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The Soul’s Short, Straight Path to Truth and Peace (Qualiter anima) Riccerio of Muccia, Friar Minor Introduction In 1583 and again in 1911 a little text appeared in English on a “speedy way to perfection.”1 Its Latin original is a very early example of the Franciscan tradition of spirituality, written perhaps within a decade of the death of St. Francis. The author’s identity has been a matter of some discussion: most recent research points to an early companion of Francis himself, Brother Riccerio, from the central Italian town of Muccia, near Camerino, in the Marches of Ancona.2 This early example of Franciscan spiritual literature has recently been published in a modern Italian translation by Cesare Vaiani, O.F.M., who also supplies a valuable Introduction.3 A com1 The Speedy Way to Perfection: or, The Words of Brother Ricerius of Marchia , a companion of the Blessed Father, St. Francis, Declaring How a Man May Come to the Knowledge of the Truth in a Short Time, ed. and rev. by Dom Benedict Weld-Blundell (Fort-Augustus, Scotland: The Abbey Press, 1911). The first English version is in a manuscript of Oscott, England; the 1911 edition modernized the manuscript’s sixteenth century language. 2 His name appears in many forms: Rizzerio, Ruggero, Richerio, Rinieri, etc. 3 “Rizzerio di Muccia,” in I Mistici: Scritti dei Mistici Francescani, Secolo XIII:I, Dizionario francescano (Milan, Padua, S. Maria degli Angeli [Perugia]: Editrici francescane, 1995): 43-63. I am grateful to my friend and colleague fr. Cesare for his kind permission to use his Introduction as the basis for these preliminary remarks, and for his indication of the transcription of the Latin original. His translation has also helped me to clarify several difficult points. Words Made Flesh: Essays Honoring Kenan Osborne 20 pletely new English version directly from the Latin seemed an appropriate contribution to this Festschrift, honoring my early mentor in the Franciscan tradition, Fr. Kenan Osborne, O.F.M. The Author Riccerio of Muccia (d. 1236) appears in the Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano, the first hagiographical legenda of the saint.There we read the following account of his close relationship to Francis: “There was a certain brother named Riccerio, noble by birth but more noble in character, a lover of God and despiser of himself.” He had the notion that if Francis loved him he would be worthy of God’s love; if Francis did not show kindness toward him, he would risk God’s wrath. Francis assured him in these words: “You are very dear to me and you should know that … you are worthy of my love and intimacy.”4 A slightly later text, in the Assisi Compilation (Legend of Perugia), recounts another story:“Brother Riccerio of the Marches of Ancona, noble by birth and more noble by holiness, was loved by blessed Francis with great affection.” There he identifies himself as one of the “cleric brothers, who have many books” and asks about the saint’s intention regarding observing the Rule on this point. The reply of Francis is that the brothers should have nothing except their habits.5 Brother Riccerio thus takes on the figure of the confidant of Francis, though a well-educated one, a former student of the University of Bologna, and one who knows the intention of Francis in writing the Rule: in this guise he appears in later Franciscan texts.6 Cesare Vaiani provides relevant documentation on his later biography: he served as Minister of the friars in the Province of the Marches of Ancona from 1225 to 1232, then retired to the contemplative life in a hermitage, and died on February 7, 1236. He was buried in Muccia, near the Church of St. James, where the 4 Chap. XVIII, no. 49, in R. Armstrong, J.A. W. Hellmann, W. Short, eds., Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vols. I-III (New York: New City Press, 19992001 ), 226. Hereafter referred to as FA:ED followed by volume and page. 5 Assisi Compilation 101, in FA:ED 2, 204. 6 For example, in “The Little Flowers of St. Francis” (Fioretti) 27, FA:ED, 3, 614-16; and in The Conformities of Bartholomew of Pisa, in Analecta Franciscana IV, 478. William Short 21 body was exhumed in 1663, and transferred to a place of honor in the church in 1709. In 1838, the long-standing popular devotion to this friar was recognized as he was declared “Blessed” by the Holy See...


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