Page:A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages-Volume I .pdf/285

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265
THE FRANCISCANS.

fection. She clung to him with inseparable fidelity, and in her arms he died upon the cross. She alone possesses the seal with which to mark the elect who choose the way of perfection. "Grant me, O Jesus, that I may never possess under heaven anything of my own, and sustain the flesh sparely by the use of the things of others!" This exaggerated lust of poverty he carried out to the last, and on his death-bed stripped himself naked that he might die possessing absolutely nothing. Poverty thus was the cornerstone on which he founded the Order, and, as we shall see, the effort to maintain this superhuman perfection led to a schism and gave to the Inquisition an ample store of victims whose heresy consisted in fidelity to the precepts of their founder.[1]

With all this there was too much kindliness in his nature for gloom, and cheerfulness was a virtue which he constantly inculcated. Sadness he held to be one of the most deadly weapons of Satan, while cheerfulness was the Christian's thankful acknowledgment of the blessings bestowed by God upon his creatures. This was consequently a distinguishing characteristic of the Friars in the early days of the Order. In Eccleston's simple and quiet narration of their advent to England, in 1224, when nine of them crossed to Dover without knowing what their fate might be from day to day, there is something singularly beautiful in the picture of their zeal, their trustfulness, their patience, their unfailing cheerfulness under privation and disappointment, and in their tireless activity in ministering to the spiritual and corporeal wants of the neglected children of the Church. Such men were real apostles, and had the Order continued to follow the lines laid down by its founder its services to humanity would have been incalculable.[2]

The Mendicant Orders were a startling innovation upon the monastic theory. In its essence monachisra was the selfish effort of the individual to secure his own salvation by repudiating all the duties and responsibilities of life. It is true that at one time it had earned the gratitude of the world by leaving its retreats and carrying civilization and Christianity into barbarous regions,


  1. S. Francis. CoUat. Monast. Collat. 5. — Ejusd. pro Paupertate obtinenda Oratio. — Lib. Conform. Lib. iii. Fruct. 4, fol. 215a.
  2. S. Francis. Colloq. 27. — Th. de Eccleston de Adventu Minorum Collat. 1, 2.