A Book of the Praises of Saint Francis (1277-1283) - 45 

Chapter IV
POVERTY

1Among other characteristics, Francis's zeal to observe poverty and humility and to be continually engaged with virtuous things was unusual. He rejoiced in poor little dwellings, in cells of wood rather than of stone. He often stayed with a few in hermitages, where an enclosure of thorn bushes sufficed for a wall, and small huts for dwellings. In cities, however, neither people's maliciousness nor the large number of brothers allowed it to be so.

5He detested a brother with a great deal of clothes, made of refined, soft cloth. Two layers of clothing do not seem to belong to a poor man, since expenses are reduced by clothing that is old and mended. While cheap cloth is certainly rougher, heavier, and less warm, the pious purpose of religion demands this, and, with use, difficulty is easily overcome by grace. Whoever was forced by necessity to wear a softer inner tunic, he would support, as long as rough and cheap clothing was kept on the outside, for we have been given to people as an example of poverty and penitence. As for "necessity" not based on reason but on pleasure, he declared that it was a sign of a spirit that was extinguished. "Not bearing patiently with need," he said, "is the same as returning to Egypt."

11He wanted few books kept, ones not notable for elegance or expense, and available to the brothers who needed them. He did not want the brothers to have money or handle it even out of consideration of piety. Therefore, with a remarkable chastening, he punished a brother whom he once found touching a coin. Even though his companion and the saint's word forbade it, another brother took a coin he found carelessly left on the road, and wanted to give it to the lepers. He immediately gnashed his teeth Ps 35:16 [Vulgate, Ps 34:16] and lost the power of speech. At last, he threw away the coin, and his penitential lips were set free to give praise.

16In order to avoid the superfluous, the holy man would not even permit a small plate to remain in the house if, without it, he could avoid dire need. He said it was impossible to satisfy necessity without bowing to pleasure. He depended on the divine foresight according to the word he spoke to the Lord Pope who argued that it was difficult to live without possessions. "My Lord, I trust in

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Liber de Laudibus Beati Francisci, Fontes Franciscani, p. 1265-1266


Caput IV
De paupertate.

4 1Speciale inter alia Francisci studium fuit paupertatem et humilitatem servare honestisque iugiter occupari. 2Habitaculis gaudebat pauperculis, casellis ligneis plus quam lapideis. 3Saepe cum paucis in eremitoriis morabatur, ubi veprium clausura pro muro et parva pro domibus sufficiebant tuguria. 4Sed in urbibus ita esse nec malitia hominum nec fratrum multitudo permittit.

5Exsecrabatur in fratre vestes multiplices, pannos exquisitos et molles. 6Non videtur pauperis duplex vestis, cum arctentur expensae per veterem resarcitam. 7Vilis autem pannus asperior quidem, ponderosior et frigidior est, sed hoc Religionis et pium propositum exigit et facile usu cum gratia vincitur difficultas. 8Si quem ad minus rigidam inferius tunicam necessitas cogeret, sustinebat, semper tamen volebat, ut foris in habitu vilitas et asperitas servaretur; in exemplum enim paupertatis et poenitentiae hominibus dati sumus. 9Necessitatem vero, quam non ratio, sed voluptas ostentat, signum exstincti spiritus a asserebat. 10« Ipsas etiam necessitates patienter non ferre nihil aliud est, inquit, quam Aegyptum repetere ».

11Libros paucos, non pulcritudine vel sumptu notabiles habere volebat eosque ad fratrum indigentium necessitatem paratos. 12Pecuniam vero, pietatis etiam intuitu, a fratribus teneri vel tractari nolebat. 13Unde fratrem, quem semel invenit denarios tetigisse, notabili ultione punivit. 14Alius frater in via denarium, ut leprosis daret, socio prohibente et Sancti verbum, quo dixerat, inventam in via pecuniam non curandam, inculcante, accepit, sed statim frendens dentibus loquelam amisit. 15Tandem proiecto denario, poenitentis labia solvuntur in laudem.

16Sed nec vasculum patiebatur vir sanctus residere in domo, cum sine ipso utcumque posset extremae necessitatis evadere servitutem, ne quando ad superflua perveniret. 17Non diffidebat de provisione divina iuxta verbum, quod domino Papae dicenti, durum esse sine possessionibus vivere, intulit: 18 « Domine, confido in Domino Iesu Christo,

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 45

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