The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul - 235 

holiest mirror of the holiness of the Lord, the image of his perfection.”10 “It is the intention of the author,” Grau maintains, “to hold up a 'mirror of perfection' of Francis's exemplary life to the friars of the second generation who had not personally experienced or known him in his lifetime.”11 Both perspectives offer an understanding of the biographical material in Book One portending the thematic material of Book Two. In other words, the first provides insights into the nature and the foundation of Gospel life, while the second addresses practical attitudes and behaviors that can assist or impede the living out of the Gospel.

Thomas adjusts and nuances the information of the Companions to present a new perspective on Francis's vocation, its prophetic dimension. His baptism is a call to a prophetic generosity that embraces fellow prisoners, a poor knight, the beggars before Saint Peter's, and, most challenging of all, lepers. It is a call to overcome temptations, to reject the worldly career of knighthood, and to see beyond his carousing friends to Christ. Only then is Francis led by the Spirit to enter the church of San Damiano where “with the lips of the painting, the image of Christ crucified spoke to him . . . calling him by name”12 From Christ, he receives a command that will direct him the rest of his life.13 It takes him before the bishop where he proclaims God as his Father, pledges to go to the Lord naked, and begins serving the common Lord of all and begging leftovers from door to door. Thus Thomas interprets these events teaching the nature of Francis's prophetic vocation as rooted in baptism. As he opens himself in generosity to others, his vocation is to allow himself to be moved by the Spirit in Christ to the Father.

Thomas moves quickly in narrating Francis's prophecy concerning the virgins who would live in San Damiano, his example in attracting Bernard of Quintavalle and others, and his discourse before the pope. Curiously, Thomas devotes significant time to describing the role of the Portiuncula (2C 18-20) and the vision of the small black hen and her unruly chicks. In doing so, he provides two symbols that guide his thought in Book Two: the Portiuncula that represents the Church in which the Gospel life is discovered and lived, and the small black hen referring to Francis himself unable to defend with his wings.

Book Two moves to many particulars and examples of what this vocation in prophetic baptismal grace can mean for the brothers in the course of everyday life. The material from which Thomas drew offered him memories of everyday events in Francis life, experienced for the most part in intimate and private settings known particularly to “we who were with him.” This second book has its own introduction, but almost every delineated thematic section also has its own introduction.14 These are key to understanding Thomas's theological perception of events remembered about Francis. In The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, unlike in his Life of Saint Francis, Thomas seems more interested in showing the power of God's intervening and prophetic grace that begins in baptism and progressively develops through life. This grace of conversion is not a private matter, but is shared grace to be further developed among brothers who in dialogue mutually listen to the Gospel and entrust

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Fontes Franciscani, p.


Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 235

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