Writings of St.Francis
from the list of writings of St.Francis at left.
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St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Orders
Visit the Franciscan Archives at: www.franciscan-archives.org
METHOD FOR READING THE
WRITINGS OF FRANCIS
TOR Resource Manual - Pages 70 - 79
From: Isabell, OFM, Damien.
Workbook for Franciscan Studies.
Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1979. (Out of Print)
A. Try to get into the world of Francis.
What was Italy like at that time and place?
What was the condition of the Order at that time?
To whom was Francis writing?
What is the reason?
Where does this writing fit into Francis' life?
Read the introduction to the writing for some clues
Use your imagination to reconstruct the scene, make use of picture books, biographies of
Francis, history books, travel posters, etc.
B. Look at the content and try
to get the
themes, values, ideals of Francis
What does Francis say?
What is his main point?
What is the attitude of Francis?
If Francis could say these words, how would they sound?
What emotional coloring would there be?
What images does Francis use?
Mother-child relationship, personification, etc.?
C. Try to identify the tone or feeling of the writing.
What is Francis doing? Praying, supporting, legislating, exhorting?
What kind of a feeling does the letter, poem, prayer, Rule convey?
Warmth, concern, ecstasy..?
What is the attitude of Francis?
If Francis could say these words, how would they sound?
What emotional coloring would there be?
What images does Francis use?
Mother-child relationship, personification, etc.?
D. Apply this writing to our
experience & present response
What does Francis say to me in the twentieth century?
How can we implement this writing today?
Can I link this writing to my own experience?
Letter to Leo and writing to console a friend in need;
Letter to a Minister and our need for reconciliation.
How does my response compare with Francis' in a similar situation?
What changes do I have to make?
METHODOLOGY FOR TEACHING
THE WRITINGS OF ST. FRANCIS
Our study of Francis' writings cannot remain merely at the intellectual level. Somehow we
must tie Francis' words and experience into our own life experience. We have to make the
transition from the 13th century to the 20th century.
In studying St. Francis' writings we attempt to reconstruct the person of Francis and
touch his experience with all the intricacies of his time and the depth of feeling
involved. We look at how Francis responded to his experiences in his life so we can
compare them to our own response with the hope of improving our response and making it
more truly Christian and Franciscan.
Our study of Francis' writings thus becomes a dialogue with the person of Francis in which
we become personally involved. If we aren't willing to ask "How do I have to
change?" then our study is just a literary venture and not real Franciscan renewal.
The techniques which follow will hopefully open for you some possibilities for exploring
the full meaning of Francis' writings. They are to aid you in jumping from the 13th to the
20th century. These methods presuppose a critical understanding of the text in its context
and are not meant to displace the preceding section. These methods are primarily ways for
involving us personally with the writings of Francis and to stimulate a dialogue with
Francis through his writings.
The underlying assumption of this section is that we can truly understand Francis'
experience only when we can somehow link it to our own experience. We have to see the
similarities and the differences in our experiences and responses so that we can arrive at
the meaning of the writings and the events of Francis' life. We cannot just try to mimic a
13th century man in the 20th century. We have to make the transition of Francis' dreams
and ideals from his century to our own.
These methods point up one particular element of writing. They set the scene in an
elaborate way, zero in on the feelings, or mimic Francis in a simplistic way. They are not
a complete study. This experiential approach gives us a feel for the writings of Francis
and provides a common experience to use as a starting place in group reflections.
Hopefully, these suggestions will prod you to experiment with some of your own ideas and
insights into Francis' writings so that you can become involved in the dialogue with
Francis and bring his dreams to life in your own life.
Letter to all Clerics
A letter of this kind is usually prompted by some abuses. Lateran IV reacted to
these abuses with legislation, and Francis following the directives of the Church, wrote
his own exhortation. From your knowledge of history and the contents of this letter, write
an NCR account of the events and abuses leading up to the writing of this letter. Be
specific, dig out the shocking details, use your imagination -- but remember, you are in
the Thirteenth Century. Share with the group and try to get to the real setting for this
Letter to Brother Leo
Read Bodo, The Journey and the Dream, p. 66-68 and 154-155, to make the
relationship between Francis and Leo come alive. Reading aloud helps set the mood.
Read the Letter to Leo in the same way.
Try to identify with Leo's experience - what was Leo's difficulty and how did he
feel when he received this letter? Focus in on Leo's feelings.
Split into two's with someone you know well. Write a short note to your partner,
trying to capture the feelings and tone of Francis' Letter to Leo. Try to make your
partner feel the way Leo did when he received the letter from Francis. It is a personal
image to be shared only with your partner, no one else.
Exchange notes with your partner only. Were you able to do for your partner what
Francis did for Leo?
Does this letter say anything about your style of brotherhood/sisterhood?
People react to Francis' writings in various ways. Read through all the Admonitions
and select the one that impresses you the most and the one that "turns you off"
or that you like the least. Have reasons for your selections. Check the Glossary before
you react too strongly. Share with the group, beginning with the negative ones, since they
usually evoke stronger feelings.
Letter to the Rulers of the People
Letter writing forces us to clarify our thinking and to take a stand. Francis took
a definite stand in his Letter to the Rulers. Select a current public official --
international, national, or local - and write a letter to him. Select someone you really
feel strongly about, e.g. an outspoken senator, a school board member, news commentator,
or foreign diplomat. Admonish him, support him, encourage him, remind him of his duties of
office - whatever you want to say to him.
What kind of responsibility did Francis feel for society? What kind of attitude did
he project? How does yours compare'? Does this letter say anything about our relation to
the United Farm Workers, Right to Life, multinational corporations, political involvement?
Send off your letter -- you might be surprised at the results.
Paraphrase of the Our Father
The Fatherhood of God is a basic concept for Francis because it makes us brothers
and sisters with Jesus and with all creation. Francis sensed very strongly that God was
his very own father who took the place of Pietro Bernardone. To get a feel for what
Francis experienced, re-write the Our Father in the singular ..."My" Father.
Then as you convert the prayer from the plural to the singular, update some of the wording
so you understand it. Try to remain faithful to the biblical sense of the prayer. You are
not writing a totally new prayer -- you are applying the concept of God as our common
Father to God as your own personal Father. Do the exercise on your own or in a prayerful
group atmosphere. Share the results with your brothers and sisters or keep it in your
Bible for your own personal use.
Prayers of St. Francis
Writing is a means of concretizing and clarifying our ideas and is a mode of
expression for our feelings. Francis wrote songs, prayers, poems, and offices for his own
edification and for the people around him.
Try to write a prayer, poem or song ... whatever your medium is .... to express the
feelings, the faith and the love that is inside you. You might want to just strum the
guitar and make up a ballad just as minstrels did in Francis' day. You could just take a
small notebook and head for the woods or the park and compose your prayer in the midst of
nature. The possibilities are limitless, you should always strive to have some concrete
product, no matter what it is.
Letter to St. Anthony
Write down a list of twenty works that your community is involved in, e.g. teaching
high school, hospital chaplains, pastors, social work, etc. Rank what you would consider
the 5 most important Franciscan apostolates. Then select 5 works which you would be
interested in. Tally the results.
Where are the problems or tensions between the work we select and our Franciscan
way of life? How do we deal with them? What criteria do we use in pulling out of works?
What was Francis' criteria ... here and elsewhere?
What's the big difficulty in professionalism (that was Anthony's problem)? How do
we react to Franciscan bus drivers, elevator operators, orderlies, printers, day-laborers?
Letter to a Minister
Compose a brief job description for the Local Minister based on the contents of
this letter. Make it attitudinal and descriptive rather than task oriented. Compare and
discuss the basic qualities of a Franciscan superior and the distinctively Franciscan
style of leadership.
It's a consoling fact that even in Francis' day there were disruptive friars and
problems in fraternity. How does Francis encourage those in authority to deal with these
problems? What does this letter say about our dealing with problems, tensions, disruptive
friars and sisters?
Compare your job description with II Cel 185 to see how Celano describes a
Testament of St. Francis
The Israelite people were eminently aware of God's hand in history. They saw Yahweh
acting in plagues, storms, battles, prophets, and kings. In Psalm 135 (136) the Israelites
reflect on their past and praise and thank God for His actions in it. God's greatest
action was in His Son, Jesus, but lie has not stopped acting in history. He continues to
act in your and my personal history.
Read Psalm 136. Then using just the first and last verse and the refrain, write out
your own personal psalm. (You could use a printed form for this with the complete psalm on
one side and space for your projected one on the other.)
Think over your own life and select the five most important people and the five
most important events in your life. God was active there. Write your personal Psalm 136
thanking and praising God for the unique way He called you. Share it if you like, or put
it in your Bible to pray occasionally.
In the Testament, Francis, at the end of his life, was reflecting on his past and
the unique way in which God touched him. Notice who is responsible for those events. Who
were the people who had a significant impact on Francis' life? What events were important?
What is Francis' basic stance in the first part of the Testament with regard to the events
of his life? What are some of the fears of Francis as he prepares for Sister Death? What
occasioned such strong language in sections 7 - 10?
Admonitions: A Study Guide
1. On the Body of Christ -- against the Cathari
How is God described?
If our goal is God, how do we arrive at Him?
What is the role of Jesus in this?
How does your contact with Jesus in the Eucharist affect your life?
How can we possess the Spirit of God in order to be led by Him?
2. Evil of Self-Will
Where are we led when we meditate on God, Creator, Source of all good?
How does one make himself the "creator of all," the source of all knowledge?
What good really comes from us? How,do we seek to call attention to ourselves?
3. Perfect and
a. What do Christ's words mean concretely in terms of daily life
(Lk. 14:33; Mt. 16:35)?
b. How can obedience be an attitude of life? (See I Cel 140)
c. How can one explain the need to obey superiors? (2 Cel 151)
d. What does "making an offering of his own will to God"
e. Give examples of acting "under pretext" against a
4. No Appropriation of
a. What does it mean to say: "I have not come to be served but to
serve the coming of the Kingdom"?
b. How can one "not want to appropriate power" and still be a
woman of creativity, leadership,
5. Boast in the Cross
a. God is a gift-giver. All is gift or grace. What does this say about
b. What have you to be proud of? How do we use our bodies, facility to
speak, or knowledge, etc. to lord it over others?
c. What does Jesus' example have to say to us regarding our public
6. Imitation of the Lord
Francis wants us to live as Jesus lived.
How did Jesus live?
What do we talk about most often when we discuss religious life,
and how concretely do we live it?
What can we expect from Christian life if it is a following of Christ?
7. Good Works must follow
The Gospel comes before all precepts (2 Cel 216). How do you listen to God's Word?
Is it received with gratitude and futility?
Do you put more trust in reading or in study than in prayerful struggle with God'?
Do you use what you know about Gospel life or religious life to judge others?
8. Avoid the Sin of Envy
"A life without property" touches the root of one's life: it means seeking God's
glory and not one's own (Adm. 2,3), and not holding on to power (Adm.4), not glorying in
our good works (Adm.6), nor in our knowledge (Adm.7).
Often we feel lessened when another is successful or has qualities different from our own.
What does this say about our identity and our relationship with God?
Can we thank God for others'?
9. Fraternal Love
To what degree can we say that we are truly following Christ alone when everything we do
is in total agreement with our own natural dispositions and desires?
Are we angry at others' sin because it offends us in some way, or because what it has done
to the person himself?
10. Mortification of the Body
Look closely at your life. What do you complain about?
Whom do you blame for this?
Are you always excusing yourself rather than taking responsibility for your own life? Mt.
10: 16f,. warns us to be on guard against self- deception.
What steps do I take to truly know myself?
11. No one should be scandalized by another's sin
The fourth line of this admonition reads: "That servant of God lives well with
nothing of his own (sine proprio) who does not get angry or disturbed by anyone. "
Sin exists. It impedes the spread of God's Kingdom.
What action do we take against sin?
What are our reasons for doing so? (moralist? "better than thou"?).
Read Lk. 18:1 1; Rm. 12:2 1; Eph. 4:32-35
How do we show care for sinners?
In our own communities?
12. How to know the spirit of God
Read Romans 8:4-10; Mt.26-42; I Cor.6:17.
Note the underlying theology:
God is the giver of all gifts (II Cel .17). One who becomes his own center of attention
sins by presumption.
One who looks honestly at his life must "render to God what is God's and to self what
is self's." True humility is to see God's continued goodness.
Part of our sinfulness is the tendency to think we are better than others.
This false comparison is very harmful (II Cel 133; I Cor.4:7; Phil.2: 3-4).
13. Patience (see also LM 1,2, p. 636)
a. Read Ephesians 4:32. We all face the dangers of illusion. What we
think we are is not always who we are.
b. Acts of patience do not necessarily betray a basic attitude of
c. Do we avoid persons and situations that threaten us, or are we
willing to become free by the truth? (Jn. 8: 32)
14. Poverty of spirit
Recall Jesus' example of self-emptying (Adm.1), the evil of self will (Adm.11), the need
for obedience (Adm.111), evil of wanting to grasp power (Adm.IV-), the danger of thinking
one is "something" because of knowledge (Adm.V), need to accept one's limits and
to praise others' accomplishments (Adm.Vll), no anger against others (Adm. XI), dealing
with others with all humility (Adm.Xlll). This is to live with nothing of one's own.
How do we deal with the tension between leading a "devout life" and not
What does our defensiveness say about our "poverty of spirit"?
Ambition and the desire to possess are two of the chief enemies of peace (Phil.4:7)
How can the "love of our Lord Jesus Christ" help us maintain peace in the midst
16. Pure of heart
The single-minded are those who seek God's Will in all things. This is the opposite of
How does a person develop openness in his life?
"Seeing God," "Adoring God," what does this say to your experience?
17. The humble servant of God
a. "You are all brothers...... (Mt. 23: 8-9) Read also 2Pt. 1:7;
Jn. 13:34; Lk 22:27-, Mt. 20:28; 1 Cor. 4: 6-7.
b. Can you rejoice in the good God works through others?
c. "One who demands of others more than what he is ready to give
God in some way puts himself in God's place. Instead of wanting to be servant of God, he
chooses to be Lord of others" (Esser).
18. Compassion for one's neighbor
a. Read: I Jn.2: 21; Jn. 15: 14; Lk. 10:26.
b. Do we expect for ourselves more understanding than we are willing to
c. Can we allow others to "be different"?
19. Of the good and the bad servant
How can we become conscious of our "stewardship"?
We are to hold nothing back for ourselves. What does this say of our need to develop our
talents for the sake of God's glory?
20. Of the good and humble religious
How much does my life depend on the affirmation, the recognition, the esteem of others?
How do I care for others .... by solely making them to serve my needs, or do I serve their
One who is put into authority must not cling to what he has received, but must be just as
willing to give back his authority.
Does Francis reveal a false humility here? If someone feels he is a competent leader and
can do some good in a province or a house, must he resist this or hide it?
21. The happy and the silly religious
This admonition expresses the comfort and personal security one feels who has known
the Lord and His promises. The superficial person is the one who is always talking, always
trying to "be with it," or the life of the party. What is the value and the
danger of talking?
How can one use the words and deeds of our Lord to make others love God?
22. The talkative religious
"To know something which others do not is to become a person distinct from other
persons. " (P. Tournier, The Meaning of Persons.) How does Francis' injunction
"he should think hard before he speaks" realize itself in practical life?
What secrets from God do you hold treasured in your heart that you do not reveal to
23. True correction
How does this admonition seem reasonable or human?
What underlies it?
How do you excuse yourself to others when they call attention
to something in your life? Why the defensiveness?
Does this say something about your own attitude towards changing/conversion?
24. True humility
Here Francis asks us to go beyond roles, to never lose relationships of brotherhood
despite what offices we may have or not have.
Part of being faithful to Penance is the desire to be amended. Recognition of one's fault
must be total. How is this shown in this text and what is the way this can be realized
25. True love
How often is "usefulness" not a reason for relating to our brothers and sisters?
They can keep us company, they are good conversationalists, they like what I like. Do
faith and common call ask us to go beyond these spontaneous patterns of life? How?
Can respect for one be had to his/her face and not behind his/her back? If love is total,
how does a person's absence affect it?
26. Respect for clergy
Does our seeing of personal defects in the clergy impede our vision of faith in their
How often do I renew my faith in Christ's priesthood by praying for the ministers of His
27. Virtue and Vice
Explain each couplet in a way which is more intelligible to you.
How does the spirit of this admonition differ from the "Peace Prayer of St.
28. Virtue should be concealed or it will be lost
What "marvelous doings of God" happen in your life that you think should be kept
How can you develop attentiveness to these "marvelous doings"?
Does this mean we should not share our faith and our prayer?
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The Saint's City
There where Francis went he threw
his child's shadow with a burning candle.
There he pulled out his own roots planting
them in the Umbrian wind.
There he gave brothers the gift of poverty
and sowed the seed for birds,
feathered angels. There he renounced
later images-their praise,
There he laid himself
upon the earth
breathed with her, listened to
her stories and told them anew so
that birds and rabbits understood
them as cliffs and water, humans
and trees, the dust under our feet
did as well.
By: Peter Hartling