General Introduction - The Prophet - 17 

The earliest manuscript of its Italian translation, The Little Flowers, bears the date 1398.42 Practically speaking, it is far more popular than its source, The Deeds.

Every translation is an interpretation. In any language, words assume a variety of meanings and shades of nuance that make their precise translation difficult. The Little Flowers is no exception. The translator divides the chapters of The Deeds differently, undoubtedly to make them more manageable. He inverts the order of certain chapters and, within chapters, changes the order of certain paragraphs and sentences. At a later date, another translator re-arranged chapters nine, thirty-nine, eighteen, and thirty-eight of The Deeds to form four of the five Considerations on the Sacred Stigmata. Translated and edited more than one hundred and seventy-five years after the death of Francis, The Little Flowers has had an enormous impact on shaping the popular image of Francis of Assisi. For many it has been their only contact with him.

The final work of this third volume, The Kinship of Saint Francis, is generally unknown.43 Of its author, Arnald of Sarrant, little is known. He served his brothers as Provincial Minister sometime in the second half of the fourteenth century; nothing is recorded about his ministry among them. Luke Wadding states that Pope Gregory XI sent Arnald to Spain between 1373-5. The Chronicle of the Twenty-Four General Ministers—from Saint Francis to Leonard di Giffoni (1376-78)—is generally recognized as his work.

At the outset Arnald is clear about the purpose of The Kinship: to gather together in a more easily followed manner "those things that touch on the same material in other different legends, scattered in the scrolls and sayings of the companions—things that lord Bonaventure omitted totally or in part because everything could not come to his awareness."44 Since the two manuscripts of this text are poorly preserved and filled with large gaps, it is impossible to determine how successful he was in achieving his purpose.45 Arnald's text does place him in the apocalyptic line of Bonaventure, Peter of John Olivi, Ubertino da Casale, and Angelo Clareno. "At last," he writes, "in the sixth age, almost on the sixth day, came a human being, Francis, made in God's image and likeness." Once again, the Saint and the Founder is understandably portrayed as a prophet appearing in eschatological terms. This is understandable given Arnald's references to the Black Plague, his awareness of the Avignon papacy, and his allusion to the "community"—the first such reference in this literature.

More importantly, The Kinship of Saint Francis is dedicated to identifying nine "conformities" between the lives of Saint Francis and Christ. As such, it paves the way for Bartholomew of Pisa's massive encyclopedic study of forty conformities in his The Conformity of the Life of Blessed Francis to the Life of the Lord Jesus, a work begun in 1385 and presented to the friars fourteen years later. The Kinship thus marks the end of one period in the history of Franciscan literature and the beginning of another.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 17