Spiritual Reading from Saint Francis

THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS

The Admonitions are a group of 28 short, deeply spiritual exhortations given by Francis to the brothers, probably during the celebration of General Chapters of the Order.

I. THE BODY OF CHRIST

1. The Lord Jesus says to his disciples: I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. 2. If you had known me, you would also have known my Father and from now on you will know him and have seen him. 3. Philip says to him: Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us. Jesus says to him: 4. Have I been with you for so long a time and you have not known me? Philip, whoever sees me, sees also my Father (Jn. 14:6-9). 5. Sacred Scripture says that the Father lives in inaccessible light (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16), and God is Spirit (Jn. 4:24) and, No one has ever seen God (Jn. 1:18). 6. Therefore he cannot be seen except in the Spirit since it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh does not offer anything (Jn. 6:64). 7. But neither, inasmuch as he is equal to the Father, is the Son seen by anyone other than the Father [or] other than the Holy Spirit. 8. Therefore all those who saw the Lord Jesus according to [his] humanity and did not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Godhead that he is the true Son of God were condemned. 9. And now in the same way, all those who see the sacrament (of the body of Christ), which is sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and who do not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Godhead that it is truly the most holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned. 10. [This] is attested by the Most High himself Who says: This is my body and the blood of my new testament [which will be poured out for many] (cf. Mk. 14:22, 24) 11. and he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (cf. Jn. 6:55). 12. And so it is really the Spirit of the Lord, Who lives in his faithful, Who receives the most holy body and blood of the Lord. 13. All others who do not share in this same Spirit and who presume to receive him eat and drink judgment to themselves (cf. 1 Cor. 11:29). 14. Therefore, O sons of men, how long will you be hard of heart? (Ps. 4:3) 15. Why do you not recognize the truth and believe in the Son of God? (cf. Jn. 9:35) 16. See, daily he humbles himself (cf. Phil. 2:8) as when he came from the royal throne (Wis. 18:15) into the womb of the Virgin; 17. daily he comes to us in a humble form; 18. daily he comes down from the bosom of the Father (cf. Jn. 1:18) upon the altar in the hands of the priest. 19. And as he appeared to the holy apostles in true flesh, so now he reveals himself to us in the Sacred Bread. 20. And as they saw only his flesh by means of their bodily sight, yet believed him to be God as they contemplated him with the eyes of faith, 21. so, as we see bread and wine with [our] bodily eyes, we too are to see and firmly believe them to be his most holy body and blood living and true. 22. And in this way the Lord is always with his faithful, as he himself says: Behold I am with you even to the end of the world (cf. Mt. 28:20).

II. THE EVIL OF SELF-WILL

1. The Lord said to Adam: Eat of every tree; do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gn. 2:1617). 2. He was able to eat of every tree of paradise since he did not sin as long as he did not go against obedience. 3. For the person eats of the tree of the knowledge of good who appropriates to himself his own will and thus exalts himself over the good things which the Lord says and does in him; 4. and thus, through the suggestion of the devil and the transgression of the command, what he eats becomes for him the fruit of the knowledge of evil. 5. Therefore it is necessary that he bear the punishment.

III. PERFECT OBEDIENCE

1. The Lord says in the Gospel: He who does not renounce everything he possesses cannot be my disciple (Lk. 14:33); 2. and: He who wishes to save his life must lose it (Lk. 9:24). 3. That person leaves everything he possesses and loses his body who surrenders his whole self to obedience at the hands of his prelate. 4. And whatever he does and says which he knows is not contrary to his [prelate’s] will, provided that what he does is good, is true obedience. 5. And should the subject sometimes see that some things might be better and more useful for his soul than what the prelate may command him, let him willingly offer such things to God as a sacrifice; and instead earnestly try to fulfill the wishes of the prelate. 6. For this is loving obedience because it pleases God and neighbor. 7. But if the prelate should command something contrary to his conscience, although [the subject] does not obey him, still he should not abandon him. 8. And if in consequence he suffers persecution from others, let him love them even more for [the love of] God. 9. For whoever chooses to endure persecution rather than be separated from his brothers truly remains in perfect obedience for he lays down his life (Jn. 15:13) for his brothers. 10. There are indeed many religious who, under the pretext of seeking something better than what the prelate commands, look back (cf. Lk. 9:62) and return to the vomit of their own will (cf. Prv. 26:11; 2 Pt. 2:22); 11. these are murderers who cause many souls to perish by reason of their bad example.

IV. LET NO ONE APPROPRIATE TO HIMSELF THE ROLE OF BEING OVER OTHERS

1. I did not come to be served but to serve (cf. Mt. 10:28), says the Lord. 2. Those who are placed over others should glory in such an office only as much as they would were they assigned the task of washing the feet of the brothers. 3. And the more they are upset about their office being taken from them than they would be over the loss of the office of [washing] feet, so much the more do they store up treasures to the peril of their souls (cf. Jn. 12:6).

V. NO ONE SHOULD BOAST IN HIMSELF BUT RATHER GLORY IN THE CROSS OF THE LORD

1. Be conscious, O man, of the wondrous state in which the Lord God has placed you, for he created you and formed you to the image of his beloved Son according to the body, and to his likeness according to the spirit (cf. Gn. 1:26). 2. And [yet] all the creatures under heaven, each according to its nature, serve, know, and obey their Creator better than you. 3. And even the demons did not crucify him, but you together with them have crucified him and crucify him even now by delighting in vices and sins. 4. In what then can you glory? 5. For if you were so subtle and wise that you had all knowledge (cf. 1 Cor. 13:2) and knew how to interpret all tongues (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28) and minutely investigate [the course of] the heavenly bodies, in all these things you could not glory, 6. for one demon knew more about the things of earth than all men together, even if there may have been someone who received from the Lord a special knowledge of the highest wisdom. 7. likewise, even if you were more handsome and richer than everyone else and even if you performed wonders such as driving out demons, all these things would be an obstacle to you and none of them would belong to you nor could you glory in any of these things. 8. But in this we can glory: in our infirmities (cf. 2 Cor. 12:5) and bearing daily the holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Lk. 14:27).

VI. THE IMITATION OF THE LORD

1. Let all of us, brothers, look to the Good Shepherd Who suffered the passion of the Cross to save his sheep. 2. The sheep of the Lord followed him in tribulation and persecution, in insult and hunger, in infirmity and temptation, and in everything else and they have received everlasting life from the Lord because of these things. 3. Therefore, it is a great shame for us, servants of God, that while the saints [actually] did such things, we wish to receive glory and honor by [merely] recounting their deeds.

VII. GOOD WORKS MUST FOLLOW KNOWLEDGE

1. The Apostle says: The letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). 2. Those are killed by the letter who merely wish to know the words alone, so that they may be esteemed as wiser than others and be able to acquire great riches to give to [their] relatives and friends. 3. In a similar way, those religious are killed by the letter who do not wish to follow the spirit of Sacred Scripture, but who wish to know [what] the words [are] and [how to] interpret them to others. 4. And those are given life by the spirit of Sacred Scripture who do not refer to themselves any text which they know or seek to know, but, by word and example, return everything to the most high Lord God to Whom every good belongs.

VIII. THE AVOIDANCE OF THE SIN OF ENVY

1. The Apostle says: No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3); 2. and: There is no one who does good, not even one (Rom. 3:12). 3. Therefore, whoever envies his brother the good which the Lord says or does in him commits a sin of blasphemy, because he envies the Most High Who says and does every good (cf. Mt. 20:15).

IX. TRUE LOVE

1. The Lord says: Love your enemies [do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and blame you] (Mt. 5:44). 2. That person truly loves his enemy who is not upset at any injury which is done to himself, 3. but out of love of God is disturbed at the sin of the other’s soul. 4. And let him show his love for the other by his deeds.

X. THE CHASTISEMENT OF THE BODY

1. Many people, when they sin or receive an injury, often blame the Enemy or some neighbor. 2. But this is not right, for each one has the [real] enemy in his own power; that is, the body through which he sins. 3. Therefore blessed is that servant (Mt. 24:46) who, having such an enemy in his power, will always hold him captive and wisely guard himself against him, because as long as he does this, no other enemy, seen or unseen, will be able to harm him.

XI. NO ONE SHOULD BE CORRUPTED BY THE EVIL OF ANOTHER

1. Nothing should upset the servant of God except sin. 2. And no matter how another person may sin, if the servant of God lets himself become angry and disturbed because of this, [and] not because of love, he stores up the guilt for himself (cf. Rom. 2:5). 3. The servant of God who does not become angry or upset at anything lives justly and without anything of his own. 4. And he is blessed who does not keep anything for himself, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Mt. 22:21).

XII. HOW TO DISCERN WHETHER ONE HAS THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD

1. A servant of God may be recognized as possessing the Spirit of the Lord in this way: 2. if the flesh does not pride itself when the Lord performs some good through him since the flesh is always opposed to every good; 3. rather he considers himself the more worthless in his own eyes and esteems himself less than all others.

XIII. PATIENCE

1. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9). The servant of God cannot know how much patience and humility he has within himself as long as everything goes well with him. 2. But when the time comes in which those who should do him justice do quite the opposite to him, he has only as much patience and humility as he has on that occasion and no more.

XIV. POVERTY OF SPIRIT

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs (Mt. 5:3). 2. There are many who, applying themselves insistently to prayers and good deeds, engage in much abstinence and many mortifications of their bodies, 3. but they are scandalized and quickly roused to anger by a single word which seems injurious to their person, or by some other things which might be taken from them. 4. These [persons] are not poor in spirit because a person who is truly poor in spirit hates himself (cf. Lk. 14:26) and loves those who strike him on the cheek (cf. Mt. 5:39).

XV. PEACE

1. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Mt. 5:9). 2. The true peacemakers are those who preserve peace of mind and body for love of our Lord Jesus Christ, despite what they suffer in this world.

XVI. PURITY OF HEART

1. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8). 2. The truly pure of heart are those who despise the things of earth and seek the things of heaven, and who never cease to adore and behold the Lord God living and true with a pure heart and soul.

XVII. THE HUMBLE SERVANT OF GOD

1. Blessed is that servant (Mt. 24:46) who does not pride himself on the good that the Lord says or does through him any more than on what he says or does through another. 2. That person sins who wishes to receive more from his neighbor then what he is willing to give of himself to the Lord God.

XVIII. COMPASSION FOR ONE’S NEIGHBOR

1. Blessed is the person who bears with his neighbor in his weakness to the degree that he would wish to be sustained by him if he were in a similar situation (cf. Gal. 6:2; Mt. 7:12).

XIX. THE HAPPY SERVANT OF GOD

1. Blessed is the servant who attributes every good to the Lord God, for he who holds back something for himself hides within himself the money of his Lord God (Mt. 25:18), and that which he thought he had shall be taken away from him (Lk. 8:18).

XX. THE VIRTUOUS SERVANT OF GOD

1. Blessed is the servant who esteems himself no better when he is praised and exalted by people than when he is considered worthless, simple, and despicable 2. for what a man is before God, that he is and nothing more. 3. Woe to that religious who has been placed in a high position by others and does not wish to come down of his own will. 4. And blessed is that servant (Mt. 24:46) who does not place himself in a high position of his own will and always desires to be under the feet of others.

XXI. THE GOOD AND THE VAIN RELIGIOUS

1. Blessed is that religious who takes no pleasure and joy except in the most holy words and deeds of the Lord 2. and with these leads people to the love of God in joy and gladness (cf. Ps. 50:10). 3. Woe to that religious who delights in idle and frivolous words and with these provokes people to laughter.

XXII. THE FRIVOLOUS AND TALKATIVE RELIGIOUS

1. Blessed is the servant who, when he speaks, does not reveal everything about himself in the hope of receiving a reward, and who is not quick to speak (cf. Prv. 29:20), but wisely weighs what he should say and how he should reply. 2. Woe to that religious who does not keep in his heart the good things the Lord reveals to him (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51) and who does not manifest them to others by his actions, but rather seeks to make such good things known by his words. 3. He thereby receives his reward (cf. Mt. 6:2, 16) while those who listen to him carry away but little fruit.

XXIII. CORRECTION

1. Blessed is the servant who would accept correction, accusation, and blame from another as patiently as he would from himself. 2. Blessed is the servant who when he is rebuked quietly agrees, respectfully submits, humbly admits his fault, and willingly makes amends. 3. Blessed is the servant who is not quick to excuse himself and who humbly accepts shame and blame for a sin, even though he did not commit any fault.

XXIV. HUMILITY

1. Blessed is the servant who is found to be as humble among his subjects as he would be among his masters. 2. Blessed is the servant who remains always under the rod of correction. He is the faithful and prudent servant (Mt. 24:45) who for all his offenses does not delay in punishing himself, inwardly through contrition and outwardly through confession and penance for what he did.

XXV. TRUE LOVE

Blessed is the servant who would love his brother as much when he is sick and cannot repay him as he would when he is well and can repay him. Blessed is the servant who would love and respect his brother as much when he is far from him as he would when he is with him and who would not say anything behind his back which in charity he could not say to his face.

XXVI. THE SERVANT OF GOD SHOULD HONOR THE CLERGY

1. Blessed is the servant who has faith in the clergy who live uprightly according to the norms of the Roman Church. 2. And woe to those who look down upon them; for even though they may be sinners, nonetheless no one is to judge them since the Lord alone reserves judgment on them to himself. 3. For inasmuch as their ministry is greater in that it concerns the most holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they receive and which they alone administer to others, 4. so those who sin against them commit a greater sin than [if they sinned] against all other people of this world.

XXVII. HOW VIRTUE DRIVES OUT VICE

1. Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.
2. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor disturbance.
3. Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither covetousness nor avarice.
4. Where there is inner peace and meditation, there is neither anxiousness nor dissipation.
5. Where there is fear of the Lord to guard the house (cf. Lk. 11:21), there the enemy cannot gain entry.
6. Where there is mercy and discernment, there is neither excess nor hardness of heart.

XXVIII. HIDING A GOOD THING THAT IT MAY NOT BE LOST

Blessed is that servant who stores up in heaven (Mt. 6:20) the good things which the Lord has revealed to him and does not desire to reveal them to others in the hope of profiting thereby, 2. for the Most High himself will manifest his deeds to whomever he wishes. 3. Blessed is the servant who keeps the secrets of the Lord in his heart (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51).

This is the earliest depiction of St. Francis
The Basilica of Saint Francis

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