Francis and the leper: accounts

In the previous three posts, we reviewed some historical context and background for our consideration of the accounts of St. Francis and the Leper. When Franciscans recount the story of Francis and the leper, one might presume that they are telling a story from a common core, perhaps even an official recounting of the story as approved by a Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor. Yea… not so much. Every medieval source has its own goal, tone, genre and point of view. And that is especially true in the period beginning some 20 years after Francis’ death (d.1226). In the post-Francis world of Franciscan, as noted in a previous post. The intra-Franciscan factions slowly came to the fore and were readily distinguishable. There was no group that was wrong, but then again, each one emphasized one aspect of “the life” they believed Francis wanted for his religious order. One group believed poverty/destitution was Francis’ intent. Another held up obedience – after all the first vow of obedience was (and still is) to the Pope – and topic Francis most often wrote about. Chastity was not the basis of one of the factions.  What about the third group? They were more of the “can’t we all just get along” after all fraternity was paramount. It is 800+ years later and the same discussion continues on. Each group, consciously or not, promoted their own understanding of Francis in the stories they told, the traits they emphasize, their own goals for the narrative and all that makes hagiography different than history. Continue reading

Our plague

The Triumph of Death is an oil panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted circa 1562. The painting shows a panorama of an army of skeletons wreaking havoc across a blackened, desolate landscape. Fires burn in the distance, and the sea is littered with shipwrecks. The Triumph of Death captured perhaps the greatest event of mass human suffering in the history of civilization: the Black Death (1346–1353). Bouts of plague ravaged Europe intermittently from at least 430-1750; however, it was the period of the Black Death that induced the greatest suffering, claimed the greatest toll of life, and laid the groundwork for the fundamental transformation of the world’s economic and social systems.

Continue reading