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

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.

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