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, 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.