True and Perfect Joy - 166 

True and Perfect Joy

The fourteenth century biographical tradition is the source of this piece which has always been considered authentic. Kajetan Esser placed this text in a section entitled “Dictated Writings” and relied on the research of Benvenutus Bughetti whose convincing arguments placed it among the writings of Francis.a While it parallels Admonition V and Thomas of Celano’s The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, 125 and 145, it reflects the letter which Francis sent to Brother Leo which was the result of a conversation on the road and the resolution of a question about Gospel life. It is impossible to date this incident with any certainty.


1The same [Brother Leonard] related in the same place that one day at Saint Mary’s, blessed Francis called Brother Leo and said: “Brother Leo, write.” 2He responded: “Look, I’m ready!” 3“Write,” he said, “what true joy is.”

4“A messenger arrives and says that all the Masters of Paris have entered the Order. Write: this isn’t true joy! 5Or, that all the prelates, archbishops and bishops beyond the mountains, as well as the King of France and the King of England [have entered the Order]. Write: this isn’t true joy! 6Again, that my brothers have gone to the non-believers and converted all of them to the faith; again, that I have so much grace from God that I heal the sick and perform many miracles. I tell you true joy doesn’t consist in any of these things.”

7“Then what is true joy?”

8“I return from Perugia and arrive here in the dead of night. It’s winter time, muddy, and so cold that icicles have formed on the edges of my habit and keep striking my legs and blood flows from such wounds. 9Freezing, covered with mud and ice, I come to the gate and, after I’ve knocked and called for some time, a brother comes and asks: ‘Who are you?’ ‘Brother Francis,’ I answer. 10‘Go away!’ he says. ‘This is not a decent hour to be wandering about! You may not come in!’ 11When I insist, he replies: ‘Go away! You are simple and stupid! Don’t come back to us again! There are many of us here like you—we don’t need you!’ 12I stand again at the door and say: ‘For the love of God, take me in tonight!"

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De vera et perfecta laetitia, Fontes Franciscani, p. 241-242


De vera et perfecta laetitia

1Idem [fr. Leonardus] retulit ibidem quod una die beatus Franciscus apud Sanctam Mariam vocavit fratrem Leonem et dixit: 2Frater Leo, scribe. Qui respondit: Ecce paratus sum. 3Scribe — inquit — quae est vera laetitia.

4Venit nuntius et dicit quod omnes magistri de Parisiis venerunt ad Ordinem, scribe, non vera laetitia. 5Item quod omnes praelati ultramontani, archiepiscopi et episcopi; item quod rex Franciae et rex Angliae: scribe, non vera laetitia. 6Item, quod fratres mei iverunt ad infideles et converterunt eos omnes ad fidem; item quod tantam gratiam habeo a Deo quod sano infirmos et facio multa miracula: dico tibi quod in his omnibus non vera laetitia.

7Sed quae est vera laetitia?

8Redeo de Perusio et de nocte profunda venio huc et est tempus hiemis lutosum et adeo frigidum, quod dondoli aquae frigidae congelatae fiunt ad extremitates tunicae et percutiunt semper crura, et sanguis emanat ex vulneribus talibus. 9Et totus in luto et frigore et glacie venio ad ostium, et postquam diu pulsavi et vocavi, venit frater et quaerit: Quis est? Ego respondeo: Frater Franciscus. 10Et ipse dicit: Vade; non est hora decens e undi; non intrabis. 11Et iterum insistenti respondeat: Vade; tu es unus simplex et idiota; admodo non venis nobis; nos sumus tot et tales, quod non indigemus te. 12Et ego iterum sto ad ostium et dico: Amore Dei recolligatis me ista nocte.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 166

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