Toward the Mother of Jesus he [St. Francis] was filled with an inexpressible love, because it was she who made the Lord of majesty our brother. He sang special Praises to her, poured out prayers to her, offered her his affections, so many and so great that the tongue of man cannot recount them. But what delights us most, he made her the advocate of the order and placed under her wings the sons he was about to leave that she might cherish them and protect them to the end. Hail, advocate of the poor! Fulfill toward us your office of protectress until the time set by the Father.
For he (St. Francis) called the Rule the book of life, the hope of salvation, the marrow of the Gospel, the way of perfection, the key to paradise, the agreement of a perpetual covenant. He wanted it to be had by all, to be known by all, and he wanted it to speak everywhere to the interior man unto his comfort in weariness and unto a remembrance of the vows he had made. He taught them to keep it ever before their eyes as a reminder of the life they were to live, and what is more, that they should die with it.
When the nuns at St. Damian’s had come together to hear the word of God, though no less also to see their father St. Francis, he raised his eyes to heaven, where his heart always was, and began to pray to Christ. He then commanded ashes to …be brought to him and he made a circle with them around himself on the pavement and sprinkled the rest of them on his head. He remained in the circle in silence. The saint suddenly rose and to the amazement of the nuns recited the Miserere mei Deus in place of a sermon. When he had finished he quickly left. By his actions he taught them that they should regard themselves as ashes…
~ Thomas of Celano, The Second Life of St. Francis of Assisi, Chapter CLVII, via Portiuncula: the Little Portion
He would tell his sons that she was the way of perfection, the pledge and earnest of eternal riches. No one was so greedy of gold as he of poverty; no one more careful in guarding a treasure than he in guarding this pearl of the Gospel.
~Thomas of Celano, The Second Life of St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis was accustomed not to pass over any visitation of the Spirit with negligence. When indeed such was offered, he followed it, and as long as the Lord would permit, he would enjoy the sweetness offered him. When, therefore, while he was pressed by some business or was intent upon a journey, he would taste the sweetest manna in frequent snatches.