The Evening Sermon on Saint Francis, 1262 - 722 

the Corinthians: Their extreme poverty has abounded to the riches of their simplicity. 2 Cor 8:2 As the heavens are arranged in spheres of high, higher, and highest heavens, so there is a poverty borne in patience that is good, a poverty that is desired and longed for which is better, and poverty embraced with joy in which a person glories and rejoices, which is best of all. Poverty, therefore, is the reason why a person can be likened to the heavens, because it leads to the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Mt 5:3 Poverty excludes those who do not love it, or who malign it, from the kingdom of heaven, as Scripture says: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, Mt 19:24 that is, for a rich man who has set his heart on riches and placed his trust in them. Avarice drags a person down because those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. Take note that avarice casts a person into the depths. Poverty, on the other hand, uplifts a person to the state of heavenly life and, above all, that poverty in which a person glorifies and rejoices.

You will not find anyone who embraced poverty like Saint Francis, nor who gloried in it as he did. He refused to possess anything at all, either personally or in common, nor did he want his brothers to own anything. The cross of Christ is the sign of poverty because on it he was reduced to the utmost poverty, not having had even an old rag with which to cover his nakedness. Saint Francis also chose the highest poverty. It is fitting, therefore, that the sign of the Son of Man, namely, Christ's cross, should be found on Saint Francis.

At this point someone may remark that self-praise is distasteful, and so I ought not to be saying these things in praise of ourselves, of our own Orders and of our holy father Saint Francis. But really one should not remain silent about these things by which the Holy Spirit himself approved and confirmed the life of poverty by the sign of the cross. For at the very time Saint Francis sought approval of his Order from the pope, the stigmata of our Lord were imprinted on his body. This was God's approval, not man's, for men can be deceived. And so not only did a human being issue a bull approving poverty, the Lord himself issued his own bull approving poverty by imprinting the stigmata of his passion on the poor and humble Saint Francis. It is not granted to everybody to observe such poverty or to choose it, but it is given to all to admire it. And it ought to be a source of joy to anyone who cannot be poor like this, that such poverty was embraced by someone.a




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 722