The Words of Admonition
St. Francis of Assisi
Translated from the Critical Latin Edition, edited by Fr. Kajetan Esser, O.F.M.
1. The Body of the Lord
The Lord Jesus said to His disciples: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me." · "If" you know "Me," you would know "My Father as well; and from now on you shall know Him and have seen Him." · "Philip said to Him: Lord, show us the Father, and that suffices for us." · "Jesus said to him: So much time I have been with you, and you do not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me, sees even" My "Father" (Jn 14:6-9). · The Father dwells "in inaccessible light" (cf. 1 Tm 6:16), and "God is spirit" (Jn 4:24), and "no one ever sees God" (Jn 1:18). · For this reason He cannot be seen except in spirit, "since it is the spirit which vivifies, the flesh is good for nothing" (Jn 6:64). · But neither does the Son in that, which He is equal to the Father, seem to anyone to be otherwise than the Father, otherwise than the Holy Spirit. · Whence all who saw the Lord Jesus according to the Humanity and both did not see and believe according to the spirit and the Divinity, that He Himself is the true Son of God, have been damned; · so even now all who see the Sacrament, which is sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar by the hand of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and do not see and believe according to the spirit and the Divinity, that this is truly the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, have been damned, since the Most High Himself testifies, who said: · "This is My Body and" My "Blood of the New Testament [which is poured forth on behalf of the many]" (Mt 14:22,24); · and "He who eats" My Flesh "and drinks" My Blood, "has life eternal" (cf. Jn 6:55). · Whence of the Spirit of the Lord, who dwells in His faithful, is he who receives the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord. · All others, who do not share this same Spirit and presume to receive Him, eat "and" drink "judgement upon themselves" (cf. 1 Cor. 11:29).
Whence: "Sons of men, how long with a heavy heart?" (Ps 4:3) · Why is it that do you not know the truth and believe "in the Son of God?" (cf. Jn 9:35) · Behold, every day He humbles Himself (cf. Phil 2:8), just as when "from royal thrones" (Wis 18:15) He came into the womb of the Virgin; · every day He comes to us Himself humbly appearing; · everyday He descends from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of the priest. · And just as to the holy Apostles in true flesh, so even now He shows Himself to us in the Sacred Bread. · And just as when they gazed at His very own flesh they saw only His flesh, but contemplating with spiritual eyes believed Him to be God, · so we too seeing bread and wine with bodily eyes, are to see and firmly believe, that they are His Most Holy Body and Blood, living and true. · And in such a manner the Lord is always with His faithful, just as He Himself says: "Behold I am with you even to the consummation of the age" (cf. Mt 28:20)
2. The Wickedness of Self Will
The Lord said to Adam: From "every tree eat, however, from the tree of good and evil you may not eat" (cf. Gen 2:16.17). · From every tree of paradise he could eat, because while he did not go against obedience, he did not sin. · For one eats of the tree of the knowledge of good, who appropriates his own will to himself and exalts himself because of the good things, which the Lord says and works in him; and so through the suggestion of the devil and the transgression of the mandate it has become the fruit of the knowledge of evil. · Whence it is proper, that he endure punishment.
3. On Perfect Obedience
The Lord says in the Gospel: "He who does not renounced all that he possesses, cannot be my disciple" (Lk 14:33); · and: "He who will have wanted to save his life, shall lose it" (Lk 9:24). · That man abandons all that he possesses, and loses his own body, who offers himself whole to obedience in the hands of his prelate. And whatever he does and says, that he himself knows, which is not contrary to his will, as long as what he does is good, is true obedience. · And if at any time the subject sees better and more useful things for his own soul than those which the prelate precepts him, let him sacrifice these willingly to God; but those which are the prelate's, let him strive to fulfill. · For this is charitable obedience (cf. 1 Pet 1:22), since it satisfies God and neighbor.
If indeed the prelate precepts anything against his soul, though he is not to obey him, nevertheless let him not give him up. · And if he has endured persecution by others for that reason, let him love (dilectio) them more for God's sake. · For he who will endure persecution rather than wanting to be separated from his brothers, in truth remains continually in perfect obedience, since he lays down "his own life" (cf. Jn 15:13) on behalf of his brothers. · For there are many religious, who under the appearance of seeing better things than those which their prelates precept, look back (cf. Lk 9:62) and return "to the vomit" of their own will. (cf. Prov. 26:11; 2 Pet 2:22); · these are murderers and on account of their bad examples cause many souls to perish.
4. Let no one appropriate to himself superior over others
I did not come "to be ministered unto, but to minister" (cf. Mt 20:28), says the Lord. · Let those, who are set up over others, glory as much because of that office of superior, as if they had been appointed to the office of washing the feet of the brothers. And in as much as they are more disturbed because of having lost their office of superior than because of (having lost) the office regarding feet, so much more do they assemble purses for themselves to the danger of their souls (cf. John 12:6).
5. That no one should be proud, but rather glory only in the Cross of the Lord
Be conscious, O man, to how many woundrous things the Lord God has placed in you, since He created and formed you "to the image" of His own Beloved Son according to the body "and to (His) likeness" according to the spirit (cf. Gen 1:26). · And all the creatures, which are under heaven, each according to its nature, serve, know and obey their Creator better than you. · And even the demons did not crucify Him, but you together with them have crucified Him and even now you crucify (Him) by delighting in vices and sins. Whence therefore can you glory? · For if you were so subtle and wise that you had "all knowledge" (cf. 1Cor 13:2) and knew how to interpret every "kind of tongue" (cf. 1 Cor 12:28) and to search subtly after celestial things, in all these things you cannot glory; · since one demon knew of celestial things and now knows of earthly things more than all men, (even) granted that there has been someone, who received from the Lord a special understanding of the highest wisdom. · Similarly even if you were more handsome and wealthy than all and even if you were working miracles, as would put demons to flight, all those things are injurious to you and nothing (about them) pertains to you and you can glory in them not at all. · But in this we can glory, "in" our "infirmities" (cf. 2 Cor 12:5) and bearing each day the Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 14:27).
6. On the imitation of the Lord
Let us be attentive to the Good Shepherd, who to save His own sheep endured the Passion of the Cross. · The sheep of the Lord have followed Him in tribulation and persecution, shame and hunger, in infirmity and temptation and all other things; and because of these they have received from the Lord everlasting life. · Therefore, it is a great shame to us, servants of God, that while the saints did the works, we wish to receive glory and honor by merely recounting their deeds.
7. Good Works should follow knowledge
The Apostle says: "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life." (2 Cor 3:6). · Those have died by the letter who desire to know only the words, so as to be esteemed as wiser among others and be able to acquire great riches to be given to relatives and friends. · And those religious have died by the letter, who do not want to follow the spirit of Divine, but rather desire only to know the words and to explain them to others. And those have been vivified by the Divine Letter, who do not attribute every letter, which they know and desire to know, to the body, but in word and example render them to the Most High Lord God, of whom every good belongs.
8. On avoiding the sin of envy
The Apostle said: "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except in the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 12:3); · and "There is no one who does good, not even one" (Rm 3:12). · Whoever therefore envies his own brother because of the good, which the Lord says and works in him, tends towards the sin of blasphemy, because he envies the Most High Himself (cf. Mt 20:15), who says and works every good.
9. On love
The Lord says: "Love your enemies; [do good to those who hate you, and pray on behalf of those who are persecuting and calumniating you]" (Mt 5:44). · For he truly loves his enemy, who does not grieve because of the injury, which he did to him, · but, concerning the sin against his own soul, burns for the sake of the love of God. And he shows love for him by (his) deeds.
10. On the chastisement of the body
There are many, who while they sin or receive injury, often blame their enemy or neighbor. · But it is in error because each one has in his own power (his) enemy, namely the body, through which he sins. · Whence "blessed is that servant" (Mt 24:46), who having surrendered such an enemy into his own power, has held it always captive and wisely guarded himself from it; · because, as long as he has does this, no other enemy, visible or invisible, will be able to harm him.
11. That no one should be corrupted by the wickedness of another
No thing ought to displease the servant of God except sin. · And in whatever manner another person would sin, even on account of this the servant of God, out of charity, would not be upset or grow angry, (as one who) hoards up fault for himself (cf. Rm 2:5). · That servant of God, who does not grow angry nor disturbs himself on another's behalf, lives rightly without anything of his own. And blessed is he, who does not let anything remain for himself, rendering those things "which are Caesar's to Caesar, and those which are God's to God" (Mt 22:21).
12. On recognizing the spirit of God
Thus can the servant of God be known, if he has the spirit of the Lord: · when the Lord works through him anything good, if his flesh for that reason would not exalt itself, because it is always contrary to every good, · but if he rather would hold himself up before (his own) eyes as more vile and esteem himself less than all other men.
13. On patience
"Blessed (are) the peacemakers, since they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5:9). The servant of God cannot know how much patience and humility he has in himself, while he is satisfied. · However when the time has come, that those who ought to satisfy him, do the contrary to him, as much patience and humility (is) there, that much he has and not more.
14. On poverty of spirit
"Blessed (are) the poor in spirit, since theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt 5:3). · There are many, who persisting in prayers and (liturgical) offices practice many abstinences and afflict their own bodies, · but because of a single word, which seems to be injurious to their bodies or because of anything, which is brought against them, being scandalized, they are continually disturbed. · These are not poor in spirit; since he who is truly poor in spirit, hates his very self and loves those who beat him in the face (cf. Mt 5:39).
15. On peace
"Blessed (are) the peacemakers, since they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5:9). · Those truly are the peacemakers, who concerning all those things, which they suffer in this age, preserve peace in soul and body for the sake of the love (amor) of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
16. On cleanliness of heart
"Blessed (are) the clean of heart, since they themselves shall see God" (Mt 5:8). · Truly are they clean in heart who despise earthly things, seek heavenly ones and do not ever withdraw from adoring and beholding Our Lord, living and true, with a clean heart and soul.
17. On the humble servant of God
"Blessed (is) that servant" (Mt 24:46), who does not exalt himself more because of the good, which the Lord says and works through him, than that which He says and works through another. · A man sins, who wants rather to receive from his neighbor, what he does not want to give of himself to the Lord God.
18. On compassion for one's neighbor
Blessed (is) the man, who supports his neighbor during his frailty to the extent that he would want to be supported by him, if he falls into an exactly similar situation. · Blessed (is) the servant who renders all his goods to the Lord God, because he who has retained anything for himself "conceals" within himself "the money of his Lord" God (Mt 25:18) and "what" he thought he "had, shall be born away from" him (Lk 8:18).
19. On the humble servant of God
Blessed (is) the servant, who does not consider himself better, when he is magnified and exalted by men, as when for example he is considered to be vile, simple, and despised, · because as much as a man is before God, that much he is and nothing more. · Woe to that religious, who has been placed on high by others and does not wish to descend by means of his own will. · And "blessed (is) that servant" (Mt 24:46), who is placed on high not by means of his own will and desires always to be beneath the feet of others.
20. On the good and the vain religious
Blessed (is) he religious, who has not cheer and gladness except in the Lord's most holy discourses and works, · and with these leads men forth to the love of God with joy and gladness (cf. Ps. 50:10). · Woe to him religious, who delights himself in idle and frivolous words and with these leads men to laugh.
21. On the inane and loquacious religious
Blessed (is) the servant, who when he speaks, does not reveal all his own (thoughts) in view of (some) reward, and is not swift to speak (cf. Prov. 29:20), but wisely weighs what he ought to speak and answer. · Woe to him religious, who does not retain in his heart (Lk 2:19.51) the good things, which the Lord shows him, and does not show them to others through work, but who in view of (some) gain desires rather to show them to men with words. · He himself receives "his wage" (cf. Mt 6:2; 6:16) and (his) hearers bring back little fruit.
22. On correction
Blessed (is) the servant who would endure discipline, accusation and rebuke as patiently from another as from his very self. · Blessed (is) the servant, who having been rebuked, acquiesces kindly, submits meekly, confesses humbly and makes satisfaction freely. · Blessed (is) the servant, who is not quick to excuse himself and humbly endures shame and rebuke because of a sin, even though he has not committed (any) fault.
23. On humility
Blessed (is) the servant, who is found to be as humble among his own subjects, as when for example he would be among his own lords. Blessed (is) the servant, who always remains continually under the rod of correction. A faithful and prudent servant is he (cf. Mt 24:45), who in all (circumstances) does not delay to punish his own offenses interiorly by means of contrition and exteriorly by means of confession and works of satisfaction.
24. On true love
Blessed (is) the servant, who would love (dilectio) his own brother as much, when he is infirm to the point that he cannot repay him, as when he is a healthy (brother), who can repay him.
25. Likewise on the same [subject]
Blessed (is) the servant, who would so love and fear his own brother, when he is far from him, as when for example he is with him, and would not say anything behind him, which he cannot, with charity, say before him.
26. That the servants of God should honor clerics
Blessed (is) the servant, who puts faith in the clerics who live rightly according to the manner of the Roman Church. · And woe to those who despise them; for though they may be sinners, no one however ought to judge them, since God Himself reserves to Himself alone their judgement. · For as much as their administration is greater, which they have because of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which they themselves receive and which they themselves alone minister to others, · so much greater a sin have they, who sin against them, than against all the other men of this world.
27. On the virtue of fleeing vice
Where there is charity and wisdom, there (is) neither fear nor ignorance. · Where there is patience and humility, there (is) neither wrath nor disturbance. · Where there is poverty with gladness, there (is) neither cupidity nor avarice. · Where there is quiet and meditation, there (is) neither solicitousness nor wandering about. · Where there is fear of the Lord to guard the entrance hall (cf. Lk 11:21), there the enemy can have no place to enter. · Where there is mercy and discretion, there (is) neither superfluity nor hardness.
28. On concealing good lest it be lost
Blessed (is) the servant, who stores up "in Heaven" (Mt 6:20) the good things, which the Lord hath revealed to him and does not desire to disclose them to men for profit or gain, for the Most High Himself will manifest his deeds to whomever He has pleased. · Blessed (is) the servant, who keeps the secrets of the Lord "in his heart" (cf. Lk 2:19.51).