Miscellaneous Franciscan Sources - 796 

praising the skill of his cook. But other times, with a frown on his face, he would say: “You made too much today, Brother. Tomorrow I don’t want you to cook anything.” And since Brother Stephen was a little afraid of Saint Francis, he carried out his wishes. When he did so, the next day Francis would see the table with only a few motley pieces of bread and would sit down with the other brothers delighted. But now and then he would say: “Brother Stephen, why haven’t you made us anything to eat”? And he would respond: “Because that’s what you ordered me to do.” And then Saint Francis would answer: “Discretion is a good thing, for we shouldn’t always do what the superior says!”

Brother Thomas claimed that he heard Brother Stephen tell him these things. May Christ be praised!

A Book of Exemplary Stories (c. 1280-1310)

In the later thirteenth century a number of brothers attempted to put together collections of edifying stories about their brothers. These loosely organized works, providing instructive models of Franciscan life, seem to have been intended primarily for communal and private reading in the con- vent. However, they also served another purpose, for they provided a handy source for exampla, the illustrative anecdotes that preachers employed in their sermons. Franciscan preachers especially favored such popular stories, and they had the natural tendency to substitute traditional materials with new legends and anecdotes connected with holy men of their own Order.a

One such collection was assembled by some anonymous Italian brothers at the end of the thirteenth or early fourteenth century; its modern editor called it A Book of Exemplary Stories about Thirteenth Century Lesser Brothers.b There is no real order to the collection; most of the stories seem to have originated in either Paris or Assisi, the two locations in the thirteenth century where there was a constant coming and going of a large number of Lesser Brothers from all over Europe. Some of the stories in this collection also occur in the treatise of Thomas of Eccleston and the later Chronicle of the Twenty-Four Generals. Most of these exempla seem to go back to the period 1260-1280, so it would appear there was some initial attempt to assemble them during the generalate of Saint Bonaventure. The latest dateable reference is during the pontificate of Gregory XI (1271-6). Francis is the subject of twenty of the 146 stories in the collection. Some of these occur almost verbatim in Thomas of Celano’s The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, so we include here only those that offer dif- ferent perspectives on Francis.c




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 796