Saint Francis of Assisi



From the 'Letter to all the Faithful'.

Proper reading from the Office of Readings of St Francis of Assisi on the 4th of October.



The Lord gave to me, Brother Francis, thus to begin to do penance; for when I was in sin it seemed to me very bitter to see lepers, and the Lord Himself led me amongst them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, that which had seemed to me bitter was changed for me into sweetness of body and soul. And afterwards I remained a little and I left the world. And the Lord gave me so much faith in churches and that I would simply pray and say thus: "We adore Thee Lord Jesus Christ here and in all Thy churches which are in the whole world, and we bless Thee because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world".

After that the Lord gave me, and gives me, so much faith in priests who live according to the form of the holy Roman Church, on account of their order, that if they should persecute me, I would have recourse to them. And if I had as much wisdom as Solomon had, and if I should find poor priests of this world, I would not preach against their will in the parishes in which honesty. Let those who know not [how to work] learn, not through desire to receive the price of labour but for the sake of example and to repel idleness. And when the price of labour is not given to us, let us have recourse to the table of the Lord, begging alms from door to door.



The Lord revealed to me this salutation that we should say: "The Lord give thee peace". Let the brothers take care not to receive on any account churches, poor dwelling-places, and all other things that are constructed for them, unless they are as is becoming the holy poverty which we have promised in the Rule, always dwelling there as strangers and pilgrims.

I strictly enjoin by obedience on all the brothers that, wherever they may be, they should not dare, either themselves or by means of some interposed person, to ask any letter in the Roman Curia either for a church or for any other place, nor under pretext of preaching, nor on account of their bodily persecution, but, wherever they are not received let them flee to another land to do penance, with the blessing of God. And I wish to obey the minister general of this brotherhood strictly and the guardian whom it may please him to give me. And I wish to be so captive in his hands that I cannot go or act beyond his obedience and his will because he is my master. And although I am simple and infirm, I desire withal always to have a cleric who will perform the Office with me as it is contained in the Rule.

And let all the other brothers be found to obey their guardian and to perform the office according to the Rule. And those who may be found not performing the office according to the Rule and wishing to change it in some way, or who are not Catholics, let all the brothers wherever they may be, if they find one of these, be bound by obedience to present him to the custos who is nearest to the place where they have found him. And the custos shall be strictly bound, by obedience, to guard him strongly day and night as a prisoner so that he cannot be snatched from his hands until he shall personally place him in the hands of his ministers. And the minister shall be firmly bound by obedience to send him by such brothers as shall watch him day and night like a prisoner until they shall present him to the Lord of Ostia, who is master protector and corrector of this brotherhood.

And let not the brothers say: "This is another Rule", for this is a remembrance, a warning, and an exhorta-tion and my testament which I, little Brother Francis, make for you, my blessed brothers, in order that we may observe in a more Catholic way the Rule which we have promised to the Lord. And let the minister general and all the other ministers and custodes be bound by obedience not to add to these words or to take from them. And let them always have this writing with them beside the Rule. And in all the chapters they hold, when they read the Rule let them read these words also. And I strictly enjoin on all my brothers, clerics and laics, by obedience, not to put glosses on the Rule or on these words saying: "Thus they ought to be understood", but, as the Lord has given me to speak and to write the Rule and these words simply and purely, so shall you understand them simply and purely and with holy operation observe them until the end.

And whoever shall observe these things, may he be filled in heaven with the blessing of the Most High Father, and may he be filled on earth with blessing of His Beloved Son together with the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, and all the Powers of heaven and all the saints. And I, Brother Francis, your little one and servant, in so far as I am able, I confirm to you within and without this most holy blessing. Amen.


And so I beseech all of you friars with a kiss upon your feet and with that charity, of which I am able, to exhibit every reverence and every honour, as much as you will be able, to the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom those (things) which are in the heavens and which are on the earth, have been pacified and reconciled to the Omnipotent God (cf. Col 1:20).

For a man despises, defiles and tramples upon the Lamb of God, when, as the Apostles says, "not re-cognising" (1 Cor 11:29) and discerning Christ's Holy Bread from other foods or works, he eats it unworthily or even, if he was worthy, he eats it vainly and as one unworthy, since the Lord says through the Prophet: "Cursed be" the man, "who" does the work of God "fraudulently" (cf. Jer 48:10).

Listen, my friars: if the Blessed Virgin is so honoured, as is right, because She carried Him in her most holy womb; if the blessed Baptist trembled and did not dare to touch the holy crown of the head of God; if the Sepulchre, in which He laid for some time is venerated, how holy, just and worthy ought he be, who handles with hands and receives with heart and mouth and offers to others to be received Him, who will die no more, but who will forever conquer and has been glorified, upon whom "the Angels long to gaze" (1 Pet 1:12)?

"See your dignity, brother" (cf. 1 Cor 1:26) priests, and be holy, because He himself is Holy (cf. Lev 19:2). And just as above all others on account of this ministry the Lord God has honoured you, in this manner also love, revere, and honour Him above all others. Great miseries and miserable infirmity, when you hold Him so present and you care for anything else in the whole world. Let the whole man tremble with fear, let the whole world begin to completely quake, and let heaven exult, when upon the altar in the hand of the priest is "Christ, the Son of the living God" (Jn 11:27)! O admirable height and stupendous esteem! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity, that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Him-self, to hide Himself on behalf of our salvation under the limited, little form of bread! See, friars, the humility of God and "pour out your hearts before Him" (Ps 61:9); humble also yourselves, so that you may be exalted by Him (cf. 1 Pet 5:6; Jas 4:10). Therefore keep nothing of yourselves for yourselves, so that He may receive you whole, He who manifests Himself wholly to you.

Furthermore I confess all my sins to the Lord God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, to the Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin and to all the saints in Heaven and on Earth, to friar H., the minister of our religion, as to my venerable lord, and to the priests of our Order and to all my other blest friars. In many things I have of-fended out of my own grave fault, especially that I have not kept the Rule, which I have promised the Lord, nor have I said the Office, as the Rule precepts, either out of negligence or the occasion of my infirmity or because I am ignorant and an idiot.

Almighty, Eternal, just and merciful God, grant to us wretches that doing for Your very own sake, what we know You want, and always wanting, what pleases You, as ones interiorly cleansed, interiorly illumined, and inflamed with the fire of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to follow the footsteps of Your Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and attain to You, Most High, by Your grace alone, who in perfect Trinity and simple Unity lives and reigns and is glorified as the Omnipotent God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.


To Brother N., minister: May the Lord bless you.

I speak to you, as I can, concerning the state of your soul. You should accept as a grace all those things which deter you from loving the Lord God and who- ever has become an impediment to you, whether they are brothers or others, even if they lay hands on you.

And you should desire that things be this way and not otherwise. And let this be an expression of true obedience to the Lord God and to me, for I know full well that this is true obedience. And love those who do these things to you. And do not expect anything different from them, unless it is something which the Lord shall have given to you. And love them in this and do not wish that they be better Christians. And let this be more valuable to you than a hermitage.

And by this I wish to know if you love the Lord God and me, his servant and yours if you have acted in this manner: that is, there should not be any brother in the world who has sinned, however much he may have possibly sinned, who, after he has looked into your eyes, would go away without having received your mercy, if he is looking for mercy. And if he were not to seek mercy, you should ask him if he wants mercy. And if he should sin thereafter a thousand times before your very eyes, love him more than me so that you may draw him back to the Lord. Always be merciful to brothers such as these. And announce this to the guardians, as you can, that on your part you are resolved to act in this way.

At the Pentecost Chapter, however, with the help of God and the advice of the brothers, out of all the chapters of the Rule that treat of mortal sin we shall make one chapter such as this:

If any one of the brothers at the instigation of the enemy should sin mortally, he is bound by obedience to have recourse to his guardian. And all the brothers who might know that he has sinned are not to bring shame upon him or speak ill of him, but let them show great mercy toward him and keep most secret the sin of their brother; because it is not the healthy who are in need of the physician, but those who are sick (Mt 9: 12). Likewise let them be bound by obedience to send him to his custodian with a companion. And let that custodian mercifully take care of him as he would like to be taken care of if he were in a similar position (cf. Mt 7:12). And if he falls into some venial sin, let him confess this to a brother who is a priest. And if there is no priest at hand, let him confess to his brother, until he has contact with a priest who will absolve him canonically, as it has been laid down. And the brothers who are not priests should have no power to enjoin any other penance except this: Go and sin no more (cf. Jn 8:1 1).

Keep this writing with you until the Chapter of Pen-tecost that it may be better observed, when you will be there with your brothers. And you will take care to add, with the help of God, these things and all else which is lacking in the Rule.
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