The Morning Sermon on Saint Francis, 1255 - 512 

To arrive at knowledge without a human teacher is not for everyone, but the privilege of a few. Though the Lord himself chose to teach Saint Paul and Saint Francis, it is his will that their disciples be taught by human teachers.

Second, he taught what he had learned without guile due to his fervent love, which directs the whole heart to grasp what is being taught. Speaking of wisdom Solomon glories that he himself learned in this way: I learned without guile and impart without grudging; I do not hide her wealth. That is to say, as ardent love brought me to learn without guile, so it moves me to share without jealousy or grudging envy what I have learned.

That is precisely how Saint Francis learned and taught. He so loved what he learned that he accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with that; gold as but little sand and silver as clay; he gave up all the wealth of his house and scorned it as nothing. He learned with such diligence that he became the teacher of many disciples whom he taught to think of the Lord with uprightness and seek him with sincerity of heart, because he is found by those who do not put him to the test, and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him. Wis 1:1 He manifested himself to Saint Francis who, because he had learned without guile, shared what he had learned without envy.

Third, he taught what he had learned without forgetting it, because he put it into practice being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, and because of that he was an excellent teacher. On observing the commandments Saint Matthew records: He who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Sirach praises this method of learning when he says: A man who has much experience knows many things, which he will think on with composure and without blame; and one who has learned many things will speak with understanding, because he did not acquire his knowledge by reflecting in general terms on a limited number of truths, but by individual experience over a wide range of life.

That is how Saint Francis learned, but by experiencing sufferings not joys. We can say of him what Saint Paul says of his own Teacher: He learned obedience through what he suffered. At the outset of his conversion Saint Francis experienced derision, beatings, fetters, imprisonment, destitution, nakedness, and adversity. Like Saint Paul he learned to be content in his sufferings: For I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. And because the teaching of a true disciple is recognized by his patience, Saint Francis is to be praised and imitated in his teaching and we should learn from him.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 512