The Life of Blessed Francis - 564 

salvation requires and respectability allows. "What business," he asked, "should a religious have with a woman, except when she religiously makes a request for holy penance or for counsel concerning a better life? When one is too secure, one is less wary of the enemy. If the devil can hold onto one hair of a person, he will soon make it grow into a plank."

6 He taught the brothers to flee with all their might from idleness, the cesspool of all evil thoughts;a and he demonstrated to them by his own example that they should master their rebellious and lazy flesh by constant discipline and useful work. Therefore he used to call his body Brother Ass, for he felt it should be subjected to heavy labor, beaten frequently with whips, and fed with the poorest food.

If he saw someone idle and vagrant, wanting to eat the labors of others, he thought he should be called "Brother Fly," because he did nothing good himself but poisoned the good done by others and so rendered himself useless and obnoxious to all. On account of this he once said: "I want my brothers to work and be kept busy, so that, given to idleness, they stray into what is forbidden with heart and tongue."

He strongly wanted the brothers to observe the silence recommended by the Gospel, so that they particularly abstain at all times from every idle word, since they would have to render an account on the day of judgment But if he found a brother accustomed to shallow talk, he would reprimand him bitterly, affirming that a modest silence was the guardian of a pure heart and no small virtue itself, in view of the fact that death and life are said to be in the hands of the tongue, not so much by reason of taste as by reason of speech.

7Although he energetically urged the brothers to lead an austere life, he was not pleased by an intransigent severity that did not put on a heart Col 3:12 of piety and was not seasoned with the salt of discernment.b

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Legenda Maior, Fontes Franciscani, p. 817-818


iuxta quod et saluti expedit et congruit honestati. 7 « Quae sunt », inquit, « religioso cum muliere tractanda negotia, nisi cum sanctam poenitentiam vel melioris vitae consilium religiosa petitione deposcit? 8Ex nimia securitate minus cavetur hostis, et diabolus, si de suo capillum potest habere in homine, cito excrescere facit in trabem ».

6 1Otium autem omnium malarum cogitationum sentinam docebat summopere fugiendum, exemplo demonstrans, rebellem carnem et pigram disciplinis continuis et fructuosis laboribus esse domandam. 2Unde corpus suum fratrem asinum appellabat, tamquam laboriosis supponendum oneribus, crebris caedendum flagellis et vili pabulo sustentandum.

3Si quem vero cernebat otiosum et vagum aliorum, velle manducare labores, fratrem muscam nominandum censebat, eo quod talis nihil boni faciens, sed benefacta inficiens, vilem et abominabilem se omnibus reddat. 4Propter quod dixit aliquando: « Volo fratres meos laborare et exercitari, ne otio dediti, per illicita corde aut lingua vagentur ».

5Evangelicum siquidem volebat a fratribus observari silentium, ut videlicet ab omni otioso verbo omni tempore abstinerent sollicite, tamquam reddituri in die iudicii de huiusmodi rationem. 6Sed et si quem invenisset fratrem verbis assuetum inanibus, acriter arguebat; 7taciturnitatem modestam et puri cordis affirmans custodiam et non modicam esse virtutem, pro eo quod mors et vita fore dicuntur in manibus linguae, non tam ratione gustus quam ratione loquelae.

7 1Licet autem pro viribus ad vitam austeram fratres induceret, non tamen ei placebat districtionis severitas, quae, pietatis non induit viscera nec est discretionis sale condita.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 564