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, December 11, 2010

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.

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