THIS dedicated man of the Church and servant of all in need has left us no sermons, as such. His Admonitions, his vernacular Song of the Sun, and his Prayers give us some idea of his homiletic propensities and spiritual benefactions. The excerpt below, taken from the so-called “Letter to all the Faithful,” has in its tone and substance the very qualities of Gospel paraphrase, Churchly obedience, and penitence-inciting humility that his Rule demands from preachers. It is reproduced with the gracious permission of The Dolphin Press, from Father Paschal Robinson. The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi, Philadelphia, 1905; pp. 98-103. Cf. Fr.A.B.-W. 33 ff.
To all Christians, religious, clerics, and laics, men and women, to all who dwell in the whole world, Brother Francis, their servant and subject, presents reverent homage, wishing true peach from heaven and sincere charity in the Lord.
Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my Lord. Wherefore, considering in my mind that, because of the infirmity and weakness of my body, I cannot visit each one personally, I propose by this present letter and message to offer you the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Word of the Father and the words of the Holy Ghost which are spirit and life (John 6:63; D. 6:64).
This Word of the Father, so worthy, so holy and glorious, whose coming the most High Father announced from heaven by His holy archangel Gabriel to the holy and glorious Virgin Mary in whose womb He received the true flesh of our humanity and frailty, He, being rich above all, willed, nevertheless, with His most blessed Mother, to choose poverty.
And when His Passion was nigh, He celebrated the Pasch with His disciples and, taking bread, He gave thanks and blessed and broke saying: Take ye and eat: this is My body. And, taking the chalice, He said: This is My Blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for you and for many unto remission of sins (Matt. 26:26-28). After that He prayed to the Father, saying: Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me (Matt. 26:39). And His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground (Luke 22:44). But withal, He gave up His will to the will of the Father, saying: Father, Thy will be done: not as I will, but as Thou wilt (cf. Matt. 26:39). Such was the will of the Father that His Son, blessed and Glorious, whom He gave to us, and who was born for us, should by His own Blood, sacrifice, and oblation, offer Himself on the altar of the Cross, not for Himself, by whom all things were made (John 1:3), but for our sins, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps. And He wishes that we should all be saved by Him and that we should receive Him with a pure heart and a chaste body. But 183 there are few who wish to receive Him and to be saved by Him, although His yoke is sweet and His burden light.
Those who will not taste how sweet the Lord is and who love darkness rather than the light, not wishing to fulfil the commandments of God are cursed: of them it is said by the prophet: They are cursed who decline from Thy commandments (Ps. 119:21; D. 118:21). But, O how happy and blessed are those who love the Lord, who do as the Lord Himself says in the Gospel: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and . . . thy neighbor as thyself (Matt. 22:37-39). Let us therefore love God and adore Him with a pure heart and a pure mind because He Himself, seeking that above all, says: The true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). For all who adore Him, must adore Him in spirit and in truth (4:24). And let us offer Him praises and prayers day and night, saying: Our Father who art in heaven (Luke 11:2), for we ought always to pray, and not to faint (18:1).
We ought indeed to confess all our sins to a priest and receive from him the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who does not eat His Flesh and does not drink His Blood cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Let him, however, eat and drink worthily, because he who receives unworthily eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord (I Cor. 11:29), — that is, not discerning it from other foods.
Let us, moreover, bring forth fruits worthy of penance (Luke 3:8). And let us love our neighbors as ourselves, and if any one does not wish to love them as himself or cannot, let him at least do them not harm, but let him do good to them.
Let those who have received the power of judging others, exercise judgment with mercy, as they hope to obtain mercy from the Lord. For let judgment without mercy be shown to him that doth not mercy. Let us then have charity and humility and let us give alms because they wash souls from the foulness of sins. For men lose all which they leave in this world; they carry with them, however, the reward of charity and alms which they have given, for which they shall receive a recompense and worthy remuneration from the Lord.
We ought also to fast and to abstain from vices and sins and from superfluity of food and drink, and to be Catholics. We ought also 184 to visit Churches frequently and to reverence clerics not only for themselves, if they are sinners, but on account of their office and administration of the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they sacrifice on the altar and receive and administer to others. And let us all know for certain that no one can be saved except by the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the holy words of the Lord which clerics say and announce and distribute and they alone administer and not others. But religious especially, who have renounced the world, are bound to do more and greater things, but not to leave the other undone (Luke 11:42).