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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A vision of Purgatory on Earth (26b)

Two of those brothers did not live long after their conversion, and entered into Paradise. But the third, surviving them, and thinking of his sins, gave himself up to doing great penitence for fifteen years continually. During that time St.Francis passed on from this miserable life.

When this man had continued his severe penitence for many years it happened that one night, after Matins, he was overcome by so strong a temptation to sleep that he could not resist and keep his vigil as usual. At last he went to his bed to sleep, and suddenly, as he had laid down his head, he was rapt up and carried away in spirit onto a high mountain. Beside it was a deep chasm, in which here and there sharp rocks and pointed stones and uneven cliffs jutted out, so that it was a fearful thing to look down into that chasm. And the angel who was leading that friar pushed him and hurled him down into the precipice, and turning over and over from rock to rock and stone to stone, he at last fell to the bottom of the chasm with all his limbs crushed and broken, as it seemed to him. And as he lay thus injured, on the grond, his guide said to him: "Get up, for you have still a long way to go!"

The friar answered: "You seem to me to be an unwise and cruel man, for you see me lying here at the point of death by the fall you caused me, and now you tell me to get up!" Then the angel came close to him and touched him, and all his limbs were whole and he was healed. Then he showed him a great plain full of sharp and cutting stones and of thorns and thistles, and he told him that he must walk over that plain with bare feet until he reached the end, where he saw a glowing furnace, and he must enter into it. And when the friar had traversed that plain in great anguish and pain, the angel said to him: "Enter into that furnace, for so you must do." And he answered: "Woe is me, what cruel guide you are! You see me on the point of death after passing over that terrible plain, and now to rest me you tell me to go into that glowing furnace!" And looking around him, he saw round the furnace many demons with iron prongs in the hands, and, as he hesitated to enter, they pushed him in suddenly with their prongs.

When he had entered into the furnace he looked round and saw one who had been his godfather who was all in flames, and he asked him: "O my poor godfather, how did you get here?" And he answered: "Come a little further, and you will find your godmother, my wife, and she will tell you the reason of our damnation." The friar went a little further, and there he saw his said godmother burning brightly, surrounded by a measure of grain that was on fire. He asked her: "O my unfortunate and miserable godmother, how did you come to such cruel torments?" And she answered: "At the time of great famine, which St.Francis had foretold, my husband and I falsified the measures of grain and corn we sold, and for that reason I am burning enclosed in this measure."

When she had said these words, the angel who led the friar pushed him outside the furnace and said to him: "Prepare yourself for a terrible journey which you must now undertake!" And the friar complained and said: "O you hard guide, have you no compassion for me? You see that I have been almost burnt to death in that furnace, and now you want to take me on a terrible journey!" Then the angel touched him and made him whole and strong, and then he led him to a bridge which could not be passed without great danger, for it was very frail and narrow and exceedingly slippery, and below it flowed a terrible river full of snakes, dragons and scorpions, which threw out a horrible stench. And the angel said: "Pass over this bridge, for you must cross over it at all costs." And he answered: "And how will I be able to cross it without falling into that fearful river?" The angel said: "Follow me and ut your foot where you see me put mine, and so you will cross over safely."

So the friar followed the angel as he had told him, until he came to the middle of the bridge, and when he was there he angel flew away and, leaving him, alighted on a high mountain very far beyond the bridge. He gazed at the place to which the angel had flown, but, staying behind without a guide and looking down, he saw those terrible beasts thrusting their heads out of the water and opening their mouths, ready to devour him if he should fall. He was so afraid that he did not know what to do or what to say, for he could neither turn back nor go forward. Then, seeing himself in such tribulations with no other refuge than God, he bent down and embraced the bridge and with all his heart and with tears, he recommended himself to God, entreating Him in His most holy mercy to succour him. And when he had prayed, it seemed to hm that he was beginning to put on wings, and therefore he waited with great joy for them to grow so that he might fly away from that bridge to the place where the angel had alighted. But as he did not wait for them to grow perfectly, he fell back on to the bridge and his wings fell off. And it seemed to him that he had waited a hundred and fifty years, or more. In the end he made a supreme effort and lifted himself into the air, and he flew up to the place where the angel had alighted.

And he knocked at the door of the palace in which the angel was, and the porter asked him: "Who are you that have come here?" The friar said: "I am a Brother Minor." The porter replied: "Wait for me, I will go and fetch St.Francis to know whether he recognizes you." While he went to seek St.Francis, the friar began to look round at the marvellous walls of that palace, and they seemed to him to be translucent with light, so that he could see distinctly the choirs of saints within and all that was happening there.

And as he was gazing in amazement, St.Francis appeared and Brother Bernard and Brother Giles, and behind St.Francis such a multitude of holy men and women who had followed the example of his life that they seemed innumerable. When St.Francis had come to him, he said to the porter: "Let him come in, for he is one of my brothers." As soon as he had entered, he experienced such sweetness and consolation that he forgot all the tribulations he had suffered, as though they had never been. And then St.Francis, leading him into the palace, showed him any marvellous things and said to him: "My son, now you must return to the world and stay there seven days, in which you must prepare yourself with great diligence and devotion, for after seven days I shall come for you, and you will be with me in this abode of the blessed."

When the friar returned to himself and became conscious, the brethren were ringing for Prime, although it seemed to him that it had lasted many years. And when he had related to his guardian all he had seen in due manner, within seven days he became feverish, and on the eighth day St.Francis, as he had promised, came for him with a great multitude of glorious saints, and led his soul to the blessed kingdom of life eternal. Praised be Christ, Amen.