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THE WRITINGS OF FATHER LUKE WADDING, O. F. M About the year 1611 solemn ceremonies were being held in a certain church in Spain. There was a great concourse of people. The bishop and the members of the cathedral chapter were present ; and the sermon was being delivered by a distinguished preacher. "Cherish the writings of the saints and cherish the learned saints," he told his congregation. "I myself have a special regard for both. But I have no devotion to simpletons like Saint Francis of Assisi."1 It was no slip of the tongue. He repeated it, and he emphasised it by saying it a third time. A murmur of disapproval passed through the congregation. The preacher stuttered and stammered. The points of his carefully prepared sermon began to slip his memory. His face went red. Confusion seized him. The people grew restive and impatient. He fled the pulpit in dismay. At that same time Luke Wadding of Waterford, Ireland, then a young Franciscan student, was studying for the priesthood at Coimbra in Portugal,2 and often during his summer vacations he used to visit the neighbouring Franciscan friary of Figueira da Foz to pore over the old books and manuscripts in the library and to gather material for an edition of the writings of St. Francis which he was preparing.3 What urged him on was that about six years before, during his noviceship, a misguided but well-meaning friend wrote to him lamenting that he should have thought fit to bury his great talents in the obscurity of the cloister and above all in an order like that of the Franciscans, which, said his friend, had never been distinguished for the cult of letters or for the number of its learned men.4 The unforeseen result was that Luke set before himself as the main part of his life's work to show the strong literary and learned traditions of the Franciscan order and to prove that even its founder was far from discouraging a balanced interest in 1 "non vero idiotis, qualis erat Franciscus." 2 F. Harold, Vita Fratris Lucae Waddingi, 3rd ed. (cura patrum provinciae Hiberniae) (Quaracchi, 1931), chaps, ?, vi, pp. 13—14. 8 L. Wadding, Annales Minorum, 3rd ed., XVI (Quaracchi, 1933), 288, ad an. 1527. 4 Harold, Vita, chap, vi, p. 14. 16 Franciscan Studies. 1958225 226C. MOONEY studies and scholarship. He began by seeking out every item written by St Francis, carefully studying and interpreting it. His final decision was to copy out and publish all the writings and elucidate them with his own notes and commentaries. The result was a quarto volume of over six hundred pages, which appeared at Antwerp in 1623.6 In the address to the reader he lays bare his motives. I know that you are also anxious to learn what inspired me to collect and comment on these writings after several centuries, since such a long period of time has passed without any of our fathers or their superiors attempting the task. I tell you frankly, this effort of mine, such as it is, for the glory of St Francis, took its origins from other people's assiduity in decrying him. For when certain sciolists, wiser than other people in their own judgment only, upbraided us with our indolence and ignorance and added that it was a hereditary disgrace derived from our founder, I desired to place before their eyes the teaching of this holy man, from which it will be seen that he was not as ignorant as they wish to make him, and that he did not hinder his friars from the study of letters, but that he counselled it, nay, even clearly ordered it in his rule, as St Bonaventure asserts.6 History shows, he continues, how faithfully his friars followed his example and advice, bringing glory to the whole Christian church by their writings, as any list of ecclesiastical writers will demonstrate. It will be seen that the Franciscan order is second to none in the number of its learned men. "That," he explains, "was how I began my research on the writings of St Francis. My research-work intensified my purpose...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 225-239
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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