Thursday, December 10, 2015

Place of Begging in Francis’ Gospel Ideal

 Prior to his conversion, the young son or a rich merchant was sensitive to the miserable lot of the poor and was generous in giving alms; during his penitential itinerary he increased his donations to lepers and others in need.[1]But when he saw himself as one among the poorest, he went from being a provident almsgiver to becoming a beggar himself, since his work of restoring churches was voluntary and free. “He begged for prepared foods from door to door throughout Assisi.” All his sensitivity and pride rebelled at the shame he felt, yet he overcame himself, speaking in the language of the troubadours.[2]

            Once he discovered his form of life while listening to the Gospel of the mission of the Twelve, his choice to follow Christ in total poverty was final. The group at Rivo Torto began to obtain what they needed through occasional work and begging. With an exquisite understanding of his companions, Francis did not at first impose on them anything too hard, for example, on knights such as Bernard of Quintavalle and Angelo Tancredi, or on learned noblemen such as Peter of Cattani and Philip the Tall. He preferred to go along begging from door to door, until he saw that they were spiritually ready for such an exercise in minority.[3]
Today the Franciscan expression “the table of the Lord” can be taken to include alms spontaneously offered by the benefactors or those who benefit from the services of the friars or the alms requested when the friars are in need. In the latter case it will be needed for the friars to make known their needs  truthfully and honestly so as not to give the impression that they are habitual beggars.[4]



[1]Cf. Thomas of Celano, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, II, in Early Documents, II,244.
[2]Cf. Thomas of Celano, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, XL, in Early Documents, II,252.
[3] Cf. The Assisi Compilation, 51, in Early Documents, II, 150-151; Cf. Fonti Francescane, a cura di E. Caroli, Padua, 2009, p. 910-911.
[4] Cf. Iriarte, Recourse to “The Table of the Lord”,62.
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