From "The Little Flowers, Legends, and Lauds"

Edited by Otto Karrer,
Translated by N.Wydenbruck
1979, Sheed & Ward, London.

E.Morrogh Bernard,
Vicar General, Westminister
Aug.14, 1947

Monday, December 27, 2010

How a rich and courteous gentleman was converted by St.Francis (37)

One evening late, St.Francis, the servant of Christ, arrived at the house of a great and powerful gentleman to lodge there, and he and his companion were received like angels from paradise, with the greatest courtesy and devotion. This awakened great love for this gentleman in St.Francis, considering how, when he entered into his house, he had embraced and kissed them affectionately, then had washed their feet and lit a great firre and prepared the table with much good food. And while they were eating, the gentleman served them continually with a happy mien.

When St.Francis and his companion had eaten, that gentleman said: "Look, father, I offer myself and all my property to you; whenever you need a tunic or a cloak or anything whatever, buy them and I will pay; and understand that I am prepared to provide for all your needs, as by the grace of God I can, seeing that I have and abundance of earthly goods, and for the love of Him who has bestowed them on me I will gladly do good to His poor."

St.Francis, seeing in him so much courtesy and loving kindness, and hearing his generous offer, conceived so great an affection for him, that, when he had taken his leave, he said to his companion as they walked: "Truly, that gentleman would be an advantage to our community, for he is so grateful to God and so kindly and courteous towards his neighbor and the poor. Know, my dearest brother, that courtesy is one of the attributes of God, who bestows His sun and His rain on just and unjust alike, out of courtesy. And courtesy is the sister of charity, who extinguishes hatred and preserves love. And because I have seen in this good man such divine virtue, I would gladly have him for my companion. Therefore I would like us to return to him one day, in case God should have touches his heart so that he might desire to follow us into the service of God. In the meanwhile we will pray God to give him the grace to put this into effect." Marvellous to relate, a few days later, just as St.Francis had been at prayer, God put that desire into the heart of that gentleman. And he saw St.Francis standing in prayer devoutly and uplifted bodily from the earth for a considerable time. By this he was so touched by God and inspired to leave the world that he instantly went out of his palace, and in fervour of spirit ran towards St.Francis, and, coming to him as he was in prayer, he knelt down at his feat and with great insistence and devotion he entreated him to be pleased to receive him that he might do penance together with him.

Then St.Francis, seeing that God had granted his prayer, and that that gentleman was asking with great insistence for what he himself wished, arose in fervour and gladness of spirit, and embraced and kissed him, devoutly giving thanks to God, who had increased his company by so perfect a knight. And that gentleman said to St.Francis: "What do you command that I should do, my father? Look I am prepared to give all I possess to the poor and to follow Christ with you, relieved of all temporal things."

And so he did and according to the bidding of St.Francis he distributed his property among the poor and entered the Order, where he led a life of great penitence and saintliness and goodly conversation. Praise be to Christ.

How St.Louis, the King of France, came to visit Brother Giles, and how they understood each other without speaking (34)

St.Louis,, the King of France, went on a pilgrimage to the holy places of the world, and when he heard of the celebrated sanctity of Brother Giles, who had been one of St.Francis's first companions he set his heart on visiting him in person. For this reason he came to Perugia, where the said Brother Giles dwelt at that time, and, coming to the door of the house of the brothers like a poor unknown pilgrim with few companions, he asked with great insistency for Brother Giles, saying nothing to the porter as to who it was who was asking for him.

So the porter went to Brother Giles and told him that there was a pilgrim at the door, asking for him; God revealed to Brother Giles in his spirit that this was the King of France, therefore with great fervour he came out of his cell and ran to the door. And without any questioning, although they had never seen each other before, they both knelt down with great devotion and embraced and kissed each other with such affection as though they had been close friends for a long time. But during all this time neither said a word to the other, but continued to hold each other in their arms with signs of loving charity in silence. And after they had remained in the said manner for a long while without saying a word, they parted from each other, and St.Louis continued on his journey and Brother Giles returned to his cell.

When the king left, a friar asked one of his companions who it was who had stayed so long with this arms round Brother Giles, and he answered that he was Louis, King of France, who had com to see Brother Giles. When he told this to the other friars, they were exceedingly distressed that Brother Giles had not uttered a word and complaining, they said to him: "Brother Giles, why were you so boorish and did not speak to such a king, who has come all the way from France to see you and to receive a good word from you?"

Brother Giles answered: "My dearest brothers, do not be surprised at this, for I could not say a word to him nor he to me because, as soon as we embraced each other, the light of divine wisdom revealed his heart to me and mine to him. And so, by a divine operation looking into each other's hearts, we understood far better what we wanted to say to each other than if we had spoken with our lips, and we received greater consolation. And if we wanted to explain in words what we felt in our hearts, but the defects of the human language, which cannot give clear expression to the secret mysteries of God, we would have been disappointed rather than consoled, and yet you know now that the king departed marvellously comforted." Praise be to Christ, Amen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How St.Clare, at the command of the Pope, blessed the bread on the table, and how the cross appeared on each loaf (33)

St.Clare, that most devout disciple of the Cross of Christ, and noble plant of St.Francis, was of such saintliness that not only the Bishops and the Cardinals, but even the Pope, desired, with great affection to see her, and the latter often visited her in person. Once when the holy father had come to her convent to hear hear speak of celestial and divine things, and while they were together, conversing on divine topics, St.Clare ordered the tables to be prepared and the loaves lain on them, for the holy father to bless them. Therefore, when their spiritual conversation was over, St.Clare knelt down with great reverence and begged him to be pleased to bless the bread laid on the table.

The holy father said:"Most faithful Sister Clare, I wish you yourself to bless this bread and make over it the sign of the Cross of Christ, to whom you have given yourself entirely."

And St.Clare said: "Most holy father, excuse me, for I wish would deserve the severest reproof if, in front of the Vicar of Christ, I, who am only a poor little female, would presume to give this blessing."

And the Pope answered: "So that this may not be reckoned as presumption, but as a work of obedience, I command you to make the sign of the Cross over this bread and to bless it in the name of God."

Thereupon St.Clare, as a true daughter of obedience, blessed the bread most devoutly with the sign of the holy Cross. And, marvellous to relate, instantly there appeared on every loaf the sign of the Cross most beautifully impressed. Then a part of the bread was eaten, and a part kept because of the miracle. And the holy father, having see the said miracle, took of the said bread and, thanking God, departed, leaving St.Clare with his benediction.

At that time there dwelt at the convent Sister Ortolana, the mother of St.Clare and Sr.Agnes, her bodily sister, both of them, like St.Clare, full of virtues and of the Holy Spirit, and with them many other saintly nuns. St.Francis sent many sick people to them, and they, with their prayers and the sign of the Cross, gave them back their health. Praised be Christ, Amen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How Brother Masseo obtained from the blessed Lord the perfect virtue of humility (32)

The first companions of St.Francis strove with all their might to be poor in earthly goods and rich in virtues, by which one can obtain the true wealth of heavenly and eternal riches. One day it happend that they were gathered together and talkin of God, and one of them told them this example: "Once there was a man who was a great friend of God and possessed much grace of active and contemplative life, and also a so excessive and deep humility that he considered himself the greatest of sinners; this humility sanctified him and confirmed him in the state of grace, and made him continually increase in virtue and in God's gifts, and never allowed him to fall into sin."

When Brother Masseo heard such marvellous things said of humility, and knowing that it was a treasure of eternal life, he began to be so inflamed with love and desire for this virtue of humility that, raising his eyes to heaven in great fervour, he made a vow and firm resolve never to rejoice again in this world until he should feel the perfection of this virtue in his soul. From then on he remained almost continually locked up in his cell, mortifying himself with fasts, vigils, orisons and bitter tears before the Lord, so as to obtain from Him this virtue without which he considered himself worthy of hell, and which had been so abundantly given to that friend of God he had heard about.

When Brother Masseo had been in this state for many days, it happened that one day he went into the wood and in fervour of spirit he roamed around, shedding abundant tears, sighing and moaning, and imploring God with Fervent desire to give him this divine virtue. Because God willingly grants the prayers of humble and contrite hearts, while Brother Masseo was thus praying, a voice came from heaven and called him twice: "Brother Masseo! Brother Masseo!"

And he, knowing by the spirit that this was the voice of Christ, answered thus: "My Lord, my Lord." And Christ said to him: "What will you give to have this grace you ask?" And Brother Masseo answered: "Lord, I will give the eyes of my head." Christ said to him: "But I will that you should have the grace and keep your eyes."

And having said this, the voice ceased, and Brother Masseo remained filled with such grace of the desired virtue of humility and with the light of God, that from then on he was always in a state of jubilation; and sometimes, when he prayed, he would keep up a monotonous sound of jubilation like the deep cooing of a turtledove, "uh! uh! uh!" and with a happy countenance and a joyful heart he would remain thus in contemplation, and he had now become profoundly humble, he considered himself to be less than any man in the world. When Brother Jacopo da Falerone asked him why, in his song of jubilation, he never changed his tone, he replied very happily that if we find all contentment in a thing, there was not need to change a note. Praised be Jesus Christ.

How St.Francis and Brother Ruffino preached naked at Assisi (30)

The said Brother Ruffino, by incessant contemplation, had become so absorbed in God that he was almost insensible and speechless, and he spoke but very rarely; besides, he had neither the grace, the fire nor the eloquence of a preacher. Nevertheless St.Francis one day ordered him to go to Assisi and preach to the people as God should inspire him. Thereupon Brother Ruffino replied: "Reverend Father, I beg you to excuse me and not to send me there, for, as you know, I have not the grace of preaching, and I am simple and ignorant.

Then St.Francis said: "Because you have not obeyed me at once, I order you by holy obedience to go naked, with nothing on but your breeches, to Assisi, and enter a church, and thus naked preach to the people." At this command Brother Ruffino stripped himself, went to Assisi and entered a church, and preached thus naked to the people. Thereat the boys and the men began to laugh, and they said: "Now look, they do so much penance that they lose their wits!"

Meanwhile, St.Francis, thinking over Brother Ruffino's prompt obedience, and that he was one of the first generation of Assisi, and what a harsh order he had given him, began to reproach himself thus: "Where do you get such presumption, son of Peter Bernadone, wretched little man, as to order Brother Ruffino, who is the first gentleman of Assisi, to go and preach to the people naked like a madman? By God, you shall try out yourself what you command to others."

And at once, in great fervour of spirit, he stripped himself naked in like manner and went to Assisi, taking with him Brother Leo (who was keeping a strict hold on his thoughts) so that he should carry his own habit and that of Brother Ruffino. And when the Assisians saw him thus, they jeered at him, thinking that he and Brother Ruffino had lost their wits through too much penance. St.Francis entered into the church, where Brother Ruffino was just preaching these words: "O dearest brothers, flee the world, put away sin, give back the goods of others if you want to escape hell; observe the commandments of God, loving the Lor and your neighbors, if you want to go to heaven; and do penance, if you want to possess the kingdom of heaven."

Then St.Francis, naked as he was, went up onto the pulpit and he began to preach so marvellously on the contempt of the world, on holy penitence, on voluntary poverty, on the longing for the celestial kingdom, and on the nakedness and shame of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that all those who heard the sermon, men and women in great multitudes, began to week most bitterly with incredible devotion and contrition. And not only here; but throughout the whole of Assisi, there was such weeping for the Passion of Christ that nothing similar had ever been seen.

And while the people were thus edified and consoled by the act of St.Francis and Brother Ruffino, St.Francis helped Brother Ruffino into his habit and put on his own again, and so they returned to the hermitage of Portiuncula, praising and glorifying God who had given them the strength to overcome themselves out of contempt for self, and to edify the little sheep of Christ with a good example, showing how the world is to be despised. And on that day the devotion of the people towards them increased so greatly that everyone who could touch the hem of their garment considered himself blessed. Praised by Christ, the Blessed One, Amen.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How, when St.Francis preached at Bologna, many were converted to do penitence, and how Brother Ricceri was comforted in his temptations (27)

Once, when St.Francis came to the city of Bologna (summer 1222) all the inhabitants ran out to see him, and the crowd was so great that he could only reach the square with difficulty, for it was filled with men and women and students. St.Francis mounted on to a raised place in the middle and began to preach, as the Holy Spirit inspired him, and he spoke such marvellous things that it seemed more like the preaching of an angel than of a man. And his celestial words were like pointed arrows that pierced the hearts of all who heart them, so that a great multitude of men and women were converted to repentance by this sermon.

Among them were two young noblemen, students from the March of Ancona; one was called Pellegrino (of the House of Falcerone), the other Riccieri (of Muccia). These two, touched to the heart by divine inspiration, through the said sermon, came to the world and join his brethren. Then Francis, knowing by revelation that these two had been sent by God and they would lead a good life in the Order, and considering their great fervour, received them joyfully, saying to them; "You, Pellegrino, will walk the path of humility in the Order! And you, Brother Riccieri, will serve the brethren."

And so it happened, for Brother Pellegrino never wished to take orders, but to remain a layman, although he was very lettered and versed in canon law; through which humility he arrived at great perfection of virtue, so much so that Brother Bernard, St.Francis's first-born, said of him that he was one of the most perfect friars in the world. And in the end the said Brother Pellegrino, filled with virtue, passed on from this life to the life eternal, and many miracles took place before his death and after.

And the said Brother Riccieri devoutly and faithfully served the brethren, living in great sanctity and humility, and he became very familiar with St.Francis, and the Saint revealed many secrets to him. And having become minister of the province of the March of Ancona, he ruled it for a long time with great peace and wisdom. After some time, God allowed a terrible temptation to arise in his soul, being deeply trouble and anguished by it, he mortified himself with fasts, discipline, tears and orisons by day and by night and yet he could not drive away that temptation, and often he was in great despair, for many times be believed himself forsaken by God.

While he as thus despairing, he decided as a last remedy to go to St.Francis, saying to himself: "If St.Francis looks at me kindly and shows me the familiarity he used to, then I will believe that God will still take pity on me, but if he does not, then I will know by that sign that I am forsaken by God."

So he set out and went to St.Francis, who at the time was lying gravely sick at the palace of the Bishop of Assisi; and God revealed to the Saint all that concerned the temptation and the despair of that friar, as well as his purpose and his coming. And instantly St.Francis called Brother Leo and Brother Masseo and said to them: "Go quickly to meet my dearest son, Brother Riccieri, and embrace him for me, and salute him and tell him that among all the friars that are in the world I cherish him especially.

And they went out and met Brother Riccieri an the road, and they embraced him and told him what St.Francis had bidden them to say. Through this such sweetness of consolation flooded his soul that he was almost beside himself, and thanking God with all his heart, he went on and came to the place where St.Francis was lying sick.

And although St.Francis was grievously ill, nevertheless when he heard Brother Riccieri coming, he got up and went to meet him and embraced him most lovingly, saying: "My dearest son, Brother Riccieri,, among all the friars that are in the world I cherish you especially!" And having said this, he signed Brother Riccieri's forehead with the sign of the Cross and kissed him on that spot, and then said: "My dearest son, God has allowed you to suffer that temptation for your great gain and merit, but if you no longer desire that gain, you need not have it!"

Marvellous to relate, as soon as St.Francis had uttered these words, every temptation was suddenly taken fro him, as though he had never experienced one in his life, and he remained wholly comforted. Praise be to Christ. Amen.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A vision of Purgatory on Earth (26b)

Two of those brothers did not live long after their conversion, and entered into Paradise. But the third, surviving them, and thinking of his sins, gave himself up to doing great penitence for fifteen years continually. During that time St.Francis passed on from this miserable life.

When this man had continued his severe penitence for many years it happened that one night, after Matins, he was overcome by so strong a temptation to sleep that he could not resist and keep his vigil as usual. At last he went to his bed to sleep, and suddenly, as he had laid down his head, he was rapt up and carried away in spirit onto a high mountain. Beside it was a deep chasm, in which here and there sharp rocks and pointed stones and uneven cliffs jutted out, so that it was a fearful thing to look down into that chasm. And the angel who was leading that friar pushed him and hurled him down into the precipice, and turning over and over from rock to rock and stone to stone, he at last fell to the bottom of the chasm with all his limbs crushed and broken, as it seemed to him. And as he lay thus injured, on the grond, his guide said to him: "Get up, for you have still a long way to go!"

The friar answered: "You seem to me to be an unwise and cruel man, for you see me lying here at the point of death by the fall you caused me, and now you tell me to get up!" Then the angel came close to him and touched him, and all his limbs were whole and he was healed. Then he showed him a great plain full of sharp and cutting stones and of thorns and thistles, and he told him that he must walk over that plain with bare feet until he reached the end, where he saw a glowing furnace, and he must enter into it. And when the friar had traversed that plain in great anguish and pain, the angel said to him: "Enter into that furnace, for so you must do." And he answered: "Woe is me, what cruel guide you are! You see me on the point of death after passing over that terrible plain, and now to rest me you tell me to go into that glowing furnace!" And looking around him, he saw round the furnace many demons with iron prongs in the hands, and, as he hesitated to enter, they pushed him in suddenly with their prongs.

When he had entered into the furnace he looked round and saw one who had been his godfather who was all in flames, and he asked him: "O my poor godfather, how did you get here?" And he answered: "Come a little further, and you will find your godmother, my wife, and she will tell you the reason of our damnation." The friar went a little further, and there he saw his said godmother burning brightly, surrounded by a measure of grain that was on fire. He asked her: "O my unfortunate and miserable godmother, how did you come to such cruel torments?" And she answered: "At the time of great famine, which St.Francis had foretold, my husband and I falsified the measures of grain and corn we sold, and for that reason I am burning enclosed in this measure."

When she had said these words, the angel who led the friar pushed him outside the furnace and said to him: "Prepare yourself for a terrible journey which you must now undertake!" And the friar complained and said: "O you hard guide, have you no compassion for me? You see that I have been almost burnt to death in that furnace, and now you want to take me on a terrible journey!" Then the angel touched him and made him whole and strong, and then he led him to a bridge which could not be passed without great danger, for it was very frail and narrow and exceedingly slippery, and below it flowed a terrible river full of snakes, dragons and scorpions, which threw out a horrible stench. And the angel said: "Pass over this bridge, for you must cross over it at all costs." And he answered: "And how will I be able to cross it without falling into that fearful river?" The angel said: "Follow me and ut your foot where you see me put mine, and so you will cross over safely."

So the friar followed the angel as he had told him, until he came to the middle of the bridge, and when he was there he angel flew away and, leaving him, alighted on a high mountain very far beyond the bridge. He gazed at the place to which the angel had flown, but, staying behind without a guide and looking down, he saw those terrible beasts thrusting their heads out of the water and opening their mouths, ready to devour him if he should fall. He was so afraid that he did not know what to do or what to say, for he could neither turn back nor go forward. Then, seeing himself in such tribulations with no other refuge than God, he bent down and embraced the bridge and with all his heart and with tears, he recommended himself to God, entreating Him in His most holy mercy to succour him. And when he had prayed, it seemed to hm that he was beginning to put on wings, and therefore he waited with great joy for them to grow so that he might fly away from that bridge to the place where the angel had alighted. But as he did not wait for them to grow perfectly, he fell back on to the bridge and his wings fell off. And it seemed to him that he had waited a hundred and fifty years, or more. In the end he made a supreme effort and lifted himself into the air, and he flew up to the place where the angel had alighted.

And he knocked at the door of the palace in which the angel was, and the porter asked him: "Who are you that have come here?" The friar said: "I am a Brother Minor." The porter replied: "Wait for me, I will go and fetch St.Francis to know whether he recognizes you." While he went to seek St.Francis, the friar began to look round at the marvellous walls of that palace, and they seemed to him to be translucent with light, so that he could see distinctly the choirs of saints within and all that was happening there.

And as he was gazing in amazement, St.Francis appeared and Brother Bernard and Brother Giles, and behind St.Francis such a multitude of holy men and women who had followed the example of his life that they seemed innumerable. When St.Francis had come to him, he said to the porter: "Let him come in, for he is one of my brothers." As soon as he had entered, he experienced such sweetness and consolation that he forgot all the tribulations he had suffered, as though they had never been. And then St.Francis, leading him into the palace, showed him any marvellous things and said to him: "My son, now you must return to the world and stay there seven days, in which you must prepare yourself with great diligence and devotion, for after seven days I shall come for you, and you will be with me in this abode of the blessed."

When the friar returned to himself and became conscious, the brethren were ringing for Prime, although it seemed to him that it had lasted many years. And when he had related to his guardian all he had seen in due manner, within seven days he became feverish, and on the eighth day St.Francis, as he had promised, came for him with a great multitude of glorious saints, and led his soul to the blessed kingdom of life eternal. Praised be Christ, Amen.

Friday, October 29, 2010

How three robbers were converted and became brethren of St.Francis (26a)

At that time three notorious robbers were in the district called Monte Cassale, and they perpetrated many evil deeds in the neighbourhood. One day they came to the House of the brethren and asked the guardian, Brother Angelo, to give them some food.

The guardian answered them as follows, reproving them harshly: "You robbers and cruel murderers, you are not ashamed to rob the fruit of other men's labours and now you would dare to devour the very alms given to the servants of God! You are not worthy that the earth should carry you, for you have no reverence, neither for men nor for God who created you. Get away to your business, and do not show yourselves again here!" Thereupon they went away perturbed and in high dudgeon.

And then St.Francis returned with a bag full of bread and a vessel of wine, which had been give to him and his companion outside.

When the guardian told him how he had chased away the robbers, St.Francis reprimanded him severely, saying: ' You have behaved in a cruel manner, and sinners are brought back to God far better by kindness than by cruel reproofs; therefore our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Gospel we have vowed to observe, says that the whole have no need of a physician, only the infirm, and that He had not come to call the just, but to call the sinners to repentance, and for that reason He would often eat with them. Because of this thing, then, which you have done against charity and against the Holy Gospel of Christ, I command you by holy obedience that you immediately take this bag of bread I have been given, and this vessel of wine, and follow them carefully over the hills and valleys until you find them, and offer them all this bread and wine as a gift from me, and then kneel down before them and confess to them the sin of your cruelty with humility. Then entreat them in my name to do not more ill, but to fear God and not offend their neighbour, and if they will do that, I promise to provide for their need and to give them food and drink continually. And when you have told them that, return here in all humility.

While the said guardian was on his way to carry out the command of St.Francis, the holy father entered into prayer and entreated the Lord to soften the hearts of those robbers and convert them to penitence. The obedient guardian arrived before them and presented the bread and the wine to them, doing and saying as St.Francis had bidden him.

And as it pleased God, while these robbers were consuming them alms of St.Francis, they began to say to each other: "Woe to us miserable unfortunate men, what terrible torments await us in hell. Truly, these friars are saints of God, who deserve to enter Paradise." These and similar words were spoken by one of them, and the other two said: " For sure, you are speaking the truth, but look, what are we to do?"

"Let us go," said he "to St.Francis, and if he gives us hope that we may find mercy with God for our sins, let us do what he commands, then we can free and save our souls from the torments of hell."

The others were pleased with this advice, and so they agreed all three and came in haste to St.Francis and said to him: "Father, because of the many and terrible sins that we have committed, we do not think we can find mercy with God; but if you have any hope that God would receive us mercifully, see, we are ready to do what you tell us and to do penitence with you."

The St.Francis, receiving them charitably and with loving kindness, comforted them with many examples and assured them of the infinite mercy of God, saying that if we had unlimited sins, he told hem how the Apostle, St.Paul, had said: "Christ, the blessed One, came into the world to save sinners." And by these words and similar admonitions the three robbers were moved to renounce the devil and all his works, and St.Francis received them into the Order, and they began to do great penitence.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How St.Francis healed a leper in body and soul (25)

The true disciple of Christ, our father St.Francis, while he lived this miserable life, strove with all his might to follow Christ, the perfect teacher. Therefore it happened several times by divine operation that those whose body he healed were healed in spirit by God in the same hour, as we read of Christ. And for this reason he not only gladly tended the lepers, but had also ordered that the brethren of his Order, wherever they happened to be, should serve the lepers for the love of Christ, who for our sakes wiled to be accounted a leper.

It happened that in a place near that in which St.Francis then dwelt, the brothers were serving in a hospital of lepers and other sick men; among these was a leper so impatient, unbearable and arrogant that everybody was sure that he was possessed by the devil, and this was the case. He not only abused everyone who tended him with words and blows most shamefully, but what was worse, he blasphemed most foully against our blessed Lord Jesus Christ and His mot holy mother, the Virgin Mary, so that nobody could be found who wanted to serve him. In the end they decided to abandon the said leper to his own devices. But they did not want to do so before they had reported to St.Francis, who was then living in a hermitage nearby. And when this had been reported to him, St.Francis went to see this perverse leper, and when he came to him, he greeted him with the words: "God give you peace, my dearest brother." Thereupon the leper replied rudely: "and what peace could I get from God, who has taken my peace and all I had from me, and made me rot and stink?" St.Francis said: "Have patience, for the infirmities of the body are given us by God in this world for the salvation of our souls. They are of great merit, if we endure them with patience."

The sick man answered: "And how could I endure the incessant pain which afflicts me day and night patiently and I am not only afflicted by my infirmity, but even worse by the friars you gave me to look after me, who do not tend me as they should."

Then St.Francis, understanding by divine revelation that this leper was possessed by an evil spirit, entered into prayer and prayed God most devoutly for him. And when he had ended his prayer, he returned to him and said, "My son, I will tend you myself, as you are not satisfied with the others." "I am content," said the leper, "but what could you do for me more than they do?" St.Francis answered: "I will do whatever you wish."

The leper said: "I want you to wash me all over, for I stink so that I cannot bear myself."

St.Francis immediately caused water to be heated with many fragrant herbs, then he undressed the leper and began to wash him with his hands, and another friar poured water over him; and, by a divine miracle, wherever St.Francis touched him with his holy hands the leprosy vanished and healthy flesh remained. And as the flesh began to be healed, so also the soul began to be healed, for when the leper saw that he was being cured, he began to feel great compunction and repentance for his sins and to weep bitterly, so that, as the body was outwardly cleansed of the leprosy by laving it with water, so the soul was inwardly purified of sin by contrition and tears. And when he was completely healed in body and soul, he humbly confessed his sins and said, weeping aloud: "Woe unto me, for I am worthy of hell for the insults and injuries I have given the brothers, and for the impatience and blasphemy I have offered to God!"

For a fortnight he continued to weep bitterly for his sins and to implore God to be merciful to him, and he made a general confession to the priest.

And St.Francis, seeing this miracle that God had wrought through his hands, thanked the Lord and departed from that place, going to a far distance for there, for in his humility he desired to flee from all human glory, and in all his works he only sought the honour and glory of God and never his own.

Then it pleased God that he said leper, healed in body and soul, after a fortnight of penitence sickened of another disease and armed with the sacraments of the Church, died in a saintly manner. And his soul, going to paradise, appeared in the air to St.Francis who was praying in a wood, and St.Francis received great consolation therefrom.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How St.Francis went over the sea to preach the Christian faith to the Soldan and to the Saracens. (24)

St.Francis, instigated by his zeal for the faith of Christ and by his desire for martyrdom, once crossed the sea with twelve of his most holy companions in order to go straight before the Soldan of Babylon. And they came to a country of the Saracens where the passes were guarded by certain men of such cruelty that they let no Christian who passed there escape alive; but it pleased God that they did not lose their lives, but they were taken, beaten and bound and let before the Soldan.

When he stood before him, St.Francis was inspired by the Holy Spirit and preached divinely on the faith of Christ and was ready to go through the fire for it. Therefore the Soldan became very devoted to him, as well as for the contempt of the world he saw in him, seeing that he would not accept any gifts despite his great poverty, and for the zeal of martyrdom he saw in him. From that time on the Soldan liked to listen to him and prayed him in return often, and he gave him and his companions permission to preach wherever they pleased. And he gave them a token which would protect them from being offended by any man.

When he had received this licence, St.Francis sent his selected companions, always two and two together, to preach the Christian faith in divers parts of the country of the Saracens. But finally, seeing that he could do no more good in these parts, he was inspired by God to return among the faithful again with his companions. When he had called them all together, he returned to the Soldan and took leave of him. Then the Soldan said:

"Brother Francis, I would willingly embrace the faith of Christ, but I am afraid to do it now, for it the others were to hear of it they would kill me and you and all your companions. And seeing that you can still do much good in the world, and that I have to take decisions on certain weighty matters, I do not want thus to bring about my own and your death, but instruct me how I can save myself, and I am ready to do what you bid me."

Then St.Francis said: "Lord, I will now take leave of you, but when I have returned to my own country, and have to Heaven by the grace of God, after my death I will send you two of my friars from whom you shall receive the baptism of Christ, and you will be saved, as my Lord Jesus Christ has revealed to me."

And the Soldan promised that it should be so. Then St.Francis went home with the venerable college of his holy companions, and some years later St.Francis suffered corporal death and gave back his soul to God. And the Soldan fell sick and, remembering the promise of St.Francis, had guards posted at certain passes, ordering them, should they see two friars in the habit of St.Francis, to bring them before him without delay. At that time St.Francis appeared to two friars and commanded them to go to the Soldan forthwith and to work his salvation, as he had promised him. The said brothers broke up at once and, after they had crossed the sea, they were taken before the Soldan by the said guards. When the Soldan saw them, he rejoiced greatly and said: "Now I truly know that God has sent His servants to me for my salvation, according to the promise St.Francis made me by divine revelation."

When he had received instruction in the Christian faith and holy baptism from the said friars, he died of his sickness, regenerated in Christ, and his soul was saved through the merits and works of St.Francis. To the praise of our blessed Lord, Amen.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How St.Francis freed a friar from the Devil (23)

Once when St.Francis was praying in the hermitage of Portiuncula, he was vouchsafed a vision in which he saw the whole place surrounded and besieged by demons, as by a great army. But not one of them could penetrate inside the place, because the brothers there were of such saintliness that they could find none through whom they might enter. But as they persevered, one of those brothers quarreled with another and planned in his heart how he might accuse the other and be revenged on him. Therefore, as this brother was harbouring this wicked thought, the devil found the door open and entered into the house, and set himself upon that brother's neck.

The compassionate and solicitous shepherd who ever watched over his flocks saw that the wolf had come in to devour one of his lambs, and forthwith he sent for that brother. And he commanded him instantly to confess the poisonous hatred he had conceived against his neighbor, for which reason he had fallen into the hands of the enemy. Terrified at seeing his secret thoughts known by the holy father, he revealed all his venom and rancour and admitted his sin, pleading humbly for a merciful penance. Then he received absolution from his sin, and when he had received penance the devil immediately got him gone before St.Francis.

And the friar, having thus been freed from the clutches of the cruel beast by the loving kindness of the good shepherd, gave thanks to God and returned corrected and chastened to the flock of that holy shepherd where he lived from then on in great sanctity. Praise be to Christ, Amen.

How St.Francis tamed the turtle-doves that had been given them (22)

One day a youth had caught many turtle-doves and was going to sell them. St.Francis met him, an as he always had a singular pity for all gentle beasts, he looked pitifully at the doves and said to the young man: "O good youth, I beg you give them to me, so that these innocent birds, to whom Holy Scriptures compare the souls that are chaste, humble and faithful, should not fall into the hands of cruel men who would slaughter them."

And immediately the youth, inspired by God, gave all the birds to St.Francis, who took them into his lap and began to talk to them gently, saying "O my sisters, you simple, innocent and chaste turtle-doves, why do you let yourselves be caught? But see, I will deliver you from death and make nests for you, so that you can be fruitful and multiply according to the commandment of your Creator." And St.Francis went and made nests for all of them. And the doves used them, laid eggs and hatched them under the eyes of the friars; and they lived so tamely with St.Francis and all the other brothers that one could have taken them for chickens raised by their hands. And they never flew away, unless St.Francis blessed them and gave them leave to go. And to the youth who had given them to him, St.Francis said: "My son, you will yet be a brother of this Order, graciously serving Jesus Christ." And so it happened ; the said youth became a friar and lived in the Order with great saintliness. Praise be to Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How St.Francis converted the ferocious wolf of Gubbio (21)

At the time when St.Francis was staying in the city of Gubbio there appeared an enormous, terrible and ferocious wolf who not only devoured animals, but even men, so that all the citizens lived in great fear, for the wolf often came quite close the city, and when they went outside the walls they armed themselves as if they were going to battle. Yet even so they could not defend themselves against him if they happened to be along when they met him. Through fear of this wolf they got to the point that nobody was bold enough to venture outside the city.

For this reason St.Francis, in his compassion for the men of the city, decided to go outside to that wolf, although all the citizens advised him not to do so. And signing himself with the sign of the Holy Cross, he went out of the city with his companions, setting all his trust in God. And as the others were afraid to go any further, St.Francis alone took the road towards the place where the wolf was.

Thereupon, seeing so many citizens who had come to witness the miracle, the said wolf bounded towards St.Francis with his mouth open. St.Francis approached him and made the sign of the cross over him, saying: "Come hither, Brother wolf: I command you in the name of Christ to hurt no one, neither me nor anyone else."

Marvelous to relate; as soon as St.Francis had made the sign of the cross, the terrible wolf closed his mouth and stopped running, and when the Saint had uttered the command, he came up as gently as a lamb and lay down at St.Francis' feet.

Then St.Francis spoke to him as follows: "Brother Wolf, you do great damage in these parts, and you have committed very evil deeds, destroying and killing God's creatures without His permission, and you have not only slain and devoured beasts, but you have had the temerity to kill men who are made in the image of God. For this reason you deserve to be put to death, as the robber and wicked homicide you are. And all the people cry out and murmur against you, and the whole of this country is your enemy. But I, Brother Wolf, wish to make peace between you and them; provided you offend no more they will forgive you all your past offences and neither men nor dogs will persecute you anymore."

When St.Francis had uttered these words, the wolf showed by the movements of his body, his tail and his ears and by inclining his head that he accepted what the Saint had said and that he would observe it. Then St.Francis said: "Brother Wolf, as you are pleased to make and to hold this peace, I promise that I will see that you are provided for as long as you live by the men of this town, so that you shall never go hungry, for I know well that hunger made you do all this evil. But when I obtain this grace for you, I want you Brother Wolf, to promise me that you will harm no man and no animal; will you promise me this?

And the wolf, by bowing his head, signified clearly that he promised. And St.Francis said: "Brother Wolf, I want you to confirm this promise, so that I can place my trust in it." And St.Francis stretched out his hand and laid it submissively on to the Saint's hand, thus confirming his promise as best he could.

Then St.Francis said: "Brother Wolf, I now command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come with me in all confidence, and we will go and make this peace in God's name." The wolf obediently went with him, gentle as a lamb. The citizens, seeing this, were greatly amazed. Immediately the news spread all over the town, wherefore all the people, big and small, men and women, old and young, hurried to the market-place to see the wolf with St.Francis. As all the people were assembled there, St.Francis arose and preached to them. And at the end of his sermon the Saint said: "Listen, my brothers. Brother Wolf, who is here before you, has promised me and confirmed his word to make peace with you and not to offend you in anything ever again, if you promise to provide him with the necessary food every day, and I will stand bail for him that he will truly observe his pact with you."

Then all the people with one voice promised to feed the wolf from then on.

The said wolf lived two years in Gubbio, and went tamely into the houses from door to door, without doing any harm to anyone or having any harm done to him. The people fed him courteously, and as he went through the town and into the houses not a single dog barked at him. At the end of two years Brother Wolf died of old age, and the citizens mourned him deeply, for, seeing him pass so gently through the town, they had been reminded of the virtue and saintliness of St.Francis. Praise to be Christ, Amen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

How St.Francis went to Rieti for the cure of his eyes. The miracle of the vinyard. (19)

Once when St.Francis was suffering from a grave infirmity of the eyes, Messer Ugolino, the Cardinal protector of the Order, because of the great tenderness he felt towards him, wrote to St.Francis asking him to come to him at Rieti, where there were the best physicians of the eyes. When St.Francis received the Cardinal's letter, he first went to St.Clare, the most devout spouse of Christ, at San Damiano, to give her some consolation and then go to the Cardinal. In the night following St.Francis' arrival there, his eyes grew so much worse that he could no longer see the light. As he was therefore unable to depart, St.Clare caused a cabin of reeds to be made for him, so that he might rest there. (There he stayed for fifty days.) But the pain of his infirmity was so great, beside the multitude of mice which were a very great nuisance to him, that St.Francis could find no rest, neither by day nor by night. And as he endured more of these pains and tribulations he began to ponder and to realize that they were a scourge of God for his sins. And he began to thank God with all his heart and with his lips, and he cried out in a loud voice, saying:

"My Lord, I am worthy of this and of worse ills. My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou good shepherd who hast shown us unworthy sinners Thy mercy by diverse pains and bodily anguish, grant grace and virtue to me, Thy little sheep, that through no infirmity, anguish of suffering I may be divided from Thee.

When he had uttered this prayer, a voice from heaven spoke to him thus: "Francis, answer Me. If the whole earth were gold, and all the seas and rivers and springs were balm, and all the mountains, hills and rocks were precious stones, and you were to find a treasure so far superior to these things as gold is superior to earth, balm to water and precious stones to mountains and rocks, and if th is noble treasure were given you by this infirmity, should you not be content and well pleased?"

St.Francis answered: "Lord, I am not worthy of so precious a treasure." And God's voice said to him: "Rejoice, Francis, for this treasure is eternal life which I reserve for you, and from now on I invest you with it, and this infirmity and afflictions is a pledge of that blessed treasure."

Thereupon St.Francis called his companion, rejoicing greatly at so glorious a promise, and said: "Let us go to the Cardinal." And after having comforted St.Clare with holy words and taken leave of her with great humility, he took the road to Rieti. When he got near the town, such a multitude of people came out to meet him that he did not want to go into it, but withdrew into a church which lay at a distance of about two miles from the city. When the citizens learnt that he was in that church, they hastened out to see him in such numbers that the vineyard of the church was quite spoiled and all the grapes were picked. The priest was deeply grieved at this, and repented that he had asked S.Francis to stay in his church.

When God revealed to St.Francis these thoughts in the heart of the priest, he sent for him and said: "Dearest father, how many measures of wine does this vineyard yield to you in a year, when it is at its best?"

The priest answered that it yielded twelve measures. St.Francis said: "I beg you, father, bear patiently with me and allow me to stay here a few days, for I find much rest here, and allow everybody to pick grapes from your vineyard for the love of God and of the poor little man that I am, and I promise you in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ that it will give you a yearly yield of twenty measures."

And this St.Francis did in return for staying there, because of the great uplifting of souls which was manifest in the people who came, many of whom departed inebriated with divine love and abandoned the world.

The priest, relying on St.Francis' promise, gave all who came to him the freedom of the vineyard. Marvellous to relate! The vineyard was totally despoiled, so that there barely remained some small bunches of grapes. The time of vintage came and the priest picked those few little bunches, put them in the vat and pressed them, and, as St.Francis had promised, he obtained twenty measures of the best wine.

In this miracle we are given manifestly to understand that, just as the despoiled vineyard yielded an abundance of wine by the merits of St.Francis, so the Christian people, barren of virtue through sin, through the merits and the doctrine of St.Francis, often abounds in the good fruits of penitence. Praised be Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How St.Francis summoned a general meeting of the Chapter and more than five thousand friars attended, and how he preached to them (18)

The faithful servant of Christ, St.Francis, once held a Chapter at St.Mary of the Angels, and this meeting was attended by more than five thousand friars, and also by St.Dominic, head and founder of the Order of the Preaching Brothers; he was then going from Borgogna to Rome, with seven friars of his order. The said Chapter was also attended by a Cardinal who was devoted to St.Francis, to whom the Saint had foretold that he would become Pope, and so it happened. (Cardinal Ugolino, later Gregory IX). The said Cardinal had come especially from Perugia, where the Court was, to Assisi, and every day he came to see St.Francis and his brethren; sometimes he sang the Mass, and sometimes he preached to the brethren in Chapter. And marvelling that so great a multitude should be so orderly, he said with tears and great devotion: "This is the arm of the knights of Christ!" In all this multitude one could not hear anyone indulging in idle talk or jests, but wherever a company of friars assembled, they would either pray or say the office, or they would weep over their own sins and those of their benefactors, or discourse on the salvation of the soul. In that camp were roofs of willows and rush-mats in different shapes according to the different provinces, and for that reason it was called the camp of the trellises, or of the rush-mats. The bedded themselves on the earth, and those who had some covered it with a little straw; their pillows were stones or bits of wood.

When the general Chapter was all assembled, the holy father of them all and minister general, St.Francis, propounded the word of God in great fervour of spirit and preached to them in a loud voice the words the Holy Ghost made him speak. For the text of his sermon he took these words:

"My sons, we have promised great things, but even greater have been promised to us by God. Let us observe what we have promised and hope steadfastly for what has been promised us. Brief are the delights of the world, but the pain that follows after them is perpetual. Small is the pain of this world, but he glory of the other life is infinite."

Preaching most devoutly on these words, he comforted the brethren and admonished them to obey and reverence Holy Mother Church, to persevere in fraternal charity, to pray God for the whole people, to have patience in the adversities of the world and observe temperance in prosperity, to keep themselves pure and chaste as angels, to live in peace and concord with God and men and with their own conscience, to love and observe holy poverty. And he said: "I command you by holy obedience, all of you who have congregated here, that not one of you should have a care of food or drink or of any thing necessary to the body, but that you should be intent only on praying and praising God. Leave all care of your body to Him, knowing that He has you in His especial care." And they all received this commandment with a glad heart and a happy countenance. And when St.Francis had finished his sermon, they all sank to their knees to pray.

St.Dominic, who was present at all this, wondered exceedingly at this commandment of St.Francis and considered him injudicious, for he could not believe that such a multitude could support itself without care or thought of the needs of the body.

But our blessed shepherd Jesus Christ, to show how He cares for His sheep and what singular love He has for His poor, forthwith inspired the people of Perugia, Spoleto, Foligno, Spello, and Assisi and other surrounding regions with the thought of bringing food and drink for the holy congregation. And lo! suddenly men arrived from the said places with mules, horses and carts, laden with bread and wine, beans and cheese and other good things to eat, thus purveying all the needs of the poor of Christ. Furthermore, they brought tablecloths and pitchers, goblets and other vessels to serve the needs of a great a multitude. And he who could bring the most or serve with the greatest care considered himself blessed.

Therefore St.Dominic, seeing these things, recognized that divine Providence was working in them, and he admitted humbly within himself that he had misjudged St.Francis, thinking his command was injudicious and, kneeling down humbly before him, he confessed his error with great humility and added: "Truly, God has especial care of these poor holy men, and I did not know it. From now on, I promise, I will observe holy evangelical poverty, and in that name of God I curse all brothers of my Order who in that Order presume to keep property of their own."

How St.Francis sent to St.Clare and Brother Silvester for advice whether it would be better for him to abide in prayer (16)

The humble servant of Christ, St.Francis, a short time after his conversion, when he had already united many companions and received them into the Order, began to ponder deeply and to doubt what it beloved him to do, namely, whether he should only remain in prayer, or whether he should sometimes preach. He was greatly desirous of learning God's will in regard to this. And as his humility was such that he did not presume to find the answer by himself or in his own meditations, he thought to discover the divine will through the meditations of others.

Therefore he called Brother Masseo and said: "Go to Sister Clare and ask her from me to pray devoutly with some of her most spiritually advanced companions that God may be pleased to show me what is better: that I should attend to preaching, or only to prayer. Then go to Brother Silvester and ask him the same."

The latter had been Messer Silvestro in the world, the same who had seen a golden cross proceeding from St.Francis' mouth, a cross as high as the heavens and reaching to the extremities of the earth. The devotion and saintliness of this Brother Silvester were such that whatever he prayed for was granted, and he often had conversation with God; therefore St.Francis was much devoted to him.

Brother Masseo went and, according to the bidding of St.Francis, carried his message first to St.Clare, and then to Brother Silvester, who, as soon as he had received it, immersed himself at once in prayer, and while he was praying was given the answer from God. He returned to Brother Masseo and said: "God says this, which you are to repeat to Francis: that God has not called him to this state for himself alone, but so that he should reap the fruit of souls, and that many may be saved through him."

When he had heard this, Brother Masseo returned to St.Clare to learn what she had obtained from God, and she told him that she and other other companions had been give the same divine answer that Brother Silvester had received. Brother Masseo returned great loving kindness, washing his feet and preparing a meal for him. And after he had eaten, St.Francis, and the father received him with great loving kindness, washing his feet and preparing a meal for him. And after he had eaten, St.Francis called Brother Masseo into the wood; there he knelt down before him, threw back his cowl, crossed his arms and asked: "What does the Lord Jesus Christ command me to do?"

Brother Masseo answered as follows: "To Brother Silvester, and also to Sister Clare and to her sisters, Christ has answered and revealed that it is His will for you to go out into he world and preach; for He has not chosen you for yourself alone, but also for the salvation of others."

Then St.Francis, having heard this answer and recognized the will of God, arose with great fervour and said: "Let us then go in God's name." He took for his companions Brother Masseo and Brother Angelo, very holy men, and he set out filled with impetuous zeal without taking thought of road nor path. So they arrived at a fortified town called Savurgnano (Cannara). St.Francis began to preach, after bidding the swallows who were singing to be silent until he had finished his sermon, and the swallows obeyed him. And there he preached with such eloquence that all the men and women of the town wanted to follow him in their devotion, abandoning their homesteads. But St.Francis would not allow this, and said to them: "Be not in such haste and do not leave, and I will tell you what you should do for the salvation of your souls."

And then he thought of founding the Third Order, for the universal salvation of all people. Leaving them much consoled and well disposed to penitence, he departed and came to a spot between Armano and Bevagno. As he went on in great fervour, he lifted his eyes and saw some trees by the roadside, and on them an almost infinite number of birds. St.Francis was amazed at this and said to his companions: "Wait for me on this road, and I will go and preach to my sisters the birds."

And going into the field, he began to preach to the birds which were sitting on the ground, and at once those that were in the trees came to him, and they all remained still until St.Francis had finished preaching to them, and even then they did not fly away until he had given them his blessing. According to the testimony of Brother Masseo and Brother Jacomo da Massa, they did not even move when St.Francis walked among them and touched them with his cloak.

The substance of St.Francis' sermon to the birds was as follows: "O birds, my sisters, you owe much to God your creator and you must praise Him always and everywhere, for He has given you freedom to fly wherever you like, and He has also given you double and triple raiment; and He has preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, so that your kind should not grow less on earth; and furthermore you must thank Him for the element of air which He has assigned to you. What is more, you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you, and has given you the streams and the fountains to drink from, the mountains and the hills to shelter you, and the high trees whereon you can build your nests. And although you can neither spin nor sew, God clothes you and your children. Therefore the Creator loves you dearly, and He has given you so many blessings, and so, my sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude and be always eager to praise God.

When St.Francis said these words to them, all the birds began to open their beaks, stretch out their necks, unfold their wings and reverently bow their heads to the ground. So by their acts and their song they showed that the words of the holy father gave them very great joy. And St.Francis rejoiced with them and was glad and marvelled at the great multitude of the birds, and their beautiful diversity, and at their attentive and fearless behaviour. For these reasons he praised the Creator in them with great devotion.

Finally, when he had finished preaching to them, St.Francis made the sign of the cross over them and gave them leave to depart. Thereupon all the birds rose up together into the air with wonderful songs and then the flock divided itself into four parts, following the direction of the sign of the cross: one part flew to the east, the other to the west, the third to the south, the fourth to the north - thereby signifying that the preaching of Christ's cross, renewed by St.Francis, would spread over the whole world through him and his brethren who, like unto the birds, possess nothing of their own and in the world and commit their lives wholly to God's Providence. Praised be Jesus Christ, Amen.

Friday, September 3, 2010

How St.Clare went to eat with St.Francis at St.Mary of the Angels (15)

When St.Francis stayed at Assisi, he often visited St.Clare and gave her holy counsels. She had a great desire to eat with him once, and begged him many times to do so, but he would never grant her this consolation. St.Francis's companions, seeing this great desire of St.Clare, said to him: "Father, it seems to us that this severity is not consistent with divine charity - that you should not concede so small a thing as to allow Sister Clare, a virgin so holy and beloved of God, to eat with you, especially when one considers that through your preaching she relinquished all the riches and pomps of the world. Truly, if she were to ask you for an even greater favour than this, you should accord it to her, your spiritual plant."

Then St.Francis answered: "Do you hold that I should grant her request?"

The companions said: "Yes, father, it is right that you should afford her this consolation."

St.Francis then said: "As you are of this opinion, I agree. But so that she should be consoled even more, I wish this meal to be taken at St.Mary of the Angels, seeing that she has been cloistered so long in San Damiano, it will please her to see St.Mary's again, the place where her hair was shorn and she became the bride of Jesus
Christ. There we will eat together in the name of God."

When the ordained day arrived, St.Clare came out from her convent with one sister, and, accompanied by the companions of St.Francis, saluted the Blessed Virgin at her altar, before which she had been shorn and veiled, and then they took her to see the place until it was time to dine. In the meantime St.Francis had had the table prepared on the bare ground, as he was wont to do. And when it was time to dine, St.
Francis and St.Clare sat down together, and one of the companions of St.Francis with the companion of St.Clare, and then all the other companions sat down at table with greater humility.

At the first course, St.Francis began to speak of God with such suavity, so sublimely and so wonderfully that the abundance of divine grace descended on them and they were all rapt in God.

And while they were thus rapt with their eyes and their hands raised to Heaven, the people of Assisi and Bettona and the surrounding countryside saw St.Mary of the Angels, the monastery and the woods which then surrounded it, burning brightly, as though a great fire were blazing in the church, the house and the woods. Therefore, the men of Assisi came running in great haste to put out the flames, believing firmly that something was on fire. But when they arrived there they found nothing burning; they then went in and found St.Francis and St.Clare and all their company rapt in ecstatic contemplation, sitting around that humble board.

From this they understood that the fire had been divine and not material, and that God had caused it to appear miraculously to show and signify the fire of divine love which inflamed the souls of those holy monks and nuns, and they returned home with great consolation in their hearts and holy edification.

Then, after a long time, St.Francis and St.Clare and the others returned to themselves, and, feeling well comforted by the spiritual sustenance, they had little care of bodily nourishment. And so, when this blessed meal was over, St.Clare, fittingly accompanied, returned to San Damiano. The sisters were exceedingly glad to see her again, because they had been afraid that St.Francis had sent her to direct another convent, as he had already sent the holly Sister Agnes, her own sister, to rule as abbess over the convent of Monticelli at Florence. St.Francis had several times said to St.Clare: "Make yourself ready, in case it should be necessary for me to send you to another place." And she, as a true daughter of holy obedience, had replied:" Father, I am always ready to go wherever you may send me." And for this reason the sisters were very glad when they had her back again.

And from then on St.Clare remained in great consolation. To the glory of Christ, Amen.

How St.Francis and his brethren were speaking of God, and Christ appeared to them (14)

In the beginning of the Order, when St.Francis and his companions were assembled one day in a place, and talking about Christ, the Saint in the fervour of his spirit commanded one of them in the name of God to open his lips and speak of God as the Holy Spirit inspired him.

The friar obeyed the command and spoke most marvellously. St.Francis then imposed silence upon him and commanded another friar to speak, the which obeyed and discoursed on God with great subtlety, until St.Francis bade him be silent also. And he commanded a third to speak to God. And he likewise began to speak so profoundly of the divine mysteries that St.Francis knew without doubt that he, like the other two, spoke by the Holy Spirit. This was also demonstrated by an unmistakable sign, for as they were thus discoursing, Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared in their midst in the shape of a beautiful youth. Blessing them all, He filled them with such sweetness that they were rapt in ecstasy and lay as men dead, feeling nothing pertaining to this world.

When they then returned to themselves, St.Francis said to them: "My dearest brothers, let us thank God, who has seen fit to reveal the treasures of divine wisdom through the mouths of simpletons, for it is God who opens the mouths of thedumb and makes the tongues of the simple to speak most wisely." Praised be He, Amen.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How St.Francis sent his companions to preach in different parts, while he went to another part with Brother Masseo (13)

The wonderful servant and follower of Christ, our master St.Francis, wanted to conform himself to Christ in everything. According to the Gospel Our Lord sent His disciples two by two into all the towns and places where He Himself was going; therefore St.Francis, after having assembled twelve companions according to the example of Christ, sent them out, two by two, into the world to preach. In order to give them an example of true obedience, he was the first to go out, following the example of Christ, who began with actions before He thought. Therefore, having assigned other parts of the world to his companions, he took the road accompanied by Brother Masseo, towards the land of France.

One day they arrived very hungry at a town and proceeded, according to the Rule, to beg their bread for the love of God. St.Francis went along one street, Brother Masseo along another. But as St.Francis was of despicable aspect and small of stature and therefore was taken for a poor, wretched little man by those who did not know him, he succeeded only in collecting a few mouthfuls of bits of dry bread. Brother Masseo, however, was a tall man of handsome presence, and there he was given a great deal, fine large pieces of bread and even whole loaves.

When they had finished begging, they met outside the town in a place where they could eat, where there was a beautiful fountain beside a fine, broad stone on which they each set out the alms they had collected. When St.Francis saw that the pieces of bread received by Brother Masseo were far better and larger than his own, he was overjoyed and said:

"O Brother Masseo, we are not worthy of so great a treasure."

He repeated these words several times, and Brother Masseo said: "Dearest father, how can one speak of a treasure where there is such poverty and so great a lack of the things we need? Here is not tablecloth, no trencher, no bowl; no house, no table, no man or maid to serve us."

Then St.Francis said: "And that is what I call a great treasure, that there is not one thing prepared by human hands, but what there is has been prepared by divine providence, as we see by the bread we have collected, by our table of so beautiful a stone and the fountain so limpidly clear. Therefore I would have us pray God that He make us love with all our heart the treasure of Holy Poverty, who is so noble that God Himself becomes her servant."

When he had said these words, and they had prayed and taken bodily sustenance from those pieces of bread and the water from the fountain, they arose to continue their way to France. They came to a church, and St.Francis said to his companion: "Let us go into this church and adore the Lord." St.Francis went behind the altar and entered into prayer, and in that prayer he received such great favours of divine visitation that his soul was wholly inflamed with love of holy poverty; his face was flushed, his lips opened so that it seemed that he was throwing out flames of love.

And coming thus all flowing to his companion, he said: "Ah, ah, ah, Brother Masseo, give yourself to me!" This he said three times, and the third time St.Francis raised Brother Masseo into the air with his breath and threw him forward the length of a great spear. Brother Masseo was greatly amazed, and later he told his companions how, when St.Francis with his breath had lifted and propelled him, he had experienced such sweetness of spirit and consolation of the Holy Ghost that nothing he had known in his whole life could equal it.

And St.Francis said: "Dearest companion, let us now go to St.Peter and St.Paul and ask them to teach us and help us to possess the immeasurable treasure of holy poverty."

And they came to Rome, and entered into the church of St.Peter, and St.Francis knelt to pray in one corner of the church and Brother Masseo in the other. Then, filled with gladness, they both decided to return to the valley of Spoleto and leave their journeying to France. Praise be to Christ our Lord, Amen.

Monday, August 30, 2010

How St.Francis made Brother Masseo turn round and round, and how they went to Siena (11)

One day St.Francis was going along the road with Brother Masseo, and the said brother was walking on ahead; then they came to a parting of the ways, where one road led to Siena, one to Florence and one to Arezzo. Brother Masseo asked: "Father, which road shall we take?"

St.Francis answered: "The one God wills us to take."

Brother Masseo said : "But how are we to know God's will?"

St.Francis said: "By the sign which I will show you. I command you by the merits of holy obedience that at this cross-roads, on the spot where you are standing, you should turn round and round as children do, and you shall not stop turning until I tell you."

Thereupon Brother Masseo began to turn round and round, and he turned so long that he fell to the ground several times owing to the dizziness that results in the head from turning in the same direction. But as St.Francis did not tell him to stop and he wanted to obey him faithfully, he got up and began to turn again.

In the end, when he was turning well and hard, St.Francis said: "Now stop and do not move."

And he stopped, and St.Francis asked him: "To what quarter are you turning your face?"

Brother Masseo answered: "Towards Siena."

St.Francis said: "That is the road that God wills us to take."

As they went along that road, Brother Masseo wondered greatly that St.Francis had made him do such a thing, behaving like a child, in full sight of the laymen passing by, nevertheless his reverence was such that he did not dare say anything about it to the holy father.

When St.Francis was approaching Siena, the inhabitants of the town heard that he was coming and went out to meet him. In their devotion they carried the Saint and his companion to the Bishop's palace, so that they did not need to put a foot to the ground. At that very hour some men of Siena were fighting, and two of them had already been killed. When St.Francis got there, he preached to them in so devout and saintly a fashion that they settled their differences in great unity and concord.

When the Bishop of Siena heard of the holy work St.Francis had done, he invited him to his house and entertained him more honorabley that day and also the night. The following morning the Saint, who in his true humility sought only the glory of God, rose early with his companion and they left without the Bishop's knowledge.

This caused Brother Masseo to murmur to himself on his way. He said to himself: "What has this good man been doing again? First he makes me turn round and round like a child, and then he leaves the Bishop who did him so much honor, without a single good word or so much as a thank you!" And Brother Masseo thought that St.Francis had behaved in an unseemly manner.

But later, by divine inspiration, he thought better of it and, reproaching himself, he said in his heart, "Brother Masseo, you are too proud. Who are you to pass judgement on divine work? You deserve hell for your undiscerning pride."

And all the things that Brother Masseo was thinking in his own heart as he walked along were revealed by God to St.Francis. Therefore, calling the friar to him, he said:

"Hold fast to these things you have just been thinking, for they are good and useful, and inspired by God; but your first thoughts when you were murmuring within yourself, were blind, vain and proud, and they were sent you by the devil."

Then Brother Masseo realized clearly that St.Francis knew the secrets of the human heart, and he understood that the spirit of divine wisdom directed the holy father in all his actions. Praise to Christ the Lord, Amen.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Broterh Masseo asked St.Francis why all the world was following him (10)

Once St.Francis was staying at the hermitage of Portiuncula with Brother Masseo da Marignano, who was a man of great saintliness and discretion and endowed with much grace in speaking of God, for which reasons St.Francis held him in great affection. One day, as St.Francis was returning from praying in the wood, as he was just coming out of it, the said Brother Masseo went to meet him, and wishing to test his humility, went to meet and assuming a jeering tone, asked: "Why you? Why you? Why you?"

St.Francis answered: "What do you mean by that?"

Brother Masseo said: "I want to know why you should be the man all the world is running after and why everybody seems to want to see you, to listed to you and to obey you! You are not a man of handsome presence, you have no great scholarship, you are not noble; so why should all the world run after you?"

Hearing this, St.Francis rejoiced in his spirit and, lifting his face to heaven, remained a long time with his mind uplifted to God; then, coming back to himself, he knelt down and rendered thanks and praise to God and with great fervour of spirit turned to Brother Masseo and said: "You want to know why I should be the one all the world is running after? This is given me by the eyes of the Highest God which look upon the good and the wicked in every place. Because these most holy eyes could not find among the sinners one more vile, more miserable, more sinful than I, and because God could not find a viler creature on earth for the marvellous work which He intends to do, and because He has chosen me to confound the nobility, the greatness, the strength, the beauty and the wisdom of the world. And this He has done so that it may be recognized that all virtue and all good is of Him, and not of the creatures, and no man should glory in His presence, but "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord"(1 Cor. 1:31), whose is all honour and glory for ever and ever.

Then Brother Masseo, hearing so humble and answer uttered with such fervour, was afraid and understood that St.Francis was firmly rooted in true humility. Praised be Jesus Christ, Amen.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How St.Francis taught Brother Leo to give him the responses at Matins, and how Brother Leo always said the contrary of what St.Francis told him (9)

One day, at the beginning of the Order, St.Francis was with Brother Leo in a place where they had no books wherewith to say the divine office. When the hour of Matins came, St.Francis said to Brother Leo: "Beloved Brother, we have no breviary wherewith we could say Matins, but so that we may spend our time in praising God, I will speak and you shall answer as I will teach you. I will say: "O Brother Francis, you did so much wrong and committed so many sins in the world that you deserve to go to hell." And you, Brother Leo, will answer: "That is indeed true, that you deserve to go to the very depths of hell."

And Brother Leo, with the simplicity of a dove, answered: "Willingly Father, begin them in God's name."

Then St.Francis began to say: "O Brother Francis, you did so much wrong and committed so many sins in the world, that you deserve to go to hell."

And Brother Leo answered: "God will do so much good through you that you will go to paradise."

St.Francis said: "Not so, Brother Leo, but when I will say: "O Brother Francis, you have done such iniquitous things against God that you deserve to be accursed of God," then you shall reply: "Truly you deserve to be thrown among the damned."

And Brother Leo answered : "Willingly, Father."

Then St.Francis, weeping and sighing and beating his breast, said in a loud voice: "O Lord my God of heaven and earth, I have offended thee by so many iniquities and so many sins, that I fully deserve to be accursed by thee."

And Brother Leo answered: "God will make you so that among the blessed you will be singularly blessed."

St.Francis was amazed that Brother Leo should answer by saying the contrary of what he told him to say and reproved him with the words: "Why do you not answer as I tell you? I command you by holy obedience to make the responses as I teach them to you I will say: "O you bad Brother Francis, do you believe that God will have mercy on you, seeing that you have committed so many sins against the Father of mercy and the Lord of consolation that you are not worthy to find mercy?" And you, Brother Leo, my little lamb, you will answer: "In no way you are worthy of mercy."

But then, when St.Francis said: "O you bad Brother Francis," etc., Brother Leo answered thus: "Our Heavenly Father, whose mercy is infinitely greater than your sins, will show you great mercy and will, in addition, give you much grace."

At this answer ST.Francis, gently angered and patiently perturbed, said to Brother Leo: "How can you be so presumptuous as to act against holy obedience, and why have you said over and over again the contrary of what I bade you to say?"

Brother Leo answered very humbly and reverently: "God knows, my father, that I intended every time to answer as you told me, but God makes me speak according to His will.

St.Francis wondered greatly, and said to Brother Leo: "I entreat you most lovingly to answer me this time as I tell you."

Brother Leo answered: "Say it, in the name of God, and most certainly I will answer this time as you wish."

Brother Leo answered: "You will receive abundant grace from God, and He will exalt and glorify you in eternity, for the humble will be exalted - and I can speak no differently, for God is speaking through my lips."

And thus, in this contest of humility, with much weeping and much spiritual consolation, they kept their vigil until the day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How St.Francis instructed Brother Leo as to the nature of perfect joy (8)

One day when St.Francis came from Perugia to St.Mary of the Angels (Portiuncla) with Brother Leo in winter, and the great cold was tormenting him, he called brother Leo, who was walking ahead of him, and said:

"O Brother Leo, although God is pleased that the Brothers Minor give a great example of saintliness and edification in all lauds, nevertheless you must write down and note diligently that not in that consists perfect joy."

And going a little further, St.Francis called out a second time:

"O Brother Leo, even if a Brother Minor should give sight to the blind, make straight the crooked, cast out the devils, give back their hearing to the deaf and make the lame to walk and the dumb to speak, and even more, resuscitate a man dead four days, write that not in that consists perfect joy.

And going on again, St.Francis called out loudly; "O Brother Leo, if a Brother Minor possessed every language and every science and the whole of the Scriptures, even if he could prophesy and reveal not only the future but the secrets of the conscience and the soul, write that not therein consists perfect joy."

Passing on a little further, St.Francis again called out loudly:

"O Brother Leo, little lamb of God, even if a Brother Minor should speak with the tongue of an angel and know the course of the stars and the virtues of the herbs, even if all the treasures of the earth had been revealed to him and he know the qualities of the birds, the fish and all the animals, of men and of trees and stones and roots and waters - write that not therein consists perfect joy."

And going on another stretch, St.Francis called loudly: "O Brother Leo, even if a Brother Minor could preach so eloquently that he converted all the infidels to the faith of Christ, write that not therein consists perfect joy."

And thus he spoke for the best part of two miles, until Brother Leo in great amazement questioned him, saying:

"Father, I beseech you for God's sake, tell me wherein consists perfect joy!"

And St.Francis answered him thus:

"When we come to Saint Mary of the Angels drenched by the rain, numbed with cold, covered with mud and tormented by hunger, and knock at the gate, and the porter comes and asks: "Who are you?" and we answer: "Two of your brothers," and he says: "You are lying, you are a pair of scoundrels who go around deceiving people and robbing alms from the poor, go away!" and refuses to open and leaves us standing outside in the snow and the rain, shivering and hungry until night-time: then if we endure so much abuse and cruelty patiently and calmly and without murmuring, thinking with humility and charity that this porter knows us as we really are, and that God makes him turn against us thus, O Brother Leo, write that therein consists perfect joy. And if we persevere and go on knocking, he will come out angrily and chase us away like importunate louts with insults and blows, saying: "Get away from here, you good-for-nothing thieves, get you gone to the workhouse! for here there is neither lodging nor food for you." To endure this patiently, with gladness and good humour, therein, O Brother Leo, consists perfect joy. And if we, constrained by hunger and cold and darkness, go on knocking and weeping loudly, entreat him for the love of God to open the door and he lets us in, he will be even more enraged and say: "These are importunate scoundrels, I will give them what they deserve!" and rush out with a knotted stick, and seizing us by our hoods, throw us down and roll us in the snow and beat us with all the knots of his stick: if we endure all these things patiently and with gladness, thinking of the sufferings of our blessed Lord, which we must bear for love of Him: O Brother Leo, write that therein consists perfect joy. And now listed to the conclusion Brother Leo. Above all grace and all gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ vouchsafes to His friends, is that of overcoming one's self, and for the love of Christ gladly bearing pain, insults, disgrace and hardship. For we cannot glory in any of the other gifts of God, as they are not ours but God's. Therefore, the Apostle says: "What hadst thou, that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as though thou hadst not received it? (1 Cor.4:7). But we may glory in the cross of the tribulation and of affliction, for that is ours, wherefore the Apostle says: "For God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" to whom be honour and glory, world without end, Amen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How St.Francis fasted for forty days and ate nothing but half a loaf (7)

Because the true servant of Christ, St.Francis, was in some things almost a second Christ given to the world for the salvation of the people, God the Father made him in many of his acts conform to His Son Jesus Christ as its shown by the venerable college of his twelve companions and by the marvellous mystery of the stigmata, and by the uninterrupted fast of forty days, which he held in the following manner.

St.Francis had gone on the day of Carnival (Shrove Thuesday) to the lake of Perugia, to stay the night in the house of one of his followers. There he was inspired by God to keep that Lent on an island in the said lake, and he entreated his follower for the love of Christ to row him across to an island of the lake in his little boat, and to do this on the night of Ash Wednesday so that no one should be aware of it.

This man, because of the great devotion he had for St.Francis, carried out his wish most solicitously and rowed him across to the said island; St.Francis took nothing with him save two small loaves. When they arrived at the island and the friend took his leave to return home, St.Francis begged him earnestly not to reveal to anyone that he was there, and not to come for him until Holy Thursday.

Thus the man departed, and St.Francis remained alone. As there was not shelter where he could stay, he went into a dense thicket where the thorns and little trees formed a kind of hovel or lair, and in that place he devoted himself to prayer and to the contemplation of celestial things. There he remained all through Lent without eating or drinking , except for half of one of the little loaves, as was discovered by his follower on Holy Thursday, when he came back form him and found one of the two loves untouched, and half of of the other. It is thought that he ate the other half out of reverence for Christ's fast, when our Lord fasted forty days and forty nights without taking any material sustenance. And thus by eating that half loaf, St.Francis banished the poison of vainglory, while following the example of Christ by fasting forty days and forty nights.

Later, on that spot where St.Francis had lived in such marvellous abstinence, God wrought many miracles because of his merits, and for that reason men began to erect houses there and dwell in them. After a short time a fine and strong castle was built and also a House for the brethren, which was called the House of the Island. And even to-day the men and women of the settlement have a great reverence for the spot where St.Francis kept the aforesaid Lent.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How Brother Bernard remained Vicar or General of the Order after the death of St.Francis (6)

Brother Bernard's saintliness was such that St.Francis had great reverence for him and praised him many times.

One day while St.Francis was most devoutly at his orisons, it was revealed to him by God that by divine permission Brother Bernard was to sustain many and violent assaults by the demons. Thereupon St.Francis, who had great compassion for the said Brother Bernard, whom he loved as his own son, interceded for him with tears during many days, and recommended him to Jesus Christ, praying that He might give him victory over the devil. One day, while St.Francis was thus praying very devoutly, God spoke to him thus:

"Francis, fear nothing, for all the temptations by which Brother Bernard must be assailed are according to God's will for the exercise of virtue and so that he may gain the crown of merit; in the end he will triumph over all the fiends, for his place is prepared at the celestial banquet."

Hearing this answer, St.Francis gave thanks to God very joyfully, and from that hour onwards he regarded Brother Bernard with even greater affection and reverence than heretofore. This he did not only show him during his lifetime, but also at his death.

For when St.Francis was about to die, surrounded like the patriarch Jacob by his devoted sons, who were mourning and weeping at parting from so lovable a father, he asked:

"Where is my first-born? Come to me, son, so that my soul may bless you before I die."

Thereupon Brother Bernard whispered to Brother Elias, who was Vicar of the Order: "Father, you go to the right hand of the Saint that he may bless you."

As Brother Elias placed himself at his right hand, St.Francis, who had lost his sight through too much weeping, laid the said hand on Brother Elia's head and said:

"This is not the head of my first-born, Brother Bernard."

Then Brother Bernard approached him from the left, and St.Francis crossed his arms and laid his right hand on the head of Brother Bernard and his left on Brother Elias, and said to the former: "May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you with every spiritual and celestial benediction in Christ, for you were the first to be chosen in this holy Order to give an evangelical example and follow Christ in evangelical poverty, and you not only gave away what you had and distributed it entirely and freely to the poor for the love of Christ, but you offered your own person to God in this Order, as a sacrifice of sweetness; blessed be you therefore by our Lord Jesus Christ, and by me, his poor little servant, with eternal benedictions, walking and standing, waking and sleeping, living and dying. Whosoever blesses you shall be blessed, and he who curses you will not remain unpunished. Be you the principal of off your brethren, let all the friars obey your commands. You shall have licence to receive whom you will into this Order, and to eject from it whom you will, and no brother shall have authority over you, and you shall be free to go and to stay wherever you will."

After the death of St.Francis, the brethren loved and reverenced Brother Bernard as their venerable father. And when he was about to die, many friars from different parts of the world came to him, and among them came the divinely initiated Brother Giles and said to him joyfully: "Sursum corda, Brother Bernard, sursum corda!" And the holy Brother Bernard said secretly to one of the friars that they should prepare a place suitable to meditation for Brother Giles, and this was don. "When Brother Bernard was in the last hour of his agony, he caused himself to be raised up and spoke to the brothers who were with him, saying:

"My very dear brothers, I do not want to say many words to you, but you must remember that you have the same state of religion that I had, and the state I have now you will have. And I know in my soul that to gain a thousand worlds like this one I would not have renounced serving our Lord Jesus Christ and you. I entreat you, my dearest brothers, to love one another."

And after these words and other good admonishments he lay back on his bed and his face became resplendent and joyful beyond measure, at which all the brethren were greatly amazed, and in that joyfulness his saintly soul, crowned with glory, passed from the present life to the blessed life of the angels. Praise be and glory to Christ, Amen.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Brother Bernard founded a House at Bologna (5)

As St.Francis and his companions were called and chosen by God to carry the cross of Christ in their hearts, and to preach it by their deeds and with their tongues, so they seemed and were men crucified, as much by the actions as by the austerity of their lives, and because they preferred shame and contumely for the love of Christ to the honours, the respect and the vain praises of the world. They even rejoiced in insults and mourned when they were honoured.

It happened in the beginning of the Order that St.Francis sent Brother Bernard to Bologna so that he might bring forth fruit for God there, according to the grace which had been vouchsafed him.

And Brother Bernard, signing himself with the sign of the cross for holy obedience, sallied out and arrived at Bologna.

When the children saw him in his vile, threadbare habit, they scoffed and jeered at him as at a madman. Brother Bernard endured it all patiently and gaily for the love of Christ, and wishing to be even more ill-used he set himself purposely in the principal square of the city. As he was sitting there, a crowd of boys and men collected round him; one tugged at his cowl from the back, another from the front, another again pelted him with dust, another with stones, and some pushed him about. But Brother Bernard remained unperturbed and patient, his countenance serene, and neither complained nor moved away, and for several days he returned to this place to endure similar treatment.

Since patience is a work of perfection and a proof of virtue, a learned doctor of the law, seeing the great constancy and virtue of Brother Bernard, and how he remained unperturbed by all sorts of molestations and taunts, during all these days, said to himself: "It is impossible that this should not be a holy man." And approaching him, he asked: "Who are you; why have you come here?"

And Brother Bernard answered him by putting his hand to his breast and drawing out the Rule of St. Francis, and giving it to him so that he should read it. When he had read it, considering the high state of perfection Brother Bernard had reached, he turned to his companions with amazement and admiration and said:

"Truly, this is the highest state of religious I have ever heard of, and this man and his companions are among the most holy men in this world. It is most pitiful that he should be insulted instead of most highly honoured, for it is certain that he is a great friend of God."

And he said to Brother Bernard: "If you would found a Home in a place suitable for you to serve God, I would gladly give you one for the salvation of my soul."

Brother Bernard answered: " My Lord, I believe that our Lord Jesus Christ inspired you to do this, and I accept your offer gladly for the honour of Christ."

Thereupon the said judge with great gladness and love led Brother Bernard to his house, and then gave him the promised dwelling, where he had everything adapted and prepared at his own expense.

When St.Francis heard all this a sit had come to pass, and how God had operated through Brother Bernard, he gave thanks to God, who was thus beginning to spread the voluntary poor and disciples of the cross, and he sent some of his companions to Bologna and into Lombardy, where they took several Houses in different parts of the country. Praise and all reverence to the good Jesus.

Monday, August 9, 2010

How St.Francis was disturbed when he called Brother Bernard and received no answer (3)

The devoted servant of the Crucified, St.Francis, by the harsh penances he inflicted on himself and his continual weeping, had become nearly blind, so that he could hardly see the light. Once he left the place where he was and went back to seek Brother Bernard to speak with him of divine things. But when he came there, Brother Bernard was a prayer in the wood and called to him "Come and talk to this blind man!"

But Brother Bernard did not answer, for being a ma given to deep contemplation, his mind was suspended and uplifted to God. St.Francis had experienced several times already that Brother Bernard had singular grace in discoursing of God and this was a reason why he wished to converse with him.

After a short interval, he called him again, and then a third time, with the same words, but Brother Bernard did not hear him, and therefore he did not go to him.
Thereupon St.Francis went away rather sadly, feeling surprised and vexed that Brother Bernard had not come to him after he had called him three times. He went away with these thoughts, but after he had gone a little way, he said to his companion: "Wait for me here!" and went to a lonely spot nearby. He collected his soul in prayer and besought God to reveal to him why Brother Bernard had not answered.

Thereupon a voice from God came to him and spoke:
"You poor little man, wherefore are you perturbed? Should a man forsake God for a creature? When you called him, Brother Bernard was communing with Me, that is why he could not come to you, nor answer you; therefore do not be surprised that he could not talk to you, for he was so far away from his body that he could not hear a single one of your words."

When St.Francis had heard this answer given him by God, he immediately returned in great haste to Brother Bernard, to accuse himself in great humility of the thoughts he had harboured against him. When Brother Bernard saw him coming towards him, he hastened to meet him and threw himself at his feet.

St.Francis bade him get up and confessed to him very humbly how perturbed he had been and what he had thought about him, and how God had reproved him for it. Then he concluded with these words: "I command you by holy obedience to do what I will bid you."

St.Bernard feared that St.Francis might order him to do an excessive thing, as he often did, and hoping to escape his obedience in an honest manner, he answered : "I am ready to obey you, if you will promise me to do likewise as I command."

When St.Francis had promised, Brother Bernard said: "Tell me then, Father, what do you want me to do?"

Thereupon St.Francis said: "I command you by holy obedience that, to punish me for my presumption and the impetuosity of my heart, when I throw myself on the ground, you should place your foot on my throat and the other on my mouth, and that you should walk over me three times, crying shame upon me, and that you should say: "Lie there, you lout, son of Pietro Bernadone! What reason have you for your arrogance, you who are such a vile creature!"

Hearing this, Brother Bernard, although he found it very hard to do so, did as St.Francis had commanded for the sake of holy obedience, acquitting himself of it as courteously as he could.

When he had done so, St.Francis said: "Now you command me to do what you want me to do, for I have promised you obedience."

Brother Bernard said: "I command you by holy obedience that, each time we are together, you should reprove and correct me harshly for my faults."

At this St.Francis was amazed, for Brother Bernard was of such saintliness that he held him in great reverence and did not deem him reprehensible in any matter. Therefore from then on St.Francis avoided his company for the said obedience, so that he should not say a reproving word to him whom he knew to be so saintly. But when he desired to see him or to hear him discourse of God, he would leave him as soon as he could and go away.

It was very edifying to see the great love, reverence and humility with which St.Francis treated Brother Bernard and spoke of him, the first-born of his sons. Praise be and glory to Jesus Christ, Amen.