The Morning Sermon on Saint Francis, 1255 - 511 

Wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, nor dwell in a body enslaved to sin Wis 1:4 and as Isaiah admonishes: Cease to do evil, learn to do good. In other words, you will not be able to learn holiness from Christ unless you have resolved to eradicate its opposite, sinfulness, just as knowledge cannot be acquired unless satisfaction with its opposite, ignorance, has been uprooted.

Acknowledging this, Saint Francis strove with constant sighs of sorrow to root out vice and sin totally from the field of his heart. Nor did he cease to lament up to the moment when he was found worthy to hear from God: Your sins are forgiven. In the same way, anyone who desires to be a perfect disciple of Christ, must every night drench his couch with weeping, just as Saint Francis did. If one cannot follow that advice which leads to perfection, then one must at least cease to do evil if one wishes to become Christ's disciple. Therefore, anyone who does not resolve to abandon his evil ways cannot learn virtue, as Jeremiah reflects: Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. Here the Prophet is addressing those who from long habit have become stubborn in their malice so that it is well nigh impossible to root it out. They cannot learn virtue because they learned evil habits well enough in their youth.

Saint Francis, then, can rightly say: Learn from me, that is, take me as your model of discipleship, for I am a true disciple of Christ.

Likewise he can say to us Learn from me in the second sense, namely, embrace my teaching, because by being a true disciple, he became an authentic teacher. There are four grounds on which he can address these words to us.

First of all, he taught what he himself had learned without error because of the truth of God's revelation. As Scripture tells us: God is true, and every man a liar. Therefore, the teaching which anyone receives from revelation cannot be other than true. It is from having learned in this way that Saint Paul commends his teaching to the Galatians: For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Saint Francis learned his teaching in the same way. Indeed, one may well wonder at his teaching. How was he able to teach others what no human had taught him? Did he come by this knowledge of himself? Be assured he did not. The evidence of that is found in the account of his life. When he was instructed by another human or had to prepare something himself, he had absolutely nothing to say. In that, however, he is more to be praised and wondered at than imitated. Hence it is not without reason that his sons attend the schools.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 511