The letter of St Francis to all the Faithful c1226
This letter is almost like a rule for the ordinary men and women who follow Francis but remain where God found them in their every day life. The second half of the letter, an account of what can happen if you deliberately step back from God’s loving grace, is grim. It would be tempting to omit it. But it is central to Francis’ view of heaven and earth and, frankly, it is central to God’s view! But if we choose to obedient love we won’t be taking the highroad to hell!
To all Christians, religious, priests, and laypersons, men and women, to all who dwell in the whole world, Brother Francis, their servant and subject, presents reverent homage, wishing true peace 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 Spirit which are spirit and life
Word made flesh
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 approaching, He celebrated the Passover with His disciples and, taking bread, He gave thanks and blessed and broke saying: Take this all of you and eat it, this is my body. And taking the chalice, He said: This is my blood of the New Covenant, which shall be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. After that He prayed to the Father, saying: Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me. And His sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground. But nevertheless, He gave up His will to the will of the Father, saying: Father, Your will be done: not as I will, but as You will.
The living presence of God
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, 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 there are few who wish to receive Him and to be saved by Him, although His yoke is easy 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 the prophet said: they are cursed who depart from your commandments. But, O how happy and blessed are those who love the Lord, who do as the Lord Himself says in the Gospel: you shalt love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and your neighbour as yourself. 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 worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For all who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. And let us offer Him praises and prayers day and night, saying: Our Father who art in heaven, for we ought always to pray, and not to grow weary.
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 eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord - that is, not discerning it from other foods.
Let us, moreover, bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. 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.
Be merciful as your Father
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 who does not show 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 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.
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.
We ought to hate our bodies with their vices and sins, because the Lord says in the Gospel that all vices and sins come forth from the heart.
We ought to love our enemies and do good to them that hate us.
We ought to observe the precepts and counsels of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We ought also to deny ourselves and to put our bodies beneath the yoke of servitude and holy obedience as each one has promised to the Lord.
And let no man be bound by obedience to obey any one in that where sin or offense is committed.
But let him to whom obedience has been entrusted and who is considered greater become as the lesser and the servant of the other brothers, and let him show and have the mercy toward each of his brothers that he would wish to be shown to himself if he were in the like situation. And let him not be angry with a brother on account of his offence, but let him advise him kindly and encourage him with all patience and humility.
We ought not to be wise according to the flesh and prudent, but we ought rather to be simple, humble, and pure. And let us hold our bodies in dishonour and contempt because through our fault we are all wretched and corrupt, foul and worms, as the Lord says by the prophet: I am a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of the people. We should never desire to be above others, but ought rather to be servants and subject to every human creature for God’s sake.
The indwelling of the Trinity
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon all those who do these things and who shall persevere to the end, and He shall make His abode and dwelling place in them, and they shall be children of the heavenly Father whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are spouses when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united to Jesus Christ. We are His brothers when we do the will of His Father who is in heaven. We are His mothers when we bear Him in our heart and in our body through pure love and a clean conscience and we bring Him forth by holy work which ought to shine as an example to others.
O how glorious and holy and great
to have a Father in heaven!
O how holy, fair, and lovable
to have a spouse in heaven!
O how holy and how beloved,
well pleasing and humble,
peaceful and sweet and desirable above all
to have such a brother
who has laid down His life for His sheep,
and who has prayed for us to the Father, saying:
Father, keep them in your name
whom You have given me.
Father, all those
whom You hast given Me in the world were yours,
and You have given them to Me.
And the words which You gave Me
I have given to them;
and they have received them,
and have known in very deed
that I came forth from You,
and they have believed that You sent Me.
I pray for them: not for the world:
bless and consecrate them.
And for them I consecrate myself
that they may be holy in one as we also are.
And I will, Father, that where I am,
they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory in my kingdom.
And since He has suffered so many things for us
and has done and will do so much good to us,
let every creature which is in heaven and on earth
and in the sea and under the sea
render praise to God
and glory and honour and blessing;
for He is our strength and power
who alone is good, alone most high,
alone almighty and admirable,
glorious and alone holy,
praiseworthy and blessed
without end forever and ever.
The road to hell is also straight!
But all those who do not do penance and who do not receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who give themselves to vices and sins and walk after evil concupiscence and bad desires and who do not observe what they have promised, in their body they serve the world and its fleshly desires and cares and solicitudes for this life, but in mind they serve the devil, deceived by him whose sons they are and whose works they do; blind they are because they see not the true light, our Lord Jesus Christ. They have no spiritual wisdom, for they have not in them the Son of God who is the true wisdom of the Father: of these it is said: their wisdom was swallowed up They know, understand, and do evil and wittingly lose their souls. Beware, you blind, deceived by your enemies; to wit, by the world, the flesh and by the devil, for it is sweet to the body to commit sin and bitter to serve God because all vices and sins come forth and proceed from the heart of man, as it is said in the Gospel.
And you have nothing of good in this world or in the future. You think to possess for long the vanities of this world, but you are deceived; for a day and an hour will come of which you think not and do not know and are ignorant of. The body grows feeble, death approaches, neighbors and friends come saying: “Put your affairs in order.” And his wife and his children, neighbors and friends, make believe to weep. And looking, he sees them weeping and is moved by a bad emotion, and thinking within himself he says: “Behold, I place my soul and body and my all in your hands.” Verily, that man is cursed who confides and exposes his soul and body and his all in such hands. Wherefore, the Lord says by the prophet: Cursed be the man who trusts in man. And at once they cause a priest to come and the priest says to him: “Will you do penance for all your sins?” He answers: “I will”, “Will you from your substance, as far as you can, satisfy for what you hast done and for the things in which you have defrauded and deceived men?” He answers. “No.” And the priest says: “Why not?”,“Because I have put everything into the hands of my relatives and friends” And he begins to lose the power of speech and thus this miserable man dies a bitter death.
But let all know that wheresoever or howsoever a man may die in criminal sin, without satisfaction, when he could satisfy and did not satisfy, the devil snatches his soul from his body with such violence and anguish as no one can know except him who suffers it. And all talent and power, learning and wisdom that he thought to possess are taken from him And his relatives and friends take to themselves his substance and divide it and say afterwards: “Cursed be his soul because he could have acquired and given us more than he did, and did not acquire it.” But the worms eat his body. And thus he loses soul and body in this short life and goes into hell, where he shall be tormented without end.
Hear and obey the Lord
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All to whom this letter may come,
I, Brother Francis, your little servant,
pray and conjure you by the charity which God is,
and with the will to kiss your feet,
to receive these balm-bearing words of our Lord Jesus Christ
with humility and charity
and to put them in practice kindly
and to observe them perfectly.
And let those who do not know how to read
have them read often
and let them keep them by them with holy operation unto the end, for they are spirit and life.
And those who do not do this
shall render an account on the day of Judgment
before the tribunal of Christ.
And all those who shall receive them kindly
and understand them and send them to others as example,
if they persevere in them unto the end,
may the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless them.