Sermon I to the Lesser Brothers - 586 

preacher in his own time. The seemingly forced Biblical and nature imagery, which seems so foreign to us, was precisely what attracted contemporary audiences. Although too lengthy and diffuse to reproduce here in their entirety, these sermons are not without interest for both the history and the spirituality of the Order during this critical decade.a

1 Our theme today is taken from Proverbs: Four things on earth are exceedingly little, yet they are wiser than the wise: the ants are a people without strength, yet they provide food for the harvest; the rabbits are a weak people, yet they make their bed in the rock; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard supports itself on hands, yet dwells in kings’s houses.

2 . . . Since the dignity and richness and splendor of clothing usually generate pride, just as disdain, poverty, and meanness of clothing generate humility, the less you keep of the goods of this world, the humbler and lesser you appear. Now I notice that you possess nothing in this world but a habit and a cord, nor do I see that you could have anything less. And thus, even though there are many little ones in this world, you are truly lesser [minores]; even though there are many who are wise, you are wiser than the wise. . . . For they are wiser, who wish to imitate Christ more closely, that is, to draw closer to the divine wisdom in labors and abjection, in humility and poverty, and make themselves more closely conformable to Christ. It is they who strip themselves of majesty to take on the form of a slave; of riches, to [embrace] poverty; of rest, to [endure] struggles and labor; of life, to [prefer] death. Thus it is that the humility and wisdom of the saints is likened to these four little animals, which are the wisest of the wise ones of this world, that is, the ant, the rabbit, the locust, and the lizard.

3 Through these four animals, we can point out the four different types of brothers who lead a religious life in the friary. For some among you are simple lay brothers, who help the work of the others by the labor of their own hands or by collecting alms from the faithful. They are compared to ants, because the ant is a tiny animal but one that works very hard to gather and prepare its food.

Others are weak and infirm; they cannot work with their hands, or carry the burdens of others, or perform great penances. But they should not mistrust divine mercy: the less they have of their own, the more




Sermo primus ad fratres minores, Analecta Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum, p. 114-122

Sermo primus ad fratres minores13

Textus ex Parabolis 30, 21–28: «Quatuor sunt minima terrae, et ipsa sunt sapientiora sapientibus : Formicae, populus infirmus, qui praeparat in messe cibum sibi. Lepusculus, plebs invalida, qui collocat in petra cubile suum. Regem locusta non habet, et egreditur universa per turmas suas. Stellio manibus nititur, et moratnr in aedibus regum.Pr30:24-28»

Et quoniam dignitates et divitiae et ornatus vestium solent generare superbiam, sicut abjectio, paupertas et vilitas indumenti generant humilitatem, quanto minus de hoc mundo retinetis, tanto humiliores et minores apparetis. Nihil enim habetis de hoc mundo, nisi tunicam cum funiculo, nec video, quomodo minus habere possitis. Et ideo, licet multi parvi sint in hoc saeculo, vos minores, licet multi sapientes, vos sapientibus sapientiores. Sapientiores autem sunt, qui propinquius Christum imitantur, qui scilicet divinae sapientiae in laboribus et abjectione, in humilitate et paupertate magis assimilantur et Christo expressius conformantur; qui majestatem exinaniunt usque ad servi formam, divitias usque ad paupertatem, quietem usque ad angustias et laborem, vitam usque ad mortem. Propterea Sanctorum humilitas et sapientia quatuor modicis animalibus comparantur, quae sunt sapientiora sapientibus hujus saeculi, id est, formicae, lepusculo, locustae et stellioni.

Per haec autem quatuor, Fratrum diversitates in conventu regulariter viventium designantur. Quidam enim inter vos simplices fratres sunt et laici, qui ad opus aliorum propriis manibus laborant vel fidelium eleemosynas deportant. Qui formicae comparantur, quae parvum est animal et multum laborat in congregando et parando sibi victum.

Alii debiles sunt et infirmi, qui manibus non possunt laborare, vel aliorum onera portare, aut magnam poenitentiam facere. Qui tamen de Dei misericordia non debent diffidere, quod enim minus in se habent, in labore aliorum recuperant.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 586