SPURRED on by ascetic vigils and prophetic visions, Savonarola pronounced the Lord’s judgments on pontiffs, secular rulers, and the whole of Italian society. His reforming zeal, coupled with his homiletic boldness, brought him almost unparalleled popularity. The extremes of his Florentine theocracy precipitated a political reversal culminating in his death at the stake. The Biblical temp of his preaching is observable in the following arraignment of secular and religious groups whom he alls to repentance. The translation by Miss Gertrude Marie Puccia is from Savon.Pr.Fer. 99-100, 102-03, 110-14 compared with Savon.Pr.Vil. 52-65.
O sinners, stubborn, lukewarm, all who defer repentance to the last, agite poenitentiam, do penance; do it now; do not delay any longer, for the Lord now awaits you and thus He calls you. Listen to my words, not as if they came from me, but from God. I can do no more than say: agite poenitentiam. See how good and how merciful God is and how He desires to lead you to the Ark to save you. Come, sinner, come, for God calls you. I feel great grief and great compassion for you. Join us in this Holy Feast of All Saints, which we celebrate today. When I think of it, my grief increases tremendously, for I compare, with your misery, the rejoicing and beatitude in which the Saints find themselves today on the occasion of this Feast; and, for the sake of charity, I cannot but feel deeply sorry for you. So great is their beatitude and contentment that not only can one not speak of it, but one cannot even imagine it. . . . O foolish men, who by sinning are willing to lose of much peace and rest; agite poenitentiam, do penance; return to God and you will find complete rest; repent your errors; confess; make strong your intention never to sin again; receive the sacrament of Holy Communion which will make you, also, blessed! When we look at those who are converted and who follow the road of a good Christian life, who confess and receive Holy Communion often, we see in them something almost divine, a humility, a spiritual rejoicing. Their faces have almost assumed angelic form. And e converso, looking upon the faces of the wicked and stubbornly perverted and especially upon the faces of certain ecclesiastics when they are unbridled in their vices, we see them as demons, and worse than laymen. And tamen, these ecclesiastics use this sacrament every day. See how different is the effect upon them: this sacrament sweetens the hearts of the good and produces perfect humility in them; the contrary is seen in the wicked. Thus I thought and I said: If this sacrament in which one believes what is not seen, gives so much joy to one who, well disposed, takes it and receives it, O how much greater will be and is this joy in those blessed spirits who facie and faciem, see Him and fully rejoice 297 in Him. O human heart, why do you not dissolve and melt in so much sweetness and so much love? . . .
Your sins, then, O Italy, O Rome, O Florence, your impieties, your fornications, your cruelties, your sins, I say, beget these tribulations. Here is the cause! And if you have found the cause of all this evil, look for its remedy. Eradicate the sin that is the source of it, and you will be healed: quia remota caussa, removetur effectus. Take away the sins, and the tribulations will not harm you; and if you do not do this, believe me, nothing else will avail. You are deceiving yourselves, Italy and Florence, if you do not believe what I tell you. Nothing except penance will help you: do as you wish, but all will be in vain without it. You shall see.
O rich, O poor, do penance; and you rich, give alms to the poor. Peccata tua elemosinis redime. O you who fear God, do good and do not be afraid of tribulations, for God will give you great consolation in them. Penance is the only remedy; and if only you will truly repent, you will remove a great part of the tribulations. Agite poenitentiam, and remove the sins that are the cause of the tribulations.
You should realize by this time that I speak to you as a father to his children, for your good; and you should see that God, in this affliction of yours, has given me to you as a father, to show you the way to correct your errors, that you may merit forgiveness in the judgment of God. . . .
Where, Florence, is my honor and that of my superiors? Where is the honor and the authority of the father and the good unity of the children? If you, at least, would do good, Florence! This I should like from you, my daughter; and this, and nothing else, would be my reward and yours.
If only you would have compassion for me, it is for you and your salvation that I am so grieved. What do I ask of you, Florence, if not that you be saved and that you do good and nothing else? I have heard from other cities that if I had said and done what I have said and done here, they would have become people quite different 298 from you. For that reason, I implore you all that now you be no longer stubborn, but that you turn yourselves to God and do penance quickly; for I do not say this to you without reason. . . . But because up to now I have spoken to you all generally, and I see that it is of no use, it is therefore necessarily to touch upon the particulars to some extent. . . .
O consecrated priests, hear my words, O priests, O prelates of the Church of Christ, renounce your benefices that you cannot serve; renounce your pomp and your convivial gatherings and the banquets which you give so splendidly; renounce, I say, your concubines and your boys,1 for it is time I say to do penance, because from all these things come the great tribulations by which God desires to mend His Church. Say your masses with devotion; if you do not, if you are not willing to understand what God wants, in the end you will lose both benefices and life.
O monks, renounce the extravagance of your attire and your silver vessels and the over-running fatness of your abbeys and benefices. Give yourselves over to simplicity; and work with your hands as did the ancient monks, your fathers, and your predecessors; otherwise, if you do not do it willingly, there will come a time when you will be forced to do it.
O nuns, renounce, renounce you, too, your extravagances; renounce your simonies when you accept, as nuns, those who come to stay in your monasteries; renounce your many decorations and your exceeding pomp when your sisters are consecrated; renounce your florid chants.2 Weep, I say, as quickly as possible for your failings and your errors. I tell you that the time to weep is coming rather than the time to sing and give feasts, because God will punish you if you do not change your life and habits. If you will not do it, do not be surprised then if destruction comes and if everything perishes.
O my brothers, to you I say: Renounce your extravagance, your paintings, and your vain ornaments. Make your robes less full and of thinner material. Do you not realize that your extravagances are taking alms away from the poor? O brothers, O children, it is necessary to speak frankly in this way, that no one may say: “I did not know about it,” and so excuse himself. I am obliged to speak thus, 299 et vae mihi si non evangelizavero (I Cor. 9:16). Woe to me were I not to say it! I declare to you that if you will not listen to the voice of God, He will punish you.
O merchants, renounce your usuries; give back other people’s belongings and the things you have dishonestly taken; otherwise you will lose everything.
O you who have anything superfluous, give it to the poor, for it is not yours. Take it to the Company of Saint Martin that they may distribute it to the poor too ashamed to beg, who so often die of hunger, while you have so much in excess. Give it, I say, to those Good Men of Saint Martin’s; take it there to them; I do not say to me, nor to my brothers, for it is not our work to distribute alms to the poor. You poor, go to those who distribute the alms of the city, and you will be helped. I say to you that he who has any excess, must give it to the poor; and more than this, I say to you that it is time to give even beyond your superfluity.
And now, O priests, I must come back to you; I mean the bad ones, for I am always reverent to the good ones. Renounce, I say, that unspeakable vice, renounce that accursed vice that has so greatly provoked the wrath of God upon you. If you do not, woe, woe to you! O lustful ones, dress yourselves in hair-cloth and do that penance which you need! O you who have your houses full of vanities and pictures and indecent things and evil books, and that Morgante3 of yours and other poetry contrary to the faith, bring them to me to make a bon-fire or a sacrifice to God. And you, mothers, who adorn your daughters with so much vanity and extravagance and fancy hair ornaments, bring all these things here to us to throw into the fire, so that, when the wrath of God comes, He will not find them in your houses. And thus, I command you as your father. Now, if you will do thus in these matters, as I have told you, you will be sufficient, you alone, to placate the wrath of God; otherwise, I should regret to have to bring you bad tidings. . . .
1 The Latin word cinedi is used in the text.
2 The text reads canti figurati.
3 Of Pulci.