Front Page Titles (by Subject) VII: Of Living Religiously in a Hermitage - The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi
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VII: Of Living Religiously in a Hermitage - Saint Francis of Assisi, The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi 
The Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi, newly translated into English with an Introduction and Notes by Father Paschal Robinson (Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1906).
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Of Living Religiously in a Hermitage
We learn from St Bonaventure1 and the Fioretti2 that as companions began to flock to St. Francis, the man of God hesitated for a while between adopting a life of prayer or of preaching. Although, as we know, he finally decided in favor of the apostolate, yet withal he never altogether separated the contemplative from the active life. A precious witness to this fact is found in the Regulation for the brothers during their sojourn in hermitages with which we are now concerned. To understand the scope of this peculiar piece of legislation, it must be borne in mind that at the beginning of the Franciscan movement the friars had no settled domicile.3 The wide world was their cloister.4 Possessing nothing they wandered about like children careless of the day, teaching or preaching, passing the night in hay-lofts or under church porches, in lazarettos, or deserted huts and grottoes1 The need of having some kind of permanent retreat where they might retire at times to pray or rest, resulted in the institution of hermitages. These little solitudes, to which Francis loved to withdraw, may be found wherever the Saint went. The Celle near Cortona, the Carceri on Mount Subasio, Greccio in the valley of Rieti, and the more solitary hermitages, like Lo Speco, form, as some one has said, a series of documents, about St Francis’ life, quite as important as the written ones. And not a little of his spirit still lingers in such of these hermitages as yet remain. It was for the government of small loci2 like these that the present special little Rule was written. Its attribution to St. Francis has not been questioned. The quaint simplicity of its conception proclaims its authenticity, and in none of the codices does it bear the name of any other author than St. Francis. It may have been written about 1217; its composition certainly belongs to the first decade of the Order.
In the ancient collections of St. Francis’ writings found in the codices at Florence (Ognissanti), Foligno, Rome (St. Isidore’s MS. 1/25 and the Vatican MS. 7650), as well as in copies of the compilation which begins Fac secundum exemplar, this Instruction is found at the end of the Admonitions. But in the greater number of the early codices the Admonitions close as in the present translation, and the opuscule on hermitages is preferably separated from them, as it is in the Assisian codex and that of St. Isidore’s, Rome (MS. 1/73). The text which follows is based on the Assisi MS, which has been collated with that of Ognissanti and those at St. Isidore’s and with the version of this Regulation given by Bartholomew of Pisa in his Conformities.1 Here is the text
OF LIVING RELIGIOUSLY IN A HERMITAGE
Let those who wish to live religiously in hermitages, be three brothers or four at most. Let two of them be mothers and have two sons, or at least one. Let the two former lead the life of Martha and the other two the life of Mary Magdalene.2
Let those who lead the life of Mary have one cloister3 and each his own place, so that they may not live or sleep together. And let them always say Compline of the day toward sunset,4 and let them be careful to keep silence and to say their Hours and to rise for Matins, and let them seek first “the kingdom of God and His justice.”1 And let them say Prime and Tierce at the proper time, and, after the hour of Tierce, they may break silence and may speak and, when it is pleasing to them, they may go to their mothers and may ask an alms from them for the love of the Lord God, like little poor ones.2 And after that, let them say Sext and Nones and Vespers at the appointed time
And they must not allow any3 person to enter into the cloister where they live, or let them eat there. Let those brothers who are mothers endeavor to keep apart from every person and, by the obedience of their custos, let them guard their sons from every person, so that no one may speak with them. And let these sons not speak with any person except with their mothers and with their custos, when it shall please him to visit them with the blessing of God.4 But the sons must sometimes in turn assume the office of mothers, for a time, according as it may seem to them to dispose Let them strive to observe all the above diligently and earnestly.5
SIX LETTERS OF ST. FRANCIS
The Letters of St. Francis.
Or the seventeen letters attributed to St. Francis in Wadding’s edition of the Opuscula, five cannot be admitted as genuine, at least in the form given in that work, and the rest need, with two exceptions, to be reclassified
In the first category, we must place the familiar letter in which St. Francis gives St. Antony permission to teach theology (Epistle III, in Wadding’s edition), and which has been excluded by the Quaracchi editors as doubtful on the ground that it exists in too many different forms.1 The letters to Brother Elias, to the Provincial Ministers, and to the Custodes (Epistles VII, IX, and XIV, in Wadding’s edition), were translated by Wadding into Latin from a Spanish text,2 and have not come down to us in their original form. Hence they do not figure in the Quaracchi edition. Neither does the letter (Epis. XVII, in Wadding’s edition) to “Brother” Giacoma dei Settisoli, which is clearly an extract from Chapter XVIII of the Actus B. Francisci et Sociorum ejus.3 Following the Quaracchi editors, I have excluded these five letters from the present work.
As regards the reclassification of the other letters attributed to St. Francis by Wadding, Epistles IV, V, and XIII in his edition are without doubt genuine writings of St. Francis, but they are not letters; at least, the oldest MSS. do not give them in epistolary form. The two former are fragments of a “rule of life” and a “last wish,” written by St. Francis for St. Clare; No. XIII is an Instruction on the Blessed Sacrament. All three are given elsewhere in the present volume in their proper form.1 For the rest, the Epistles numbered I and II by Wadding form the text of one and the same letter “To all the Faithful,” those numbered VI and VIII seem to be a summary of the genuine letter “To a Minister,” and No. X is part of the letter “To the General Chapter” also given below, while Epistles XI and XII form but one letter in the oldest codices and belong to this same letter to the General Chapter. The only two letters, then, of St. Francis which, both as regards matter and form, may be accepted as Wadding gives them, are numbers VIII and XV, addressed to the Rulers and to Brother Leo respectively. In a word, as a result of this process of elimination and reclassification, only five of the seventeen letters ascribed to St Francis by Wadding remain to us, namely —
1. Letter to all the Faithful (Ep I and II of Wadding).
2. Letter to the General Chapter (Ep. X, XI, and XII of Wadding).
3 Letter to a Minister (Ep. VI and VIII of Wadding).
4. Letter to the Rulers (Ep. XV of Wadding).
5. Letter to Brother Leo (Ep. XVI of Wadding).
To these five letters, the Quaracchi editors have added the undoubtedly authentic letter of St Francis to the Custodes,1 making six in all Such are the six letters which I have here rendered into English. Let us now consider each of them in order
[1 ]See Bonav Leg. Maj., XII, 1, where the Saint is represented as discoursing on the relative merits and advantages of the active and contemplative life. Wadding gives this discourse among the Monastic Conferences he attributes to St Francis. See Opuscula, Coll XIV, p 318
[2 ]See Floretum S. Francisci, ed Sabatier, cap 16, p 60 This chapter, which is one of the most interesting from a critical point of view, represents St. Francis as consulting St Clare and Brother Sylvester on the subject of his doubt.
[3 ]See First Rule, chap vii (above, p. 40), also Speculum Perf., ed. Sabatier, pp. 25-26
[4 ]As is most poetically described by the author of the Sacrum Commercium. Show me your cloister, asks the Lady Poverty of the friars And they, leading her to the summit of a hill, showed her the wide world, saying. This is our cloister, O Lady Poverty (See The Lady Poverty, by M. Carmichael, p. 128.)
[1 ]See 1 Cel 1, 17, and Leg. III Soc 55. Such grottoes may still be seen in St Francis’ country, they serve as a shelter for beggars and gypsies.
[2 ]St Francis habitually uses the word locus or place to designate the habitations of the friars (see above, Rule II, chap. vi, p. 68).
[1 ]See “Franciscus in admonitionibus suis” (fruct xii, P. 11, cap 30). It was from this text that Wadding took the Regulation for his edition of the Opuscula in which it figures under the heading Collationes Monasticae III
[2 ]The figure which presents Mary and Martha as types of the contemplative and active life was already a familiar one. See Gregor, VI Moral., c. 37, n 61. “Quid per Mariam, quae verba Domini residens audiebat, nisi contemplativa vita exprimitur? Quid per Martham exterioribus obsequiis occupatam nisi activa vita signatur?”
[3 ]Cod. As. after cloister reads: “in which each one shall have his own cell.”
[4 ]Cod. As. reads. “immediately after sunset”
[1 ]Luke 12 31
[2 ]This is the reading of the Cod As and Is, other texts read the “poorest beggars”
[3 ]Cod O adds. “any woman or person whatsoever.”
[4 ]The text in Cod. As ends here.
[5 ]See 2 Cel 3 113.
[1 ]On this letter see Appendix
[2 ]Wadding drew on the Spanish text of Rebolledo (Chron, P I, l II, c. xxvii) and himself appears to have had misgivings, at least as regards the authenticity of Epistle VII.
[3 ]See Actus B. Francisci, etc, ed. Sabatier, p. 63. M Sabatier attributes the authorship of this compilation (which contains, as is now known, among other matters, the original Latin text of the traditional Fioretti) to Fra Ugolino di Monte Giorgio, and believes its date to be between 1280 and 1320. It is, however, from Thomas of Celano that we know St Francis to have written a letter to the Lady Giacoma (See Tr de Miraculis in Anal. Bolland, t. xviii). See also Spec. Perf (ed. Sabatier), c. XII, for reference to this letter The narrative of Celano renders the text of the letter given in the Actus very doubtful The fact that the expression “St. Mary of the Angels” is used in it to designate the Portiuncula is in itself sufficient to militate against its authenticity. Neither St Francis nor his companions ever employed this term, they invariably said “St. Mary of the Portiuncula.” Any document, therefore, containing the former expression bespeaks a fourteenth century origin at earliest See Frère Jacqueline Recherches Historiques, by Fr. Edouard d’Alençon, Paris, 1899
[1 ]See above, pp. 23, 77, 78
[1 ]The letter which Wadding translated from the Spanish, under this title and numbered XIV, appears to have been an incomplete version of the letter here given in full.