Little Flowers of Francis of Assisi is a compilation of about 53 short chapters recounting the life of St. Francis of Assisi and his first disciples. St. Francis was a real man living in medieval Italy. He was a dissolute young man with many privileges until he spent time in prison. This book describes his conversion to a man of God. St. Francis revolutionized Christianity when he joyfully embraced a life of poverty. The title “Little Flowers” is a metaphor for the short, pious examples of this saint’s life and which were intended to be used as a role model for Christians.
St. Francis encouraged all Christians to trust in the Lord. He and his followers gave up all their worldly possessions and relied upon the kindness of others to provide for their daily needs. For example, once when the saint’s followers left to spread the message, they were instructed by him to take nothing with them. He told them to trust in the Lord for their food and their shelter. Nonetheless, these stories illustrate that though these men and women were holy, they were still prone to human pride and error.
This abridged selection of stories about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and his followers is fascinating. It’s amazing that they were written only about 100 years after St. Francis died in 1226 and have since survived various incarnations and printing technologies to be presented to readers in the third millenium. What’s even better is that they haven’t been sanitized and purified to be totally edifying. Several of the stories are earthy and showed what St. Francis, the man, might have been like. He made mistakes and was angered by his companions. It was great to get a better feel for the figure so often immortalized in the knee-high plaster statues found in so many gardens.