another, and their relentlessness severely disturbed him (1Cel 6).

Yet again, it was at this moment that he began to evaluate on the value of his future life, his vocation, however, reformulating and restructuring his life. The union with God in an intermediate situation in which the structuration of his past life was suspended, while the structuration of a new life was not yet accepted by him.

3. The Decision to Begin, or not to begin, the Journey of Vocation

At this stage, Francis began to decide his values and choice of ideals, which favoured some of his interior movements and rejected other. His choice of entering into a Christian vocation was probably based on his ideal self, or self-ideal-in-situation. There was a deep sense of ‘willingness’ of Francis to do the will of God, and to live as Christ did, in this case particularly in the ideal poverty. He expressed this ideal by renouncing his world, his wealth and became poor: For Christ was rich but then became poor for us (Phil 2:6-11).

After hearing the Gospel of Christ sending his disciples out to preach the kingdom of God and penance (Mt 10:9-10), Francis filled with the spirit of God and proclaimed, “This is what I want … this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart” (1Cel 22). The Gospel’s passage gave him insight into how he ought to live his vocation. Immediately after, Francis

… took off the shoes from his feet, put down the staff from his hands, and, satisfied with one tunic, exchanged his leather belt for a cord. … he made for himself a tunic showing the image of the cross, so that in it he would drive off every fantasy of the demons. He made it very rough, so that in it he might crucify the flesh with its vices and sins. He made it very poor and plain, a thing that the world would never covet (1Cel 22).

Francis’ decision to begin his vocational journey was an expression of a symbolic process that was progressive with respect to his theocentric self-transcendence. P. Rulla gives two kinds of symbols present in the vocational dialogue: the two polar symbols (subjective values and objective values) and the symbols as performance (the kind of elaboration one makes of the relationship existing between the two poles).[14] Francis was conscious of his decision because it was a result of the encounter between his conscious intentionality and the motivating force of objective self-transcendence values.

4. The process of Integration of the Self, in Theocentric Self-transcendence, with Life in Christ

The fourth stage of Francis’ vocational journey required him to integrate his new self-transcendent ideals which he was developing with the rest of his personality. In other words, there must be a harmony between his ideals of Christian values that he previously decided and the life that he actually lived in the following of Christ. This stage is a process that goes from deciding to doing. Francis accepted to change his daily life into a life of a new relationship with God, which means entering into a new world with Christ. The process involves a transformation in Christ: to love and give himself totally to God and others, as Christ did. After his resolution to leave the world and follow Christ, Celano records that: “the first work that blessed Francis undertook, after he had gained his freedom from the hands of his carnally-minded father, was to build a house of God” (1Cel 18).

The process of integration involves three stages or levels of asceticism and each of it has its psycho-social mediation.[15]

First, Francis’ self-transcendent values that were chosen must be integrated with the dispositions, already existed in him (first dimension). These include elements that influenced his growth in holiness and in corresponding apostolic effectiveness, in particularly his conscious dispositions to virtue or to sin.

The second place is the integration. Having already overcame sin for virtue (first dimension), now Francis concerned himself more with serving God in imitation of Christ by means of a good which was not merely apparent to him but real, seeking the good which is best for the Kingdom of God. For him, one way of discerning this good was by seeking the Gospel. Celano articulates that “A burst of spiritual energy rushed through him, snatching him into the unseen. It was so powerful it made him consider earthly things unimportant and utterly worthless” (2Cel 7). Consequently, the first and second dimensions of Francis are integrated into new self-transcendent ideals. His second dimension was the dialectic between his real good and the apparent good of objective holiness with its corresponding apostolic effectiveness.

Finally, in his desire to be in union with the Lord in love for the sake of His goodness, Francis now inclined to abandon totally of himself for God and his neighbours, aiming at complete freedom from himself and from all that closed him in or limited his self-transcendence or his opening himself and giving himself to God. And so, Celano writes that “He started to change into the perfect man, and became a different person” (2Cel 7). Transformation into Christ means assimilating or internalising the self-transcendent values lived by Christ, making His values, one’s own or one’s own interior. It is his process of internalisation, making his heart received as a gratuitous gift through operative grace at the beginning of his vocation. Thus, Francis echoing the words of St Paul “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Making his heart that of Christ, the heart of flesh became the heart of Christ, in which it was able to love those whom society reject, embraced the marginal that society refused; he gave without reservations for the love of God and neighbours. He was faithful to these transcendent values even to the final day of his life. Consequently, in his sermon on the saint’s feast day, Bonaventure records the word of Hugh of Saint Victor, who says,

“Such is the power of love, that it transforms the lover into the Beloved.” Love of the Crucified Lord was supremely and gloriously aflame in his heart, and so the Crucified himself, in the form of the Seraph, an angelic spirit burning with the fire of love, appeared before his saintly eyes and imprinted the sacred stigmata on his body.[16]


In the course of this presentation, we have reflected two parts: the encounter of Francis with the leper by looking at the relationship between the objectivity and subjectivity, and his vocational journey in the four stages or levels of spiritual life.

We may conclude that the encounter between Francis and the leper was a spiritual experience, since it transformed him, and his actions after the encounter were those of self-transcendence values. Even though he entered into the experience with restrictions, but he was able to transcend his subjective values and responded to the objective values. It was in a leper that Francis experienced the Lord and this experience became the dominant influence in his life. In the leper he had experienced the presence of the Lord who is sinless, who is all perfect and is God. Yet in the leper the Lord appeared ugly, deformed and repulsive. On the other hand, Francis felt that he was a sinful human being, who was well dressed, highly regarded, popular and ambitious. In this way Francis began to translate his meeting with the leper into an ideal or spirituality of poverty, his transcendence value. Francis began to feel that he should live as a person who is unimportant to society and so he gave up his position in society and took a life of poverty, his vocation journey towards God.

The vocational journey of Francis was a dynamic relationship between theocentric self-transcendence and freedom in Christian vocation. He showed a sense of freedom in his discernment and evaluation of transcendence values (knowledge, moral and love) in following Christ as his response to the call of God. Francis showed a great desire for the knowledge of the mystery of Divine love. His responses to God’s call were that of objective values (moral and love) – his ideal self – which echoed those that were embraced by Christ. He showed that his vocation was a call to freedom for self-transcendence in love, and of the total gift of himself to God and his neighbours. And this is evidence by his proclamation in his Testament: “what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body” (Test 3). With St Paul, Francis learnt to regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil 3:8). Thus, in responding to our questions in the introduction, the answer is ‘yes’ God was presented in Francis and he did respond to God in self-transcendence values and objective values.


Accounts of Francis’ meeting the leper as in his two biographies by Thomas of Celano.

First Celano 17:

Then the holy lover of profound humility moved to the lepers and stayed with them. For God’s sake he served al of them with great love. He washed all the filth from them, and even cleaned out the pus of their sores, just as he said in his Testament: “When I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers, and the Lord led me among them and I showed mercy to them.” For he used to say that the sight of lepers was so bitter to him that in the days of his vanity when he saw their houses even two miles away, he would cover his nose with his hands.

When he started thinking of holy and useful matters with the grace and strength of the Most High, while still in the clothes of the world, he met a leper one day. Made stronger than himself, he came up and kissed him. He then began to consider himself less and less, until by the mercy of the Redeemer, he came to complete victory over himself.

While staying in the world and following its ways, he was also a helper of the poor. He extended a hand of mercy to those who had nothing and he poured out compassion for the afflicted. One day, contrary to his custom (since he was very polite), he rebuked a poor person seeking alms from him, and he was immediately led to penance. He began to say to himself that to refuse what was asked by someone begging in the name of such a great King would be both a shame and a disgrace. And so he fixed this in his heart: to the best of his ability, never to deny anything to anyone begging from him for God’s sake. This he did and with such care that he offered himself completely, in every way, first practicing before teaching the gospel counsel: “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you”.

Second Celano 9:

Among all the awful miseries of this world Francis had a natural horror of lepers, and one day as he was riding his horse near Assisi he met a leper on the road. He felt terrified and revolted, but not wanting to transgress God’s command and break the sacrament of His word, he dismounted from his horse and ran to kiss him. As the lepers stretched out his hand, expecting something, he received both money and a kiss. Francis immediately mounted his horse and although the field was wide open, without any obstructions, when he looked around he could not see the leper anywhere. Filled with joy and wonder at this event, within a few days he deliberately tried to do something similar. He made his way to the houses of the lepers and, giving money to each, he also gave a kiss on the hand and mouth. Thus he took the bitter for the sweet and courageously prepared to carry out the rest.


1Cel The First Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano. (taken from Vol. I)

2Cel The Second Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano. (taken from Vol. II)

Test Testament of Francis. (taken from Vol.I)

LM Major Legend of Saint Francis by St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. (taken from Vol. II)


Primary sources:

ARMSTRONG, R.J. – HELLMANN, J.A.W. – SHORT, W.J., Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. The Saint, Vol. I, New City Press, NY 1999.

ARMSTRONG, R.J. – HELLMANN, J.A.W. – SHORT, W.J., Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. The Founder, Vol. II, New City Press, NY 1999.

Secondary sources:

CANONICI, L., “Leper, Leprosarium”, Greyfriars Review 9/3 (1995) 247-258.

LONERGAN, B., Method in Theology, University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2003.

MANENTI, A., DP1004 Intergrazione psico-spirituale. Lecture notes, PUG, 2006.

MANENTI, A., Vivere gli ideali/2: fra senso posto e senso dato, EDB, Bologna 2004.

MANENTI, A., Vivere gli ideali: fra paura e desiderio/1, EDB, Bologna 2002.

MICÓ, J., “The Spirituality St. Francis: Francis’s Image of God”, Greyfriars Review 9/3 (1995) 129-149.

RULLA, L.M., Anthropology of the Christian Vocation, Vol. I., Gregorian University Press, Rome 2004.

  1. L. CANONICI, “Leper, Leprosarium”, Greyfriars Review 9/3 (1995) 248.
  2. ibid., 247.
  3. J. MICÓ, “The Spirituality St. Francis: Francis’s Image of God”, Greyfriars Review 9/3 (1995) 130.
  4. Original text: “apertura della persona umana al trascendente Altro che è simultaneamente trascendente e immanente e che può – quindi- essere il fondamento ultimo del rapporto della persona con se stessa, gli altri e il mondo.” In A. Manenti, DP1004 Intergrazione psico-spirituale. Lecture notes, PUG (7/3/2006).
  5. ACV I, 209.
  6. A. MANENTI, Vivere gli ideali: frap aura e desiderio/1, EDB, Bologna 2002, 13.
  7. B. LONERGAN, Method in Theology, University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2003, 27.
  8. ibid., 27.
  9. A. Manenti, DP1004 Intergrazione psico-spirituale. Lecture notes, PUG (7/3/2006).
  10. CANONICI, 249.
  11. LONERGAN, 115.
  12. ibid., 115.
  13. ibid., 239.
  14. AVC I, 319.
  15. AVC I, 339.
  16. SAINT BONAVENTURE, The Morning Sermon on Saint Francis, Preached at Paris, October 4, 1255. Taken from Vol. II, p515.