The Life of Saint Francis by Julian of Speyer - 366 

Concerning the brothers, Julian identifies them as the “poor ones” who are miraculously cared for by Divine Providence.16 Their life is a call to “evangelical perfection.”17 Francis’s rebuilding of three churches prefigured bringing “ ‘three famous Orders’ to perfection.”18 As the brothers identify with Francis, they are connected to the mystery of grace operative in Francis’s life.

It is not surprising that Julian emphasizes the stigmata as a practical and immediate reality. Francis is the “Confessor of Christ,” a title not used by Thomas of Celano.19 The stigmata are not emphasized as enabling Francis “to fly away to the highest order of spirits”;20 rather Francis is “bearing the emblems of Christ’s own wounds.”21 Although Julian’s text is much shorter, he mentions the stigmata throughout his text more often than Thomas of Celano. Already, then, in the early 1230’s the stigmata were increasingly important.

The development of the text indicates that Julian wished to teach his audience that Francis was an evangelist and a follower of Christ. Francis’s way of life was a way of gospel perfection. For his hearers and readers, Julian explains that Francis experienced Christ concretely and this experience is founded on the gospel. Moreover, in Julian’s context, the call of Christ in the gospel is heard in the worship of the Church.

The story of Francis hearing the gospel at the Portiuncula exemplifies the underlying liturgical motivation which Julian develops in The Life of Saint Francis. He writes: “Now one day at Mass, he heard those things which Christ in the gospel spoke to his disciples who were sent out to preach.”22 Thomas of Celano had earlier written: “One day the gospel was being read in that church about how the Lord sent out his disciples to preach.”23 Julian is not satisfied to report that the “gospel was being read” at the time of Francis’s visit in the Portiuncula. Instead he makes explicit that it happens not only within the church building but in the liturgical context of the Mass. Francis hears not just the gospel, but “Christ in the gospel.” This is the vocabulary of a liturgist, one whose understands the dynamic presence of the living Word in the proclamation of the gospel.

Notes

  1. This introduction should be read in conjunction with the introduction to Liturgical Texts, where much of Julian’s other work is to be found.
  2. Scholars maintain that the liturgical texts are the source of LJS, and not vice-versa. See Jason Miskuly, "Julian of Speyer: Life of St. Francis" in Franciscan Studies, v.49 (1989) 93-117; Hilarin Felder, Die Liturgischen Reimofficien auf die heiligen Franciscus und Antonius gedichtet und componiert durch Fr. Julian von Speier (Freiburg, Schweiz: Universitaets-Buchhandlung, 1901).
  3. Julian served under Phillip II (1180-1223) and/or Louis VIII (1223-26). Bartholomew of Pisa states: "Hic ante ordinis ingressum fuit magister in aula regis Francorum [Before his entrance into the Order, this man was a teacher in the court of the king of France]," Bartholomew of Pisa, De Conformitate Vitae Beati Francisci ad Vita Domini Jesu, Analecta Franciscana IV (Quarracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1906) 308. Felder also maintains Julian had influenced the early forma- tion of Saint Louis IX. See Felder, 140-141.

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Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 366

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