The Sacred Exchange between Saint Francis and Lady Poverty

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The Sacred Exchange between Saint Francis and Lady Poverty is a text of the early Franciscan movement. Its author and date of composition are unknown, but scholars suggest a date in the late thirteenth century.[1]



Page number refer to Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Volume 1

  • Holy poverty … is the foundation and guardian of all virtues.
    • p. 529
  • The kingdom of heaven truly belongs to those who, of their own will, a spiritual intention, and a desire for eternal goods, possess nothing of this earth.
    • p. 529
  • At the beginning of his conversion, therefore, blessed Francis, as the Savior's true imitator and disciple, gave himself with all eagerness, all longing, all determination to searching for, finding, and embracing holy poverty. He did so neither wavering under adversity nor fearing injury, neither shirking effort nor shunning bodily discomfort, in order to achieve his desire: to reach her to whom the Lord had entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
He eagerly began to go about the streets and piazzas of the city, as a curious explorer diligently looking for her whom his soul loved [i.e., Poverty]. He asked those standing about, inquired of those who came near him: "Have you seen her whom my soul loves?" But that saying was hidden from them as though it was barbaric. Not understanding him, they told him: "We do not know what you’re saying. Speak to us in our own language and we will answer you."
At that time there was no voice and no sense among Adam's children of being willing to converse with or to speak to anyone about poverty. They hated it with a vengeance, as they do even today, and could not speak peacefully to anyone asking about it. Therefore, they answered him as they would a stranger and declared that they did not know anything of what he was seeking.
  • p. 530
  • We have heard that you [Poverty] are the queen of virtues and, to some extent, we have learned this from experience.
    • p. 534
  • When he [Jesus] chose some of the indispensable witnesses to his holy preaching and to his glorious manner of living for the salvation of the human race, he surely did not choose rich merchants but poor fishermen, to show by such esteem that you [Poverty] were to be loved by all. Finally, to reveal to everyone your goodness, magnificence, dignity and strength, how you surpass all other virtues, how nothing can be a virtue without you.
    • pp. 535-536
  • Do not look back. Do not come down from the housetop to take something from the house. Do not turn back from the field to put on clothing. Do not become involved in the business world. Do not become entangled in the world's initiatives and the corruption you have fled through knowledge of the Savior. For it is inevitable that those who are again entangled in these affairs will be overcome and their last state will become worse than their first (2 Ptr 2:20).
    • p. 543


  1. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Volume 1, pp. 523-524.