Because The Prophet Francis Didn’t Sugar Coat the Faith for Politicos

St. Francis Giving His Mantle to a Poor Man
Giotto de Bondoni, 1297-99

It’s the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. You might have noticed this, as he is one of the most popular of the fellows in the Communion of Saints. You can read better posts about Francis elsewhere, for sure. I just wanted to share a brief open letter he wrote to the powers that be.

Francis, see, was a lot like Jesus. He even had the wounds of Christ to prove this. But he also had the temerity to tell it like it is, much like John the Baptist and Jesus did. In short, Francis was a fine example of the prophet, priest, and king, as all Christians are called to be.

Here’s an example of his prophet side. It’s a brief letter that I found in a book on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf entitled, The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi. Edited by Fr. Paschal Robinson, OFM, and published in 1905, the following letter is refreshing, and timely too.

To the Rulers of the People

To all podestàs, and consuls, judges and governors, in whatever part of the world, and to all others to whom this letter may come, Brother Francis, your little and contemptible servant, wishes health and peace to you.

Consider and see that the day of death draws nigh. I ask you, therefore, with such reverence as I can, not to forget the Lord on account of the cares and solicitudes of this world and not to turn aside from His commandments, for all those who forget Him and decline from His commandments are cursed and they shall be forgotten by Him. And when the day of death comes, all that which they think they have shall be taken away from them. And the wiser and more powerful they may have been in this world, so much the greater torments shall they endure in hell.

Wherefore, I strongly advise you, my lords, to put aside all care and solicitude and to receive readily the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in holy commemoration of Him. And cause so great honor to be rendered the Lord by the people committed to you, that every evening it may be announced by a crier or by another sign to the end that praises and thanks shall resound to the Lord God Almighty from all the people. And if you do not do this, know that you are beholden to render an account before your Lord God Jesus Christ on the day of Judgment. Let those who keep this writing with them and observe it know that they are blessed by the Lord God.

Preach it, Francis!

Read this letter, and other writings of St. Francis, here.

  • J. H. M. Ortiz

    Sorry, but I don’t dig St. Francis’s calling himself “contemptible” — an epithet which, taken without qualification, is at odds with the Church’s affirmation of the (God-given) great natural dignity of each human person.
    At the same time, our human limitations can lead us to the attitude — wholesome, I think — advocated by Gerald Vann, O.P., in his book The Heart of Man (in Chapter III): “The only possible way in which we can approach human beings is with awe and reverence as towards a mystery, though admittedly the mysyery is not without its humour.”

    • J. H. M. Ortiz

      Woops! My own “human limitations” led me to mis-type unnoticed the word “mystery” the second time.

  • Thomas R

    I think it was a common sentiment of monks and priests at the time. You show yourself in small regard, “contempt”, to avoid pride and focus on how much greater God is in comparison. Francis very much acknowledged he’d been weak and a sinner. So it was likely partly the idea what great he did came from God and God’s gifts.

    Granted sometimes it does sound like, or lead to, a morbid self-hatred. Although other times it, or phrases like it, were almost just used as stock phrases. As in I think there were some fairly arrogant/decadent Medieval clergy who’d sign themselves as “lowly this” or “unworthy that.” Obviously that’s not the case here.

  • Mark D

    Yes, J.M.,
    That is how we should approach other human beings. It is not, however, how we should approach ourselves.