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Individual or Individualism?: Scotus and Francis of Assisi

From: Franciscan Studies
Volume 55, 1998
pp. 239-251 | 10.1353/frc.1998.0025

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INDIVIDUAL OR INDIVIDUALISM? SCOTUS AND FRANCIS OF ASSISI1 In his fifth Admonition, Francis of Assisi asks not only himself but also his friars: "Of what can we boast?" He then continues: "If, in fact, you were so wise and shrewd as to possess all knowledge and you even knew how to interpret every tongue, and subtly could inquire into heavenly things, still you would not be able to boast."2 It is easy to recognize in these words the same themes sounded many centuries earlier by Paul of Tarsus who exclaimed in his first letter to the Corinthians: "even if I could speak the language of men and of angels" (13:1). On this point Paul concluded that the first gift of the Spirit is charity, without which all the others are possessed in vain, while Francis intends here to affirm that such gifts as wisdom and sublililas, even if applied to heavenly knowledge, are not to be sought for themselves. In fact, we cannot boast of such knowledge because it does not derive from us but from God from whom alone all good comes. We can glory only in the cross of Christ, because it alone belongs to us, in infirmity, in sorrow, in humiliation.3 Giovanni Miccoli recently suggested that the text of Francis' fifth Admonition can be approached through the brief account 'This text is an English-language translation of Andrea Taborrone's article "Individuo o individualism? Scotus e Francesco d'Assisi," in Eticea e persona Duns Scoto e suggestion! net moderno (Bologna: Edizioni Francescane, 1994), 101-119. The author notes that his footnotes are limited to those items that are essential for understanding the text. 2Admonition V, 4-5: "Unde ergo potes gloriari? Nam si tantum esses subtilis et sapiens quod omnem scientiam haberes et scires interpretari omnia genera linguarum et subtiliter de caelestibus rebus persecrutari, in omnibus his non potes gloriari," (ed. K. Esser, Die Opuscula des Hl. Franziskus von Assisi. Neue textkritische Edition, edition of CoUegii S. Bonaventurae ad Claras Aquas, 1976, Spicilegium Bonaventurianum , XHI, 109). 3Admonition V, 6-8: "quia unus daemon scivit de caelestibus et modo seit de terrenis plus quam omnes homines, licet aHquis fuerit, qui summae sapientiae cognitionem a Deo reeeperit specialem. Similiter et si esses pulchrior et ditior omnibus et etiam si faceres mirabilia, ut daemones fugares, omnia ista tibi sunt contraria et nihil ad te pertinet et in his nil potes gloriari, sed Hi hoc possumus gloriari in infirmitatibus nostris et baiulare quotidie sanctam crucem Domini nostri Jesu Christi." (ed. Esser, 109-110). 239 Franciscan Síudies, 55 (1998) 240ANDREA TABARRONI entitled De vera el perfecta laetitia also attributed to Saint Francis.4 While the Admonition addresses the internal community collectively and institutionally, Francis' instruction on perfect joy is the same, though on a personal level. Francis teaches that true joy does not come from the Order's great enterprises nor from its great triumphs. He essentially tells his brothers that it would not be perfect joy if all the masters of Paris or the major personalities on the political scene would become Franciscans, nor would it even be true joy if the conversion of unbelievers to took place because of the brothers' work.5 Instead, true joy comes from suffering disgrace, abandonment, sorrow, and humiliation, following Jesus Christ when he assumed human nature. True joy comes—everyone recalls the conclusion of the account—with the knock at the door of one's own friary only to be driven away by one's own confreres, because he is not recognized due to his wretched appearance, starving look, and shivering state.6 Cf. G. Miccoli, "Un'esperienza cristiana tra Vangelo e istituzione," in Dalla 'sequela Christi' all'apologia della povertà, Atti del XVIII Convegno InternazionaIe. Assisi, (18-20 Ottobre 1990) (Spoleto, 1992), 3-40. Also see "La proposta cristiana di Francesco d'Assisi," in Francesco d'Assisi. Realta e memoria di un'esperienza cristiana, (Torino, 1991), 33-97; originally published in Studi Medievally. 3, 24(1983), 17-73. 5De vera et perfecta laetitia: "[Brother Leonard] related, in the same place, that one day at Saint Mary the blessed Saint Francis called Brother Leo and said: 'Brother Leo, write!' He...