Reflections on The Poverello (9) – The Endurance of The Poverello

One passage in The Little Flowers of St. Francis is about endurance.  Whatever else Francis of Assisi was, he was certainly resilient! 

It’s an extended passage but worth reading in full:

ONCE … St. Francis called Friar Leo … and spoke…: “O Friar Leo, although the minor friar should give sight to the blind, make straight the crooked, cast out devils, make the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the dumb to speak, and, what is a greater thing, should raise those who have been dead four days; write that therein is not perfect joy”.

Going a little farther, he shouted loudly: “O Friar Leo, if the minor friar knew all tongues, and all sciences, and all the Scriptures, so that he was able to prophesy and to reveal not only things to come but also the secrets of consciences and souls; write that therein is not perfect joy”.

Going a little farther, St. Francis yet again shouted loudly: “O Friar Leo, little sheep of God, albeit the minor friar should speak with the tongue of angels, and knew the courses of the stars and the virtues of herbs, and albeit all the treasures of the earth were revealed to him and he knew the virtues of birds and of fishes and of all animals and of men, of trees, of stones and of roots and of waters; write that therein is not perfect joy”.

And this manner of speech continuing for full two miles, Friar Leo, with great wonder, asked and said: Father…in the name of God to tell me wherein is perfect joy”.

And St. Francis answered him: “When we shall be at Santa Maria degli Angeli, thus soaked by the rain, and frozen by the cold, and befouled with mud, and afflicted with hunger, and shall knock at the door of the Place, and the doorkeeper shall come in anger…and shall not open unto us, but shall make us stay outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, even until night; then, if we shall bear such great wrong and such cruelty and such rebuffs patiently, without disquieting ourselves and without murmuring against him…O Friar Leo, write that here is perfect joy.

“And if we persevere in knocking, and he shall come forth enraged and shall drive us away with insults and with buffetings…If we shall bear this patiently and with joy and love; O Friar Leo write that herein is perfect joy.

“And if, constrained by hunger and by cold and by the night, we shall continue to knock and shall call and beseech for the love of God, with great weeping, that he open unto us and let us in, and he, greatly offended … shall come forth with a knotty club and take us by the cowl, and shall throw us on the ground and roll us in the snow and shall cudgel us pitilessly with that club; if we shall bear all these things patiently and with cheerfulness, thinking on the sufferings of Christ the blessed, the which we ought to bear patiently for His love; O Friar Leo, write that here and in this is perfect joy.”

We would consider some of the hardships described by Francis as abuse, today, and in no way should this passage be read as condoning physical or verbal abuse.

But the point is that St. Francis saw the real test of faith is when faith is under great pressure.

Faith is easy when the sun is shining and “all’s right with the world’.

It is not so easy when there is a pandemic raging, life is fragile and we face daily stories of deaths.  Yet at such a time as this, we need faith more than ever.

For Francis, his faith was in a suffering God – “the sufferings of Christ”, as he puts it.  And that is the mystery of his faith – a faith in God, in love, and in a God and a love that is also present in, and despite of, great suffering.


Not in knowledge or conversions

in healings, exorcisms, or raisings of the dead

is to be found perfect happiness


But despite hostility, abuse, assault and attack

to praise God daily

therein he said is perfect joy.


Image by Yamid arevalo castro from Pixabay

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