chapter  5
19 Pages

Models of wisdom and sanctity: the conversion of St Francis of Assisi

ByMICHAEL ROBSON

Conventions and codes of conduct are devised by many societies for their members. Families educate their young and produce a programme of praiseworthy acts to be imitated and they identify their opposites to be avoided; an emphasis is placed upon the promotion of the common good and honour of the unit in a particular society. Hagiography champions the wholesome values that parents and teachers ought to communicate to children from an early age (Menestò and Brufani 1995a). Children are trained to follow the precepts of their parents and to benefi t from the experience of older relations. One of the earliest lessons taught to children is that their behaviour should not besmirch the good name and reputation of their family. The family is the microcosm of the wider society that seeks to foster its distinctive set of values that are deemed to be life-enhancing and to encapsulate the accumulated wisdom of the ages. The link between social mores and right reason bubbles beneath the surface of innumerable groups, which regulate their members’ behaviour. Eccentric and deviant deeds invite fi rm judgement and one person’s individualism or selfi shness is said to jeopardise the fortunes of a family or broader community. Wayward behaviour is not only portrayed as inappropriate; it is depicted in terms of folly, madness or even suicide. Perpetrators of such deeds are deemed to have lost their senses and to be acting out of character. In many cases penalties are imposed and ostracism ensues.