There have been ninety editions of this charming little book written over 600 years. The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi is a collection of legends of the most beloved figure of the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, St. Francis and his companions vowed to follow the example of Jesus as closely as possible, especially in His poverty, gentleness, and humility. The 53 short chapters of the “Fioretti” have been described as “the most exquisite expression of the religious life of the Middle Ages”, and the most popular spiritual book in Italy for centuries.
The stories are delightful, mystical, miraculous, colorful, and full of rapt ecstasy and joy. St Francis, known as the Apostle of Joy, preached to the birds, who listened captivated by his sweet praise, sang songs to the sunshine, made a ferocious wolf lie down at his feet, and finally received the imprint in his body of the Holy Stigmata, the five wounds of Christ.
St. Francis is showing us that there is a radical freedom in having nothing to lose, nothing to protect, nothing to hide from, nothing to gain. Spiritual emptiness is the liberating ability to let go of all we find crucial to our fragilely constructed selves. The saint from Assisi is saying that love makes us humble and humility makes us joyful. In this descending way we are more and more conformed to the likeness of Christ, who in losing all, found the fullness of life.
The Song of Brother Sun
Composed by St. Francis in the garden of St. Clare’s convent of San Damiano in the summer of 1225 during his grave illness that led to his death a year later.
Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods, by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You, my Lord, through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace, by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.