Francis, great friend of Jesus
By Leoncio Grandmaison, S. J.
Among all Jesus’ friends and witnesses at Middle Age, F. Grandmaison, in his book “Jesucristo”, excels St. Bernard and St. Francis.
Francis of Assisi, the same way as St. Bernard, started from human and earthly life of Jesus. Differently to Clairvaux Monk, Francis wasn´t either wise nor theologian. Not even presbyter. His short life didn’t allow do by himself the immense works of apostolate seen in lives like a Vicente Ferrer or a Francis Xavier. Humbly submitted to Church authorities, he never aspired the Reformer title, and however, religious souls recognize an incomparable Holy Spirit Hero. But it was thanks to Lord’s contemplation and the persevering effort of Christ imitation, perhaps too literally for surface people, the way Francis got that height. He was in such a manner imbued of Spirit, love, Doctrine, Sufferings and Predilections of His Master, that he appeared to contemporaries and currents (and this is the key of his incomparable influence) as other Jesus. A disciple, more jealous than wise, Bartolomew of Pisa, has written, exaggerating, concordances in Francis and Jesus lives. Useless hype, because material features don´t show this accordance, which is much deeper. Meek and humble of heart, poor as birds of sky, simple as a kid, vibrating with joy in humiliation and suffering, live comment of Beatitudes, the Poverello of Assisi, could say he didn´t live actually, Christ was who lived in him. Stigmata were effect instead of cause, because consummated on the Saint flesh a truly perfect image in spirit.
What a live flame of love is which sprang from soul and lips of Francis! Everyone who read some modern biography of this great God’s friend knows it. “You won´t understand this life –quotes rightly Chesterton- if you don´t realize religion signified for this great mystic , not something abstract or ideal, like a theory but a heart question and the Love of a real being. Consciously, he continuously wanted to live as His Master, with His Master and from His Master. His Rule, as he thinked about is just the Gospel in action. At the beginning, it was formed almost all from St. Mathew verses. And, when brothers, apostolate needs, and human miseries increased, forcing additions, corrections, and clarifications, the Inspired Quotes are still preponderant. Even at the First Rule “non bullata” sublime finish, is possible to distinguish, among the tenderly passionate pictures and callings, Evangelical word, everywhere like stone at a mountain countryside. And such a prayers!
- “Who are you, my sweet Lord and God? And, who am I, the most vile worm and useless servant of You? My really loved Lord! All I wanted to love you! My Lord and God! I give you my heart and body, but I wish so much to do more for your love, if I´d know how!” (Little Flowers, part. II, cons. 3).
Francis never separates the Son of the Father; on his career highlight at Mount Alvernia, is still Jesus, and Jesus Crucified who introduces him at the “King’s secret” and the great divine joy. Until the end, this illustrious servant of God persevered as an ecstatic worshipper of the Master of Nazareth.
But, incredibly, Francis doesn´t seek this Master on his own way, by his only love, out of the Church Sacraments, Doctrines and Traditions. About this, evangelical theologian F. Heiler says Francis is just “the model of Catholic saint. All the identity features of Catholic Sainthood are printed on his face. All the wealth of Catholic piety lives in his wide and big soul; the powerful religious antinomies Catholic Christianity embraces are manifesy in his inner and outdoor life. Whoever who wants to release Catholicism pious secular, simple and with no theological formation, describe to him the figure of the poor of Umbria. Francis is not a semi heretic anyway, nor a reformer; less a modern religion Hero; he is, at the opposite, a exemplary and perfect finish of Catholic piety, whose irradiation has come to this day, without weakening. Because he knew that “no one will have God as Father if has not the Church as Mother” (St. Cyprien). More than once he vows of complete and perfect submission to Authority; he impose this submission to his disciples; he exalts the need of the authorized intermediary, consecrated, the Catholic priest, in terms where knowledge of the terrible abuses of those times, represents and attitude truly heroic:
- “The rule and life of Friars minor is this, namely: to observe Our Lord Jesus Christ Holy Gospel… Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to Mr. Pope Honorius and his canonically elected successors and to Roman Church” (1 R 1). “No one of the brothers preach against form and rules of the Holy Roman Church…” (1 R 17). “All the friars must be Catholic and must live and talk like Catholic. If someone sin against the Catholic Faith and Life…and don´t corrected, he must be absolutely expelled from our fraternity” (1 R 19).
- “The Lord conceded to me, friar Francis, the grace to start penance so… The Lord gave and still gives a really big faith in priests who live according to the way of Holy Roman Church, because of his Order, that although if they persecuted me, I will keep them. And if I had so much wisdom like Salomon, and I found the poor priest of this world, I don´t want to preach against their will at the parishes they live. To then and all other, I want to respect, love and honor as my lords, and I don´t want to consider in them sin, because I understand in them the Son of God, and they all are my lords” (Testament).
[L. de Grandmaison, S.J., Jesucristo, Barcelona, Editorial Litúrgica Española, 1932, pp. 953-955.] [Selecciones de Franciscanismo, vol. III, n. 8 (1974) 221-222]
San Juan Evangelista y San Francisco El Greco, oil on canvas.