The fist companion of St.Francis was Brother Bernard of Assisi, who was converted in the following manner.
St.Francis was still wearing secular garb, though he already disdained the world, and going about scorned and mortified for the sake of penitence, so much so that he was looked upon by many men as a fool; he was mocked as a madman, and driven away by his relations and by strangers, who threw stones and mud at him. Yet he endured every insult patiently, as though he were a deaf and dumb. Thereupon Messer Bernard of Assisi, who was one of the most noble, rich and wise men of the city, began to ponder on the Saint's excessive disdain of the world, his great patience in bearing injuries and on the constancy and patience with which he bore himself, although for two whole years he had been hated and despised by all men, and he said to himself that there could be no doubt but that his Francis had abundant grace from God. So he invited him to dine with him one evening and stay the night, and this St.Francis accepted.
Messer Bernard had set his heart on watching his holy manner of life, so he had a bed prepared for him in his own chamber, where he always kept a lamp burning. St.Francis, intent on concealing his saintliness, incontinently threw himself onto the bed as soon as he had entered the room and pretended to sleep. After a while Messer Bernard did likewise, and begun to snore very loudly, as though he were sound asleep.
Thereupon St.Francis, thinking that Messer Bernard was really asleep, arose from his first slumbers and knelt down to pray, lifting his eyes and his hands to heaven, and saying with great fervor and devotion: "My God, my God!" and uttering these words, with abundant tears, he remained until early morning, repeating only the words "My God!" over and over again.
St.Francis pronounced them in contemplation and admiration of the excellence of God's majesty, in deigning to condescend to this perishing world, and through His poor little servant Francis providing a remedy of salvation for his soul and the souls of others. When Messer Bernard saw, in the light of the lamp, the devout acts of St.Francis and had considered the words he spoke, he was touched by the holy spirit and inspired to change his life. Therefore, when it was day, he called St.Francis and said to him:
"Brother Francis, I have decided in my heart to abandon the world and to follow you as you will command me."
Hearing this, St.Francis rejoiced inwardly and said:"Messer Bernard, what you tell me is so great and wonderful a thing that we must seek counsel about it from our Lord Jesus Christ and pray that He should show His will concerning it and teach us how to put it into execution. Therefore let us go together to the Bishop's palace, where there is a good priest, and ask him to say Mass; then we will remain in prayer until Tierce, beseeching God to reveal to us, when we have opened the missal three times, which way it pleases Him that we should elect."
Messer Bernard answered that he would be well pleased to do this. Thereupon they set out and went to the Bishop's palace; after they had heard Mass and remained in prayer until Tierce, the priest did as St.Francis asked him and took the missal and, having made the sign of the cross, opened it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, three times. The first time they found the words Christ spoke to the young man who asked Him how he might attain perfection: "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor...and come and follow me" (Matt.19:21)
When the Messer Bernard heard this, he went out and sold all he had, for he was very rich, and very joyfully he distributed everything among the poor, the widows, the orphans, the pilgrims, the monasteries and the hospitals, and St.Francis helped him faithfully and wisely.
Messer Bernard received such abundant divine grace that he was often rapt in ecstasy. St.Francis said that he was worthy of all reverence, and that it was really he who had founded the Order, seeing that he was the first to leave the world, keeping nothing for himself and giving all he had to Christ's poor, and having embraced the way of evangelical poverty, abandoning himself naked into the arms of the Crucified, whose name be blessed, world without end, Amen.