The Little Flowers of St. Francis

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Little Flowers of St. Francis is a florilegium, or a compilation of excerpts from multiple sources (a kind of anthology), dated back to the fourteenth century. The original author of The Little Flowers of St. Francis is a much-debated subject; it is believed that the work was originally in Latin. However, it is generally believed among scholars that the text can be attributed to an Italian translation by Ugolino Brunforte.

Little Flowers details the life of St. Francis of Assisi, who was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone and served as an Italian Catholic friar and deacon. Little Flowers is not held as a reliable biography of the life of St. Francis, but it is definitely the most popular work detailing his miracles and piety. Reading the text is comparable to reading a myth or an epic poem (such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or The Song of Roland): emphasis should be placed on the poetic and literary impact of this figure. St. Francis is one of the most beloved saints in the Catholic canon, and it is fitting that he should have such a beautiful memorial to his deeds.

The following are some of the most well-known quotes from The Little Flowers of St. Francis:

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.

This quote speaks to the light, or goodness, of an individual. Though a person may be surrounded by darkness, or sin, his or her essential goodness still shines bright. Goodness in Catholicism is generally attributed to humanitarian works in the name of God and piety. These are also the traits associated with sainthood.

And St. Francis said: "My dear son, be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in this world by God for the salvation of the soul. So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently."

So much can be written about the Catholic idea of suffering. Weakness, vice, and temptation to sin are all necessary marks of being human. They are, in fact, "given to us . . . by God" and therefore necessary. Through the hardship of overcoming sin and straining against our natural temptations, we learn the value of divinity. Essentially, St. Francis is asking the rhetorical question: How can you have the good without the bad?

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