PIETRO CATTANI
Francis’s second companion

Where he came from:
Assisi

Age and social standing:
Young and poor, he had been a jurist and cannon of the Church of San Rufino. His life is a short one.

His history:
He approached Francis with Bernard and was with them at the opening of the Gospel; then he also gave away the little he possessed and followed Francis. The three men went to live in a hut close to the Portiuncola. One day he obeyed Francis: because the latter felt he was greedy he asked Peter to tie a rope round his neck and drag him naked through the streets of the town. Peter did so weeping all the way. He was with Francis at Damietta in Egypt, where the crusaders were about to fight the Muslim army. Francis asked him for advice on what to do: “The Lord has shown me that if the battle takes place today it will go ill for the Christians. But if I say so I will be taken for mad; if I am silent my conscience will trouble me: What do you think?” “Father - his companion answered – take no heed of the judgement of men; besides, it would not be the first time people thought you mad. Free your conscience and fear God rather than men.” (T: Celano Vita seconda)
Obeying Francis he gave the poor mother of two friars a Gospel, the only one they possessed, so that she could sell it and gain enough to live on.
At the General Chapter of 1220 he was elected by Francis the first Minister of the Order, its Vicar: “From today on I am dead for you. But here is Peter Cattanio, to whom I and all of you owe obedience.” And bending before him he promised: “obedience and reverence.” (T: Celano Vita seconda). One day he was reproached by Francis because he wanted to keep goods belonging to the novices to pay the expenses of the ever increasing number of friars that came to the Protiuncola. Francis felt it was better to sell all the church ornaments and take everything from the Madonna altar than to contravene the rule of poverty.
Francis confessed to Peter that he had saddened a leper by his behaviour and asked him to approve, without gainsaying it, the penitence he wanted to perform. He wanted to eat from the same plate as the leper and “on seeing this spectacle Peter and the other friars were filled with anguish…” (Legenda perugina).


His premature death:
This happened a year after he had been elected Vicar: he died in 1221 at the Portiuncola. Some biographers of Francis suggest the burden of responsibility was too heavy for him. Francis nominated Elias of Cortona as his successor.