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.

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