restricted access The Daily Labor of the Early Franciscans
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The Daily Labor of the Early Franciscans Introduction These pages arose out of a study week with the Franciscans in Colombia in August 2006. In our discussions on early Franciscan history, they saw how well Francis of Assisi and those who gathered around him addressed and handled problems social and cultural. They especially liked the economics that arose out of a practice of work attentive to others. Dissatisfied by the way their world is turning, they were buoyed up by the thought that Francis of Assisi and his companions, harboring the same conviction, set to and did something about it. They concluded that the early Franciscan movement’s success, even its too rapid demise, was a good story to review and discuss. They asked me for a short text on early Franciscan history to help them continue their reflection. This is what they got. My Franciscan history does not always win the agreement of other historians. Yet I have reached my reading of those years by the rules of historiography. And I have yet to see anyone set it aside by those rules. I began studying early Franciscan history in 1961, under the guidance of Father Kajetan Esser (†1978), a German Franciscan who, with colleagues, after World War Two had renewed the study of Franciscan origins. I was new to history and easily drifted into the way contemporary historians were using sociology. As I began, I turned to R. G. Collingwood’s The Idea of History to reflect on the lessons I was trying to learn. Collingwood persuaded me about the absolute presuppositions of an age, which meant that I had become an historicist, in some mean- David Flood vi ing of that term; and when I read Berger and Luckmann’s The Social Construction of Reality, I understood what Collingwood ’s big idea meant in practice. Social entities have their history as well as the people who make them. Moreover, by the late 1960s, I had begun reading the new quarterly History and Theory, to monitor the theories of what I was trying to do as an historian. The publication’s articles and review essays informed me about the history of historiography. I knew where I was as an historian, and all seemed in order. And so I became the Franciscan historian I am. I never ascribed much utility to what is called Franciscan spirituality . It seemed to me an impractical mode of thought defined by a set theology. (I studied theology for four years, from 1954 to 1958, with good professors and good marks, but I never found it useful or persuasive. The theology I studied seemed something other than what I read in Romano Guardini’s The Lord, which I devoured when it came out in English. Guardini ’s meditations had less to do with teachings than with people and events.) In the summer of 1962, I sat in on a retreat Esser gave a large community of Franciscan sisters. Esser was a good lecturer, especially on Franciscan themes, but he broke the early Franciscan writings down into set lessons on Franciscan life. I found the lessons abstract and restrictive . I had no desire to achieve such mastery and still less to teach it. As my doctoral dissertation at the University of Cologne, with Professor Klinkenberg my Doktorvater, who supervised the work I did with Kajetan Esser, I produced a critical edition and an analysis of the Early Rule. The Early Rule is the written agreement that Francis and his brothers drew up and subscribed to from 1209 to 1221. I benefited greatly from the help Esser gave me. When working on the photocopies of manuscripts of the Early Rule, I’d draw up a list of questions about particularities of scribes and their abbreviations and then discuss them with Esser (whom I think of as Kajetan). (Whatever skill I learned with him was picked up and taken further when, in the 1990s, I had the good fortune of working with Father Gedeon Gál.) When I had finished the edition of the text, I wrote out, as well, the history of the text from 1209 to 1221. I was sur- Introduction vii prised when the results surprised Esser.At first he was taken aback and told me to stop imagining things. Then he began seeing that the details made sense, as did the basic logic of the analysis. It seemed evident to me that the text had a story, for it had developed from 1209 to...