Brother Leo was one of Francis’ first followers and closest companions, especially in the last years of Francis’ life. We have several letters from Francis to groups of people. His letter to Leo is one of only two letters to individuals.
Perhaps this letter was written by Francis after September 1224 when he received the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ’s passion, at the hermitage of La Verna. Leo brought him food there each day.
A conversation with Leo prompted Francis to write this letter, whose key section reads: “In whatever way it seems better to you to please the Lord God and to follow his footprint and poverty, do it with the blessing of the Lord God and my obedience.”
Leo may have been scrupulous and a great worrier. Francis encouraged him to come and seek advice whenever necessary—but even more to trust that the Lord God would lead him in the right way. In a sense, Francis was inviting Leo to live in greater freedom than Leo was presently experiencing. May we live in the freedom that reflects our dignity as people made in the image and likeness of God!