This week in class, I finished the section on The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi. The book told of stories of Saint Francis and his followers. The principles Saint Francis emphasized to his disciples were very hard for the common man to follow. For example, the way for people to get into heaven was described as a very gruelling, and not always guaranteed, process. In this essay, I am going to talk about Saint Francis’ version of how to get to heaven and if it was attainable for any common man.
In Saint Francis’ mind, suffering and abject poverty was a huge part of holiness. For very obvious reasons, every common person could not be in abject poverty, and I doubt anyone would want to suffer all the time. Many people were unwilling to leave all their progress behind and descend into destitution. However, Saint Francis was adamant that poverty would guarantee you a spot in heaven. If I was a common person during this time and I heard Saint Francis say this, I would not have much hope for myself after death.
During the last few chapters that I read, the topic of purgatory was brought up quite a bit. For those who do not know, purgatory is “an intermediate state after death for expiatory purification.[i]”
There were stories of friars who made great sacrifices and worshipped diligently, but still did not make it to purgatory. For the common baker or blacksmith, who did not make sacrifices and pray daily, this would give them little to no hope.
As you can see, the expectations for heaven were set extremely high. The common man would have felt like there was no point in trying to aim for that level of comfort after death. If I lived during the time of Saint Francis, I would not be feeling too optimistic about reaching heaven.
Thanks for reading!
[i] “Purgatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/purgatory. Accessed 1 Sep. 2022.