"St Francis, who preached to the birdies and hugged trees and kissed lepers..."
I'm really disappointed in the take down of St Francis across the net. All these experts, so critical of the 'fioretti' of his life - without any noticeable awareness or understanding the spiritual reality such stories convey to simple souls. Many of the examples in the legends* - i.e. story-lessons on the life of St. Francis, serve to illustrate and teach a variety of lessons on the virtues, as well as different levels of spirituality and mystical theology, otherwise unknown to ordinary, simple souls. Poor Br Juniper would not even recognize the Francis these people attempt to describe and rehabilitate for academic credibility.
Poverty of spirit seems to be completely misunderstood by the learned and the clever. I think someone famous once said something to that effect. They do the same to St. Therese and the doctrine of the 'little way' as well.
"In my little way there are only very ordinary things; it is essential that little souls should be able to do everthing I do." - Therese of LisieuxArt: Icons and paintings representing scenes from the life of the saints, documenting physical and spiritual realities, as well as the saint's teaching and witness to the Gospel, stand alone, not only as objects of devotion and veneration, but as teaching tools. Likewise modern artists work in their particular medium to illustrate and re-present the lives of the saints, often taking poetic and artistic licence to do so. A fine example of such work was accomplished by film makers in the mid 20th century: The Italian maestros, Roberto Rossellini and Federico Fellini, in the film, The Little Flowers of St. Francis, and two decades later, by the maestro of set design and costume for La Scala, film director Franco Zeffirelli, literally bringing to life some of the best iconography of the Italian Medieval period, to portray the life of St. Francis for the youth of the late '60's, early '70's in his film, "Brother Son, Sister Moon". Similarly, the so called Peace Prayer of St. Francis** is a poetic lesson inspired by Franciscan spirituality, composed in the first part of the 20th century. These creative expressions serve to inspire, edify and introduce the saint(s) to each generation and those unfamiliar with hagiography and Catholic veneration of the saints.
BTW: Poverty is not complicated - it's really very simple - and there is nothing to get sentimental about.
*Middle English, from Old French legende, from Medieval Latin (lcti) legenda, (lesson) to be read, from Latin, feminine gerundive of legere, to read; see leg- in Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Legend comes from the Latin adjective legenda, "for reading, to be read," which referred only to written stories, not to traditional stories transmitted orally from generation to generation. This restriction also applied to the English word legend when it was first used in the late 14th century in reference to written accounts of saints' lives, but ever since the 15th century legend has been used to refer to traditional stories as well.
**The Peace Prayer was later adopted by Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as well as many other organizations and individuals dedicated to living with and serving the poor. Incidently, the Missionaries of Charity do not engage in fund raising work.