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

Monday, December 27, 2010

How a rich and courteous gentleman was converted by St.Francis (37)

One evening late, St.Francis, the servant of Christ, arrived at the house of a great and powerful gentleman to lodge there, and he and his companion were received like angels from paradise, with the greatest courtesy and devotion. This awakened great love for this gentleman in St.Francis, considering how, when he entered into his house, he had embraced and kissed them affectionately, then had washed their feet and lit a great firre and prepared the table with much good food. And while they were eating, the gentleman served them continually with a happy mien.

When St.Francis and his companion had eaten, that gentleman said: "Look, father, I offer myself and all my property to you; whenever you need a tunic or a cloak or anything whatever, buy them and I will pay; and understand that I am prepared to provide for all your needs, as by the grace of God I can, seeing that I have and abundance of earthly goods, and for the love of Him who has bestowed them on me I will gladly do good to His poor."

St.Francis, seeing in him so much courtesy and loving kindness, and hearing his generous offer, conceived so great an affection for him, that, when he had taken his leave, he said to his companion as they walked: "Truly, that gentleman would be an advantage to our community, for he is so grateful to God and so kindly and courteous towards his neighbor and the poor. Know, my dearest brother, that courtesy is one of the attributes of God, who bestows His sun and His rain on just and unjust alike, out of courtesy. And courtesy is the sister of charity, who extinguishes hatred and preserves love. And because I have seen in this good man such divine virtue, I would gladly have him for my companion. Therefore I would like us to return to him one day, in case God should have touches his heart so that he might desire to follow us into the service of God. In the meanwhile we will pray God to give him the grace to put this into effect." Marvellous to relate, a few days later, just as St.Francis had been at prayer, God put that desire into the heart of that gentleman. And he saw St.Francis standing in prayer devoutly and uplifted bodily from the earth for a considerable time. By this he was so touched by God and inspired to leave the world that he instantly went out of his palace, and in fervour of spirit ran towards St.Francis, and, coming to him as he was in prayer, he knelt down at his feat and with great insistence and devotion he entreated him to be pleased to receive him that he might do penance together with him.

Then St.Francis, seeing that God had granted his prayer, and that that gentleman was asking with great insistence for what he himself wished, arose in fervour and gladness of spirit, and embraced and kissed him, devoutly giving thanks to God, who had increased his company by so perfect a knight. And that gentleman said to St.Francis: "What do you command that I should do, my father? Look I am prepared to give all I possess to the poor and to follow Christ with you, relieved of all temporal things."

And so he did and according to the bidding of St.Francis he distributed his property among the poor and entered the Order, where he led a life of great penitence and saintliness and goodly conversation. Praise be to Christ.

How St.Louis, the King of France, came to visit Brother Giles, and how they understood each other without speaking (34)

St.Louis,, the King of France, went on a pilgrimage to the holy places of the world, and when he heard of the celebrated sanctity of Brother Giles, who had been one of St.Francis's first companions he set his heart on visiting him in person. For this reason he came to Perugia, where the said Brother Giles dwelt at that time, and, coming to the door of the house of the brothers like a poor unknown pilgrim with few companions, he asked with great insistency for Brother Giles, saying nothing to the porter as to who it was who was asking for him.

So the porter went to Brother Giles and told him that there was a pilgrim at the door, asking for him; God revealed to Brother Giles in his spirit that this was the King of France, therefore with great fervour he came out of his cell and ran to the door. And without any questioning, although they had never seen each other before, they both knelt down with great devotion and embraced and kissed each other with such affection as though they had been close friends for a long time. But during all this time neither said a word to the other, but continued to hold each other in their arms with signs of loving charity in silence. And after they had remained in the said manner for a long while without saying a word, they parted from each other, and St.Louis continued on his journey and Brother Giles returned to his cell.

When the king left, a friar asked one of his companions who it was who had stayed so long with this arms round Brother Giles, and he answered that he was Louis, King of France, who had com to see Brother Giles. When he told this to the other friars, they were exceedingly distressed that Brother Giles had not uttered a word and complaining, they said to him: "Brother Giles, why were you so boorish and did not speak to such a king, who has come all the way from France to see you and to receive a good word from you?"

Brother Giles answered: "My dearest brothers, do not be surprised at this, for I could not say a word to him nor he to me because, as soon as we embraced each other, the light of divine wisdom revealed his heart to me and mine to him. And so, by a divine operation looking into each other's hearts, we understood far better what we wanted to say to each other than if we had spoken with our lips, and we received greater consolation. And if we wanted to explain in words what we felt in our hearts, but the defects of the human language, which cannot give clear expression to the secret mysteries of God, we would have been disappointed rather than consoled, and yet you know now that the king departed marvellously comforted." Praise be to Christ, Amen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How St.Clare, at the command of the Pope, blessed the bread on the table, and how the cross appeared on each loaf (33)

St.Clare, that most devout disciple of the Cross of Christ, and noble plant of St.Francis, was of such saintliness that not only the Bishops and the Cardinals, but even the Pope, desired, with great affection to see her, and the latter often visited her in person. Once when the holy father had come to her convent to hear hear speak of celestial and divine things, and while they were together, conversing on divine topics, St.Clare ordered the tables to be prepared and the loaves lain on them, for the holy father to bless them. Therefore, when their spiritual conversation was over, St.Clare knelt down with great reverence and begged him to be pleased to bless the bread laid on the table.

The holy father said:"Most faithful Sister Clare, I wish you yourself to bless this bread and make over it the sign of the Cross of Christ, to whom you have given yourself entirely."

And St.Clare said: "Most holy father, excuse me, for I wish would deserve the severest reproof if, in front of the Vicar of Christ, I, who am only a poor little female, would presume to give this blessing."

And the Pope answered: "So that this may not be reckoned as presumption, but as a work of obedience, I command you to make the sign of the Cross over this bread and to bless it in the name of God."

Thereupon St.Clare, as a true daughter of obedience, blessed the bread most devoutly with the sign of the holy Cross. And, marvellous to relate, instantly there appeared on every loaf the sign of the Cross most beautifully impressed. Then a part of the bread was eaten, and a part kept because of the miracle. And the holy father, having see the said miracle, took of the said bread and, thanking God, departed, leaving St.Clare with his benediction.

At that time there dwelt at the convent Sister Ortolana, the mother of St.Clare and Sr.Agnes, her bodily sister, both of them, like St.Clare, full of virtues and of the Holy Spirit, and with them many other saintly nuns. St.Francis sent many sick people to them, and they, with their prayers and the sign of the Cross, gave them back their health. Praised be Christ, Amen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How Brother Masseo obtained from the blessed Lord the perfect virtue of humility (32)

The first companions of St.Francis strove with all their might to be poor in earthly goods and rich in virtues, by which one can obtain the true wealth of heavenly and eternal riches. One day it happend that they were gathered together and talkin of God, and one of them told them this example: "Once there was a man who was a great friend of God and possessed much grace of active and contemplative life, and also a so excessive and deep humility that he considered himself the greatest of sinners; this humility sanctified him and confirmed him in the state of grace, and made him continually increase in virtue and in God's gifts, and never allowed him to fall into sin."

When Brother Masseo heard such marvellous things said of humility, and knowing that it was a treasure of eternal life, he began to be so inflamed with love and desire for this virtue of humility that, raising his eyes to heaven in great fervour, he made a vow and firm resolve never to rejoice again in this world until he should feel the perfection of this virtue in his soul. From then on he remained almost continually locked up in his cell, mortifying himself with fasts, vigils, orisons and bitter tears before the Lord, so as to obtain from Him this virtue without which he considered himself worthy of hell, and which had been so abundantly given to that friend of God he had heard about.

When Brother Masseo had been in this state for many days, it happened that one day he went into the wood and in fervour of spirit he roamed around, shedding abundant tears, sighing and moaning, and imploring God with Fervent desire to give him this divine virtue. Because God willingly grants the prayers of humble and contrite hearts, while Brother Masseo was thus praying, a voice came from heaven and called him twice: "Brother Masseo! Brother Masseo!"

And he, knowing by the spirit that this was the voice of Christ, answered thus: "My Lord, my Lord." And Christ said to him: "What will you give to have this grace you ask?" And Brother Masseo answered: "Lord, I will give the eyes of my head." Christ said to him: "But I will that you should have the grace and keep your eyes."

And having said this, the voice ceased, and Brother Masseo remained filled with such grace of the desired virtue of humility and with the light of God, that from then on he was always in a state of jubilation; and sometimes, when he prayed, he would keep up a monotonous sound of jubilation like the deep cooing of a turtledove, "uh! uh! uh!" and with a happy countenance and a joyful heart he would remain thus in contemplation, and he had now become profoundly humble, he considered himself to be less than any man in the world. When Brother Jacopo da Falerone asked him why, in his song of jubilation, he never changed his tone, he replied very happily that if we find all contentment in a thing, there was not need to change a note. Praised be Jesus Christ.

How St.Francis and Brother Ruffino preached naked at Assisi (30)

The said Brother Ruffino, by incessant contemplation, had become so absorbed in God that he was almost insensible and speechless, and he spoke but very rarely; besides, he had neither the grace, the fire nor the eloquence of a preacher. Nevertheless St.Francis one day ordered him to go to Assisi and preach to the people as God should inspire him. Thereupon Brother Ruffino replied: "Reverend Father, I beg you to excuse me and not to send me there, for, as you know, I have not the grace of preaching, and I am simple and ignorant.

Then St.Francis said: "Because you have not obeyed me at once, I order you by holy obedience to go naked, with nothing on but your breeches, to Assisi, and enter a church, and thus naked preach to the people." At this command Brother Ruffino stripped himself, went to Assisi and entered a church, and preached thus naked to the people. Thereat the boys and the men began to laugh, and they said: "Now look, they do so much penance that they lose their wits!"

Meanwhile, St.Francis, thinking over Brother Ruffino's prompt obedience, and that he was one of the first generation of Assisi, and what a harsh order he had given him, began to reproach himself thus: "Where do you get such presumption, son of Peter Bernadone, wretched little man, as to order Brother Ruffino, who is the first gentleman of Assisi, to go and preach to the people naked like a madman? By God, you shall try out yourself what you command to others."

And at once, in great fervour of spirit, he stripped himself naked in like manner and went to Assisi, taking with him Brother Leo (who was keeping a strict hold on his thoughts) so that he should carry his own habit and that of Brother Ruffino. And when the Assisians saw him thus, they jeered at him, thinking that he and Brother Ruffino had lost their wits through too much penance. St.Francis entered into the church, where Brother Ruffino was just preaching these words: "O dearest brothers, flee the world, put away sin, give back the goods of others if you want to escape hell; observe the commandments of God, loving the Lor and your neighbors, if you want to go to heaven; and do penance, if you want to possess the kingdom of heaven."

Then St.Francis, naked as he was, went up onto the pulpit and he began to preach so marvellously on the contempt of the world, on holy penitence, on voluntary poverty, on the longing for the celestial kingdom, and on the nakedness and shame of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that all those who heard the sermon, men and women in great multitudes, began to week most bitterly with incredible devotion and contrition. And not only here; but throughout the whole of Assisi, there was such weeping for the Passion of Christ that nothing similar had ever been seen.

And while the people were thus edified and consoled by the act of St.Francis and Brother Ruffino, St.Francis helped Brother Ruffino into his habit and put on his own again, and so they returned to the hermitage of Portiuncula, praising and glorifying God who had given them the strength to overcome themselves out of contempt for self, and to edify the little sheep of Christ with a good example, showing how the world is to be despised. And on that day the devotion of the people towards them increased so greatly that everyone who could touch the hem of their garment considered himself blessed. Praised by Christ, the Blessed One, Amen.

Friday, December 3, 2010

How, when St.Francis preached at Bologna, many were converted to do penitence, and how Brother Ricceri was comforted in his temptations (27)

Once, when St.Francis came to the city of Bologna (summer 1222) all the inhabitants ran out to see him, and the crowd was so great that he could only reach the square with difficulty, for it was filled with men and women and students. St.Francis mounted on to a raised place in the middle and began to preach, as the Holy Spirit inspired him, and he spoke such marvellous things that it seemed more like the preaching of an angel than of a man. And his celestial words were like pointed arrows that pierced the hearts of all who heart them, so that a great multitude of men and women were converted to repentance by this sermon.

Among them were two young noblemen, students from the March of Ancona; one was called Pellegrino (of the House of Falcerone), the other Riccieri (of Muccia). These two, touched to the heart by divine inspiration, through the said sermon, came to the world and join his brethren. Then Francis, knowing by revelation that these two had been sent by God and they would lead a good life in the Order, and considering their great fervour, received them joyfully, saying to them; "You, Pellegrino, will walk the path of humility in the Order! And you, Brother Riccieri, will serve the brethren."

And so it happened, for Brother Pellegrino never wished to take orders, but to remain a layman, although he was very lettered and versed in canon law; through which humility he arrived at great perfection of virtue, so much so that Brother Bernard, St.Francis's first-born, said of him that he was one of the most perfect friars in the world. And in the end the said Brother Pellegrino, filled with virtue, passed on from this life to the life eternal, and many miracles took place before his death and after.

And the said Brother Riccieri devoutly and faithfully served the brethren, living in great sanctity and humility, and he became very familiar with St.Francis, and the Saint revealed many secrets to him. And having become minister of the province of the March of Ancona, he ruled it for a long time with great peace and wisdom. After some time, God allowed a terrible temptation to arise in his soul, being deeply trouble and anguished by it, he mortified himself with fasts, discipline, tears and orisons by day and by night and yet he could not drive away that temptation, and often he was in great despair, for many times be believed himself forsaken by God.

While he as thus despairing, he decided as a last remedy to go to St.Francis, saying to himself: "If St.Francis looks at me kindly and shows me the familiarity he used to, then I will believe that God will still take pity on me, but if he does not, then I will know by that sign that I am forsaken by God."

So he set out and went to St.Francis, who at the time was lying gravely sick at the palace of the Bishop of Assisi; and God revealed to the Saint all that concerned the temptation and the despair of that friar, as well as his purpose and his coming. And instantly St.Francis called Brother Leo and Brother Masseo and said to them: "Go quickly to meet my dearest son, Brother Riccieri, and embrace him for me, and salute him and tell him that among all the friars that are in the world I cherish him especially.

And they went out and met Brother Riccieri an the road, and they embraced him and told him what St.Francis had bidden them to say. Through this such sweetness of consolation flooded his soul that he was almost beside himself, and thanking God with all his heart, he went on and came to the place where St.Francis was lying sick.

And although St.Francis was grievously ill, nevertheless when he heard Brother Riccieri coming, he got up and went to meet him and embraced him most lovingly, saying: "My dearest son, Brother Riccieri,, among all the friars that are in the world I cherish you especially!" And having said this, he signed Brother Riccieri's forehead with the sign of the Cross and kissed him on that spot, and then said: "My dearest son, God has allowed you to suffer that temptation for your great gain and merit, but if you no longer desire that gain, you need not have it!"

Marvellous to relate, as soon as St.Francis had uttered these words, every temptation was suddenly taken fro him, as though he had never experienced one in his life, and he remained wholly comforted. Praise be to Christ. Amen.