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.