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, 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."

No comments:

Post a Comment