St. Francis and Early Christian Sanctity

Kenneth Baxter Wolf

in The Poverty of Riches

Published in print March 2003 | ISBN: 9780195158083
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834877 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Historical Theology

 St. Francis and Early Christian Sanctity

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Francis's decision to put his energy into imitating the poverty of Jesus and the apostles rather than alleviating the poverty of the poor was a decision that many saints before him had made. This chapter offers a history of Christian sanctity up to the time of Francis, with special emphasis on the two paths toward Christian perfection: the vita passiva of the monks and the vita activa of the bishops. This survey shows that the vita activa, with its emphasis on serving the physical and spiritual needs of other Christians, inevitably played second fiddle to the vita passiva, with its emphasis on ascetic withdrawal and the perfection of one's self. The early hagiographers of Francis relied on the techniques pioneered by Sulpicius Severus and Gregory I to vindicate the vita activa, but ultimately still presented Francis as a devotee of the vita passiva.

Keywords: bishops; Christian sanctity; Gregory I; hagiographers; monks; saints; Sulpicius Severus; vita activa; vita passiva

Chapter.  12368 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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