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The Little Flowers of Francis of Assisi

Finding perfect joy

A teaching from St Francis (1181-1226) which is found in The Little Flowers of Saint Francis. “Brothers Minor” is a reference to the Franciscans. To St Francis, joy is found in the one thing which a Christian can offer to God, not in those things which God gives to the believer. This short story details that one offering which is initiated by the Christian.

“One day, as St Francis was going with Brother Leone from Perugia to Santa Maria degli Angioli, in the winter, and suffering a great deal from the cold, he called to Brother Leone, who was walking on before him, and said to him: ‘Brother Leone, if it were to please God that the Brothers Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and carefully observe, that this would not be a cause for perfect joy.’

A little farther on, St Francis called to him a second time: ‘O Brother Leone, if the Brothers Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they could make straight the crooked, chase away demons, restore sight to the blind, give hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and what is even a grater work, raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be a cause for perfect joy.’

Shortly after this, he cried out again: ‘O Brother Leone, if the Brothers Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scriptures; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be a cause for perfect joy.’ . . .

Shortly after, he cried out again: ‘O Brother Leone, if the Brothers Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be a cause for perfect joy.’

Now this discourse having lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leone wondered much within himself; and questioning the saint, he said: ‘Father, I pray that you would teach me where to find cause for perfect joy.’

St Francis answered: ‘If, when we shall arrive at Santa Maria degli Angioli, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him that we are two of his brothers, he should answer angrily, ‘what you say is not the truth; you are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone, I say’; if he refuses to open to us and leaves us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till night arrives,--then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty, and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled, and without murmuring . . . O Brother Leone, write down that this is a cause for perfect joy.’ . . .

And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to His friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love to Christ, sufferings, injuries, discomforts and contempt; for in all the other gifts of God we cannot glory, because they do not proceed from ourselves, but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, ‘What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?’ (I Corinthians 4:7) But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, ‘I will not glory save in the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ.’ (Galatians 6:14) Amen.”

©Mark Nickens 2009 All Rights Reserved