Pope Innocent III

The Saint, the Pope and the Dream

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Now when he had come unto the Roman Curia, and had been introduced into the presence of the Supreme Pontiff, he expounded unto him his intent, humbly and earnestly beseeching him to sanction the Rule aforesaid for their life. And the Vicar of Christ, the lord Innocent the Third, a man exceeding renowned for wisdom, beholding in the man of God the wondrous purity of a simple soul, constancy unto his purpose, and the enkindled fervour of a holy will, was disposed to give unto the suppliant his fatherly sanction. Howbeit, he delayed to perform that which the little poor one of Christ asked, by reason that unto some of the Cardinals this seemed a thing untried, and too hard for human strength. But there was present among the Cardinals an honour-worthy man, the lord John of Saint Paul, Bishop of Sabina, a lover of all holiness, and an helper of the poor men of Christ. He, inflamed by the Divine Spirit, said unto the Supreme Pontiff, and unto his colleagues: “If we refuse the request of this poor man as a thing too hard, and untried, when his petition is that the pattern of Gospel life may be sanctioned for him, let us beware lest we stumble at the Gospel of Christ. For if any man saith that in the observance of Gospel perfection, and the vowing thereof, there is contained aught that is untried, or contrary unto reason, or impossible to observe, he is clearly seen to blaspheme against Christ, the author of the Gospel.” When these arguments had been set forth, the successor of the Apostle Peter, turning unto the poor man of Christ, said: “Pray unto Christ, my son, that He may shew us His will through thee, and when we know it more surely, we will more confidently assent unto thy holy desires.”
Then the servant of God Almighty, betaking himself wholly unto prayer, gained by devout intercession that which he might set forth outwardly, and the Pope feel inwardly. For when he had narrated a parable of a rich King that had of free will espoused a fair woman that was poor, and how the children she bare shewed the likeness of the King that begat them, and so were brought up at his table, even as he had learnt this of the Lord, — he added, as an interpretation thereof: “It is not to be feared that the sons and heirs of the everlasting King will perish of hunger, even they that have been born of a poor mother in the likeness of the King, Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that shall themselves beget sons through the spirit of Poverty in a little poor Religion. For if the King of heaven hath promised an everlasting kingdom unto them that follow Him, how much more shall He provide for them those things that He bestoweth alike on the good and on the evil? ” When the Vicar of Christ had diligently hearkened unto this parable, and the interpretation thereof, he marvelled greatly, and perceived that Christ had of a truth spoken through a man. Moreover, he maintained, by the inspiration of the Divine Spirit, that a vision that at that time was shewn unto him from heaven would be fulfilled in Francis. For in a dream he saw, as he recounted, the Lateran Basilica about to fall, when a little poor man, of mean stature and humble aspect, propped it with his own back, and thus saved it from falling. “Verily,” saith he, “he it is that by his work and teaching shall sustain the Church of Christ.” From this vision, he was filled with an especial devotion unto him, and in all ways disposed himself unto his supplication, and ever loved the servant of Christ with an especial affection. Then and there he granted his request, and promised at a later day to bestow yet more upon him. He sanctioned the Rule, and gave him a command to preach repentance, and made all the lay Brethren that had accompanied the servant of God wear narrow tonsures, that they might preach the word of God without hindrance.

Saint Bonaventura, Life of Saint Francis

October 4, 2015: Feast Day of Saint Francis

 

Now when he had come unto the Roman Curia, and had been introduced into the presence of the Supreme Pontiff, he expounded unto him his intent, humbly and earnestly beseeching him to sanction the Rule aforesaid for their life. And the Vicar of Christ, the lord Innocent the Third, a man exceeding renowned for wisdom, beholding in the man of God the wondrous purity of a simple soul, constancy unto his purpose, and the enkindled fervour of a holy will, was disposed to give unto the suppliant his fatherly sanction. Howbeit, he delayed to perform that which the little poor one of Christ asked, by reason that unto some of the Cardinals this seemed a thing untried, and too hard for human strength. But there was present among the Cardinals an honour-worthy man, the lord John of Saint Paul, Bishop of Sabina, a lover of all holiness, and an helper of the poor men of Christ. He, inflamed by the Divine Spirit, said unto the Supreme Pontiff, and unto his colleagues: “If we refuse the request of this poor man as a thing too hard, and untried, when his petition is that the pattern of Gospel life may be sanctioned for him, let us beware lest we stumble at the Gospel of Christ. For if any man saith that in the observance of Gospel perfection, and the vowing thereof, there is contained aught that is untried, or contrary unto reason, or impossible to observe, he is clearly seen to blaspheme against Christ, the author of the Gospel.” When these arguments had been set forth, the successor of the Apostle Peter, turning unto the poor man of Christ, said: “Pray unto Christ, my son, that He may shew us His will through thee, and when we know it more surely, we will more confidently assent unto thy holy desires.”

 

 
Then the servant of God Almighty, betaking himself wholly unto prayer, gained by devout intercession that which he might set forth outwardly, and the Pope feel inwardly. For when he had narrated a parable of a rich King that had of free will espoused a fair woman that was poor, and how the children she bare shewed the likeness of the King that begat them, and so were brought up at his table, even as he had learnt this of the Lord, — he added, as an interpretation thereof: “It is not to be feared that the sons and heirs of the everlasting King will perish of hunger, even they that have been born of a poor mother in the likeness of the King, Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and that shall themselves beget sons through the spirit of Poverty in a little poor Religion. For if the King of heaven hath promised an everlasting kingdom unto them that follow Him, how much more shall He provide for them those things that He bestoweth alike on the good and on the evil? ” When the Vicar of Christ had diligently hearkened unto this parable, and the interpretation thereof, he marvelled greatly, and perceived that Christ had of a truth spoken through a man. Moreover, he maintained, by the inspiration of the Divine Spirit, that a vision that at that time was shewn unto him from heaven would be fulfilled in Francis. For in a dream he saw, as he recounted, the Lateran Basilica about to fall, when a little poor man, of mean stature and humble aspect, propped it with his own back, and thus saved it from falling. “Verily,” saith he, “he it is that by his work and teaching shall sustain the Church of Christ.” From this vision, he was filled with an especial devotion unto him, and in all ways disposed himself unto his supplication, and ever loved the servant of Christ with an especial affection. Then and there he granted his request, and promised at a later day to bestow yet more upon him. He sanctioned the Rule, and gave him a command to preach repentance, and made all the lay Brethren that had accompanied the servant of God wear narrow tonsures, that they might preach the word of God without hindrance.

Saint Bonaventura, Life of Saint Francis

Francis, They Hardly Know Ye

Hattip to Elliot Bougis in regard to the above video.  Strong content advisory for the video for anyone who occasionally suffers from Kumbaya flashbacks to the Seventies.

For the benefit of those who believe that Saint Francis was some sort of medieval precursor to hippies/ecologists/ occupy wall street/new agers:

Like most very great men and women, legends began to cluster about Saint Francis even while he lived.  One of these involved his meeting with Pope Innocent III.

While the Vicar of Christ listened attentively to a parable told by Francis and its interpretation, he was quite amazed and recognised without a doubt that Christ had spoken in this man.  But he also confirmed a vision he had recently received from heaven, that, as the Divine Spirit indicated, would be fulfilled in this man.  He saw in a dream, as he recounted, the Lateran basilica almost ready to fall down.  A little poor man, small and scorned, was propping it up with his own back bent so that it would not fall.  “I’m sure,” he said, “he is the one who will hold up Christ’s Church by what he does and what he teaches.”  Because of this, filled with exceptional devotion, he bowed to the request in everything and always loved Christ’s servant with special love.  Then he granted what was asked and promised even more.  He approved the rule, gave them a mandate to preach penance, and had small tonsures given to all the lay brothers, who were accompanying the servant of God, so that they could freely preach the word of God. 

 

Cf. St. Bonaventure’s Major Legend of St. Francis, III:10

Saint Francis is probably the most popular Catholic saint among non-Catholics.  It is always pleasing of course for Catholics when non-Catholics recognize the heroic sanctity of one of their champions, but in the case of Saint Francis, I fear this popularity among non-Catholics is largely due to a fundamental misunderstanding about Saint Francis.  Saint Francis is often portrayed as a precursor of the modern environmental movement, a pantheist and a pacifist, someone, in short, who was preaching a message in the thirteenth century that accords nicely with twenty-first century liberal secular sensibilities.

Of course none of this is true.   Saint Francis never preached any doctrines in accord with the modern ecological movement and simply was not concerned with those types of issues that were absolutely foreign to his time.  Saint Francis was a completely orthodox Catholic who worshiped God with such intensity that he was the first to receive the stigmata.  Saint Francis never breathed a word against the Crusades and participated in the Fifth Crusade to Egypt.

As popular as Saint Francis is with non-Catholics, Innocent III would likely be equally unpopular if historical ignorance were not so wide-spread today.  He was the most powerful pope in secular matters in the history of the Church.  He made and unmade kings and emperors;  in his pontificate Constantinople fell to western crusaders, although he opposed this;  he began the Albigensian Crusade;  he dominated his age as no pope before or since.  To many moderns Innocent III would be the anti-Saint Francis. Continue reading

Saint Francis of Assisi and Pope Innocent III

Today is the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi.  Like most very great men and women, legends began to cluster about him even while he lived.  One of these involved his meeting with Pope Innocent III.

While the Vicar of Christ listened attentively to a parable told by Francis and its interpretation, he was quite amazed and recognised without a doubt that Christ had spoken in this man.  But he also confirmed a vision he had recently received from heaven, that, as the Divine Spirit indicated, would be fulfilled in this man.  He saw in a dream, as he recounted, the Lateran basilica almost ready to fall down.  A little poor man, small and scorned, was propping it up with his own back bent so that it would not fall.  “I’m sure,” he said, “he is the one who will hold up Christ’s Church by what he does and what he teaches.”  Because of this, filled with exceptional devotion, he bowed to the request in everything and always loved Christ’s servant with special love.  Then he granted what was asked and promised even more.  He approved the rule, gave them a mandate to preach penance, and had small tonsures given to all the lay brothers, who were accompanying the servant of God, so that they could freely preach the word of God. 

 

Cf. St. Bonaventure’s Major Legend of St. Francis, III:10 Continue reading

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