“To all magistrates and consuls, judges and governors all over the world, and to all whom this letter may reach:
Brother Francis, your lowly little servant in the Lord God, wishes you health and peace.
Take note and reflect that the day of death is approaching. So I ask you with whatever reverence I can that you do not let the cares and worries of this world cause you to forget God and turn from the path of his commandments. All those who forget him and turn away from his commandments are under a curse (Ps. 118, 21) and shall be consigned by him to oblivion (Ezech. 33, 13). When their day of death arrives, everything they thought they had shall be taken from them (Lk. 8, 18). And, the greater their wisdom and power was in the world, the greater will be their torment in Hell (Wis. 6,7).
For that reason I advise you strongly, my lords, to think less of all such cares and worry, and lovingly receive the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in holy memory of him. You should honor the Lord among the people entrusted to you so much that every evening you have a town crier or some other sign summoning the people they should render praise and thanksgiving to the almighty Lord God. If you do not act thus, it is well for you to know that you must render an account before your Lord Jesus Christ on the day of judgment.
Let those who keep this writing about their person and observe it, know that they shall be blest by the Lord God.”
Your servant Francis
These are sobering words that Francis wrote some 800 years ago.
First, the words “…to all whom this letter may reach:” is a reference to you and I.
Second, the words “.…do not let the cares and worries of this world cause you to forget God and turn from the path of his commandments” is a reminder that ”thou shall not kill [the unborn].”
And third, it is a reminder to all of our Senators and the men and women in Congress that they “should honor the Lord among the people entrusted to [them].
Note: An erstwhile note by our Holy Father declared that politicians have “a duty to be morally coherent”—an explicit rejection of a attempt to distinguish private from public positions—the note insisted that “a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.”
Sincerely in Francis, your editor, Dennis Mallon, sfo
A Letter to the Rulers of the Peoples (1220)
(a) This text exemplifies Francis’s practice of encouraging civil authorities to be mindful of Gospel truths, a practice described by Thomas of Celano in The Life of Saint Francis 43 in which Emperor Otto IV was reminded of the brevity of his glory and in The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul 200 in which emperors were encouraged to enact laws for the feeding of animals on Christmas Day. The introduction of seemingly Islamic practices suggests the composition of this text after Francis’s return from the Middle East.
Brother Francis, your little and looked-down-upon servant in the Lord God, wishes health and peace to all mayors and consuls, magistrates and governors throughout the world and to all others to whom these words may come. (b)
Reflect and see that the day of death is approaching. With all possible respect, therefore, I beg you not to forget the Lord because of this world’s cares and preoccupations and not to turn away from His commandments, for all those who leave Him in oblivion and turn away from His commandments are cursed and will be left in oblivion by Him.
When the day of death does come, everything they think they have shall be taken from them. (c) The wiser and more powerful they may have been in this world, the greater will be the punishment they will endure in hell.
Therefore I strongly advise you, my Lords, to put aside all care and preoccupation and receive the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with fervor in holy remembrance of Him. May you foster such honor to the Lord among the people entrusted to you that every evening an announcement may be made by a messenger or some other sign that praise and thanksgiving may be given by all people to the all-powerful Lord God. (e) If you do not do this, know that, on the day of judgment, you must render an account before the Lord Your God, Jesus Christ.
Let those who keep this writing with them and observe it know that they will be blessed by the Lord God.
a. A copy of this letter wag discovered by Luke Wadding in the De origine seraphicae religionis franciscanae of Francisco Gonzaga, General Minister from 1579 to 1587. According to Gonzaga, John Parenti, the first Provincial Minister of Spain, brought a copy of this letter to Spain.
b. The delineation of the rulers—potestatibus et consulis, iudicibus atque rectoribus [mayors and consuls magistrates and governors]—reflects a more Italian medieval understanding of government, one that seems more particular to the area of Assisi. Potestatibus or podesta, mayor, presides over citizens in matters of war and civic functions; cnsulibus, consuls, generally offered counsel to those involved in business or shipping and, in some cases, were also civil magistrates; judicibus, judges, were government officials who held great power, rectoribus, governors, were responsible for shipping, territorial, and as time progressed, property in general.
c. Francis’s reminder of death prompts the interpretation of some authors that this letter was written as a result of his presence in the Battle of Damiata, August 29, 1219.
e. This advice also suggests the influence of the Islamic world and the call to worship, the salat, proclaimed five times throughout the day.
Source: Volume I of Francis of Assisi, (The Saint), Early Documents. Edited by Regis J. Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap.