Francis of Assisi on Humility and True Joy
This is a passage taken from the early Franciscan document The Assisi Compilation #109 (gathered around 1244-1260, some manuscripts dating later to 1311). It reflects what it means to be a “lesser brother” when insulted or dismissed, something most people can appreciate. I know as a Friar this is a passage, along with its corresponding Admonition and the narrative True and Perfect Joy, are important to recall when life presents experiences like that which Francis describes below.
Once when the time for the chapter of the brothers was approaching, to be held at the church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, blessed Francis said to his companion: “It seems to me that I am not a Lesser Brother unless I have the attitude I will tell you.” And he said: “The brothers come to me with great devotion and veneration, invite me to the chapter, and, touched by their devotion, I go to the chapter with them. After they assemble, they ask me to proclaim the word of God among them and I rise and preach to them as the Holy Spirit instructs me.
“After the sermon, suppose they reflect and speak against me: ‘We do not want you to rule over us. You are not eloquent and you are too simple. We are very ashamed to have such a simple and contemptible prelate over us. From now on, do not presume to call yourself our prelate.’ And so, with insults, the throw me out.
“It seems to me that I am not a Lesser Brother unless I am just as happy when they insult me and throw me out in shame, refusing that I be their prelate, as when they honor and revere me, if in both cases the benefit to them is equal. If I am happy about their benefit and devotion when they praise and honor me, which can be a danger to the soul, it is even more fitting that I should rejoice and be happy at my benefit and the salvation of my soul when they revile me as they throw me out in shame, which is profit for the soul.”