The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi is a piece of literature written in the early 14th century about certain acts and miracles said to be done by St. Francis of Assisi. Francis founded the Order of Friars minor in 1216, also known as the Franciscans. The Franciscans were devoted to poverty, preaching, and penance for their sins.
A typical medieval reader of The Little Flowers would have probably come to the conclusion that the book’s message of how to attain eternal life is by doing good works. The friars in the book are portrayed as fervent and righteous, so perfect that it said that an army of devils could not get into the convent where they were staying. It was only until one of the friars was upset with one of the other friars in his mind that the devil could make his way into the convent. When Francis instructed the friar to do penance for his sin, then the devil was kicked out of the convent.
One of the legends written in the book says that Peter and Paul appeared to Francis in a vision and told him that if his followers continued in holy poverty, they would enjoy perfect happiness in heaven. This would give the readers the message that living in poverty and joining the Franciscan order would give, or at least greatly help, people to make it to heaven.
Another of the recorded legends said that of Brother Ruffino, one of Francis’ friars, was sent to preach in a church in Assisi. He told the people that if they wanted to avoid hell, then they had to flee the world, leave sin, and render to every man their due. He also said that if they wanted to get to heaven, then they had to keep God’s commandments and love God and their neighbor.
In another story, three robbers begged for food and water from the convent, but were refused any by one of the friars, who cited their sins of theft and murder, then turned them away. The robbers went away in anger. When he heard about what happened, Francis reproved the friar and told him that kindness rather than harsh words should be used to convert others. He sent the friar with food and water for the robbers, instructing him to confess his sin toward them and beg them to turn to God and repent. The friar did what Francis told him to do, and because of his actions the robbers decided to go to Francis and ask him how they could be saved from hell. They came to Francis and submitted themselves to him, saying that if he thought that there was any hope for them to be saved, they would do anything he asked them to do. Francis told them of God’s mercy, and promised them that he would pray for them. After hearing what Francis told them, they decided to join the order, renounce the devil and all of his works, and do great penance.
The Little Flowers says that to be saved you have to do good works and work hard to be worthy of it. You have to avoid sin as much as possible and obey God’s commandments. There is little evidence on faith, but rather on works. The Bible says that we are saved through faith in Jesus, rather than in works, as opposed to the message of The Little Flowers.