LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, Chapter 37

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HOW JESUS CHRIST, THE BLESSED ONE, AT THE PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS, CONVERTED A RICH NOBLEMAN WHO HAD MADE GREAT OFFERS TO ST FRANCIS, AND INSPIRED HIM WITH A WISH TO BECOME A RELIGIOUS

In this chapter we are reminded of the command Christ gave to the rich man, to sell all he had and give it to the poor. I think it was Saint Anthony, one of the Coptic Desert Fathers, who took this command as applying to himself. That was one of the events that ushered in the beginning of monasticism. For an interesting contrast, Clement of Alexandria felt the need to interpret the command of Jesus to the rich man allegorically.

Clement points out, in an article whose English title is The rich Man's Salvation, but whose Greek title would be better translated, Who is the Rich Man who is Being Saved?, that if we use our riches of this world wisely, we'll have them to continue giving to the poor. That reminds me of the distinction between giving one's life for his country and living to fight another day. In Clement's allegorical interpretation, the riches we give away are constantly replenished, because they're our spiritual riches. In an introductory essay to the Loeb edition of this work of Clement - and I'm in mourning for losing my copy of it, one of my favorite books, I can't credit the modern author who points this out - someone makes the point that maybe Clement is mistaken in not recognizing that the command was for the rich man in the story, not necessarily for everyone, whether interpreted literally or allegorically. So, as we see, there are several things to ponder in this story and similar ones since the Bible story that inspired them.

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