The Morning Sermon on Saint Francis, 1267 - 753 

from tending the ewes that had young he brought him to be shepherd of Jacob, his people, and Israel his inheritance. We find also in the New Testament that [all Christ's disciples] humbled themselves, and Christ greatly cherishes the humble.

If someone owned a precious gem which the more worthless it was considered, the more precious it became, how willingly he would show it to those who disparage it. Strength of spirit increases through reproaches; what folly it is, therefore, to seek praise. The Saints wanted to be despised by others in order to be pleasing to God. As Saint Gregory says: "If holy people who achieve so much, reckon themselves as practically worthless, what is to be said of those puffed up with pride, yet devoid of virtue?"a Saint Anselm tells us that there are six degrees of humility, and he who succeeds in arriving at the sixth, possesses the fulness of grace.b The first degree of humility is to account oneself despicable; the second is to speak of oneself as despicable; the third, to convince others that one is despicable; the fourth, to want to be judged despicable; the fifth, to want to be spoken of as despicable; and the sixth, to want to be treated as despicable. At this point one is close to God and is his humble servant. Saint Francis himself says: "What a man is before God, that he is and no more." A man is worth no more than God reckons him. It is extraordinary that we want to find favor with other people whose approval does nothing for us, and we care little to be pleasing to him whose favor is the summit of holiness. So it is that Saint Francis is commended in this text for his deep humility.

For his humility Saint Francis was sustained by a threefold mercy of God. We read in the Psalms: Uphold your servant for good: let not the proud calumniate me. Deal with your servant according to your mercy. This humble servant who revered God, took care of his neighbor and despised himself, and was found worthy to be sustained by God's mercy. Because he despised himself he was sustained by God's forgiving mercy; then because he took care of his neighbor, he was sustained by God's protecting mercy; and third, because he so revered God, he was sustained by God's liberating and uplifting mercy.

First, Saint Francis despised himself and for that he was sustained by God's forgiving mercy. Mary says in the Magnificat: He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy. Israel, also named Jacob, struggled with the angel and was crippled. But he was sus-




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 753