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

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.

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