The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, tr. by Paschal Robinson, , at sacred-texts.com
The authenticity of this letter cannot be challenged. The original autograph is jealously preserved at the Cathedral of Spoleto. In Wadding's time it was kept at the Conventual church in that place, but subsequently disappeared in some way and there was no trace of it until 1895, when Father Cardinali, a priest of Spoleto, placed it in the hands of Mgr. Faloci. The latter presented it to Pope Leo XIII and, after reposing for some three years in the Vatican, it was, at the request of Mgr. Serafini, Archbishop of Spoleto, returned to the cathedral there. 1 Only one other autograph of St. Francis is known to exist. 2 The scope of the letter is obvious: it is a word of tender encouragement and counsel to the Frate pecorello de Dio, St. Francis’ most intimate companion and friend, who at the time was harassed with doubts and fears. The form of the letter seems to present some difficulties to certain critics. For example, St. Francis at the outset uses the words: F. Leo F. Francisco tuo salutem et pacem. It is, of course, clear that this superscription cannot be interpreted in such a way as to make Brother Leo the author of the letter; in that case it would be Francisco suo, and no one, so far as I know, has ever attempted this violence to the text. But there have been some who, thinking St. Francis did not know the difference between a dative and a nominative,
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LETTER OF ST. FRANCIS TO BROTHER LEO, PRESERVED AT SPOLETO. (See page 130.)
have not hesitated to tamper with the text so as to bring the Latin of the Poverello into conformity with what they think to be better grammar. 1 I confess that .I find no difficulty in translating the superscription as it stands in the original autograph. As a general rule, no doubt, it is the sender of a letter that greets the one to whom it is sent. But, in this case, the humility of St. Francis has led him to change parts and he appeals for a blessing instead of bestowing one. I find myself therefore in thorough accord with Mr. Carmichael's clever solution of this question and agree with him that St. Francis, always imaginative, meant what he wrote, and that "there is really a deep, sweet, and most pathetic meaning in the Saint's peculiar mode of address." Accordingly, the superscription ought to read "Brother Leo, wish thy brother Francis health and peace." It is thus, following Mr. Carmichael, that I have translated it here.
As regards the use of the plural (faciatis) in the body of the note which perplexed Wadding, since the singular seems to be called for, some think with the Quaracchi editors that the Saint, writing so familiarly to Leo, adopts the Italian form; others, with M. Sabatier, 2 that Brother Leo had spoken in the name of a group. Perhaps it may not be amiss to recall in this connection, what Celano tells us of St. Francis’ method of composition 3 as well as of the letter
of the Saint mentioned by Eccleston, in which there was faulty Latin. 1 A French critic 2 thinks we might perhaps be justified in identifying the letter referred to by Eccleston with the one to Brother Leo now under consideration. Be this as it may, the context of the present letter leads one to suppose that at the time it was written Brother Leo was not yet habitually with St. Francis. In this hypothesis, we must fix the date of its composition not later than 1220. 3 It need not be wondered at if, after nearly seven centuries, some words in the autograph letter preserved at Spoleto are difficult to read. Hence some trifling variants occur in the texts published by Wadding 4 and Faloci. 5 The Quaracchi text which I have here translated is edited after the original:—
Brother Leo, wish thy brother Francis health and peace!
I say to thee: Yes, my son, and as a mother; for in this word and counsel I sum up briefly all the words we said on the way, and if afterwards thou hast need to come to me for advice, thus I advise you: In whatever way it seemeth best to thee to please the Lord God and to follow His
footsteps and poverty, so do with the blessing of the Lord God and in my obedience. And if it be necessary for thee on account of thy soul or other consolation and thou wishest, Leo, to come to me, come! 1
130:1 See Gli Autografi di Francesco, by Mgr. Faloci (Misc. Franc., t. VI, p. 33), and La Calligrafia di S. Francesco, by the same author (Misc. Franc., t. VII, p. 67).
130:2 The Blessing given to Brother Leo (see below, Part III).
131:1 See, for example, the parallel Latin and Italian text given by Father Bernardo da Fivizzano, O.M.Cap., in his edition of the Oposculi (Florence, 1880), which reads: "F. Leo Frater Franciscus tuus salutem et pacem."
131:2 "Ce pluriel montre bien que Frère Léon avait parlé au nom d’un groupe."—Sabatier: Vie de S. François, p. 301.
131:3 When he caused any letters to be written by way of salutation or admonition, he would not suffer any letter or syllable p. 132 in them to be erased, though they were often superfluous or unsuitably placed. (See 1 Cel. 82.)
132:1 See Eccleston: De Adventu Minorum in Angliam (Mon. Germ. hist., Scriptores, t. XXVIII, p. 563), although another reading is given in the Anal. Franc., t. I, p. 232, and by Fr. Cuthbert, O.S.F.C., The Friars, etc., p. 267.
132:2 Fr. Ubald d’Alençon, Opuscules, p. 23.
132:3 See Spec. Perf. (ed. Sabatier), p. lxiv, note 3.
132:4 Opuscula, Epist. XVI.
132:5 Misc. Franc., t. VI, p. 39.
133:1 It is interesting to compare with this letter the somewhat similar expressions of encouragement used by St. Francis to Brother Richer. See 1 Cel. 1, 49; Spec. Perf. (ed. Sabatier), c. 2 and 16; Actus B. Francisci, c. 36 and 39.