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The smile cannot be a laugh. A tear lingers just behind it. The artless art of Ugolino if it be his was pure art in the sense that it presents concepts as image, each image replete with conceptual suggestiveness. Saint Francis nibbling at his "second loaf", in order not to sin by presumption in equalling the Lord's fast of forty days; the Pope's curiosity to see Saint Clare make the Cross appear in the crust of her buns; the two dialogues of the friars with their translated brethren; the Saint's long wrestling with the Devil; Satan's revenge by causing a landslide with the swish of his tail; the astonishment of the "ladies and the cavaliers" at the holy spectacle of the first "Chapter"; Brother Bernard's founding of the Order at Bologna - the Fioretti are all scenes that could be painted and were painted, as legend asserts, by Giotto.

As the pictures multiply, the mood deepens in beauty and richness - and we must not forget to smile, meantime; for the perfection of humility and Christian love which the friars exemplify is attained by the most humble and direct of mechanical means. One can well understand the ancient quarrel in the Order. These untutored converts of Saint Francis were playing with a magic art, which evoked the Devil when it was black, and constrained the appearance of the Divinity when of brighter hue XLIX.

There is little, if any, theology about these simple friars. Such questions belonged to those who were lettered and knew people off in the big towns, Rome, perhaps. They cared little about such things, having found in faith at all times, and now and again in "rapture", a direct access to the benign powers. One feels a sort of regional secretiveness in this technique of virtue, which also was practised in individual secretiveness, lest pride success give Satan his chance.

The sweetness of this child-like literalism resides in part, I believe, in an absence of a note of spiritual "arrivism", or spiritual "climbing", which one so minded can find even offensive in a Dante or a Savonarola. These straightforward souls of the brotherhood of Saint Francis wanted to keep out of Hell because it was hot, and to get out of Purgatory because it was uncomfortable.

Introduction

Yet they, too, like Jesus, visioned a love so great that willingly the least of them would have accepted damnation so only the world might have been saved. If one seek the moral theme in this early Franciscanism, one finds at least a morality that is made always for oneself and not for other people. Here again on earth were men who judged not, who loved the lost even more than the virtuous, and the bandit as much as the cavalier.

It was, after all, a snug and cosy world, the world in which these early Franciscans lived, a world personally supervised by its Creator, who walked the earth as a man among men, and who loved His creatures with a parent's love, assisted in His care of them by His Son and His Son's Mother. Thus warmly had Jesus thought of the world in His time - a projection, perhaps, as Renan suggests, of a verdant Galilee blossoming in the Syrian desert.

This "naturalism" of the early Franciscans, so beautifully expressed in the lauds and in the "Canticle" of the Saint himself, finds surely in the Little Flowers its most complete and beautiful expression. It has been through them that the birds who stretched their throats and bowed their heads in approval of the Saint's exhortation to praise have ever since made their chirping voices heard above the noisy history of Europe.

To savor this naturalism in its full freshness one need only turn to some expression of the naturalisms of a later day, that of the Rousseauians or of our own Emerson or Thoreau. These two were efforts to being God back into the world from which He had been exiled by Cartesian logic.

The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi by Francis of Assisi

But how vain the effort! How unsatisfactory a God that is only Nature, and how literary and metaphorial a Nature which we must think of as God! It is a more real and understandable thing, this Nature of the early Franciscans, the "useful", "humble", "comfortable" invention of a God who could be used, if one treated Him right, for the humble commonplace needs of common everyday people.

And we have said nothing about Frate Lupo! There are those who say he was a man, perhaps a bandit by that name. Anyone who can read the Little Flowers without understanding that Frate Lupo was a wolf, will, like those who cannot smile, have read them in vain! How the angel of God put a question to Brother Elias, guardian of Val di Spoleto, and how, when Brother Elias answered proudly, the angel departed from him, and took the road to San Giacomo, where he met Brother Bernard and told him what follows V.

How St Francis passed the time of Lent in an island, on the lake of Perugia, where he fasted forty days and forty nights, eating no more than half of one loaf VIII. How St Francis, having been told by St Clare and the holy Brother Silvester that he should preach and convert many to the faith, founded the Third Order, preached to the birds, and reduced to silence the swallows XVII.

How the vine of the priest of Rieti, whose house St Francis entered to pray, was trampled under foot by the great numbers who came to see him, and how it yet produced a greater quantity of wine than usual, as St Francis had promised; and how the Lord revealed to the saints that heaven would be his portion when he left this world XX.

Of a beautiful vision which appeared to a young man who hated the habits of St Francis so greatly, that he was on the point of leaving the Order XXI. How St Francis healed miraculously a leper both in his body and in his soul, and what the soul said to him on going up to heaven XXVI. How St Francis converted certain robbers and assassins, who became friars; and of a wonderful vision which appeared to one of them who was a most holy brother XXVII. How the devil often appeared to Brother Ruffino in the form of a crucifix, telling him that all the good he did was of no avail, seeing he was not of the number of the elect of God; which being revealed to St Francis, he made known to Brother Ruffino the error into which he had fallen XXX.

How the venerable Brother Simon delivered a brother from a great temptation, on account of which he was on the point of leaving the Order XLII. How Brother Conrad of Offida converted a young brother, who was a stumbling-block to the other brothers; and how after death his soul appeared to Brother Conrad, begging him to pray for him; and how through his prayers he was delivered from the great pains of Purgatory XLIV.

How a holy friar, having read in the legend of St Francis of the secret words spoken to him by the seraph, prayed so earnestly to God that St Francis revealed them to him LV.

The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi Reader’s Guide

Of a holy friar who saw a wonderful vision of a companion who was dead LVII. How Brother Juniper cut off the foot of a pig to give it to a sick brother II. How, by the contrivance of the devil, Brother Juniper was condemned to the gallows IV. How Brother Juniper gave all that he had to the poor for the love of God V.

St. Francis

How Brother Juniper took certain little bells from the alter, and gave them away for the love of God VI. His remedy for temptations of the flesh VIII. How Brother Juniper, in order to be despised, played at see-saw X. How Brother Juniper once cooked for the brethren enough to last for a fortnight XI.


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Of the hand which Brother Juniper saw in the air XV. How Brother Giles praised obedience more than prayer V. How Brother Giles lived by the labour of his hands VI. How Brother Giles was miraculously assisted in a great necessity when, by reason of a heavy fall of snow, he was hindered from going out to quest VII.


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  6. How a holy man, being in prayer, saw the soul of Brother Giles pass to eternal life IX. How, by the merits of Brother Giles, the soul of the friend of a Friar Preacher was delivered from the pains of Purgatory X. Of vices and virtues II. Of holy humility IV. Of the holy fear of God V. Of holy patience VI. Of the contempt of temporal things VIII. Of holy chastity IX. Of holy penance XI.

    Francis is famously associated with the birds and animals. Which anecdotes here are particularly informative about his approach to the animals and the natural world? Which stories most powerfully illustrate this philosophy of St. What is the attitude toward the body that was embraced by St. Francis and his followers? Notice that in several stories a cure from illness is shortly followed by a happy death [see p.

    Francis attempt to instruct us in our attitude toward death? Medieval narratives about the lives of the saints are quite different from what the modern reader is used to, since the medieval author was writing for an audience which believed completely in the miraculous. What role do visions and miracles play in these tales? In order to be proper readers of this text, do we need to makes ourselves receptive to the miraculous, to suspend our disbelief? Medieval narratives often have a strong moral or didactic purpose. How does the author of these tales attempt to change the lives of his readers?

    When he approached the town, such a multitude came out to meet him, that he would not go into the city, but went to a church which was about two miles of. But the people, hearing where he was gone, went thither to see him; so that the vine which surrounded the church was greatly injured, and all the grapes were gathered; at which the priest, to whom it belonged, was very grieved in his heart, and repented of having received St Francis in his church.

    The thought of the priest being revealed to the saint, he called him to him and said: The priest, having faith in the promise of St Francis, left the vineyard open to all those who came to see him. And, wonder of wonders! This miracle teaches us that as, in consequence of the merits of St Francis, the vine, though despoiled of its grapes, produced an abundance of wine, so in the same way many Christians, whose sins had made them barren of virtue, through the saint's preaching and merits, have often come to abound in the good fruit of repentance.

    A young man, of noble birth, and of delicate habits, who had entered the Order of St Francis, was seized after a few days, through the devil,s suggestions, with a violent dislike of the habit that he wore: It was the custom of this young man, at whatever hour he passed before the altar in the convent at which the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, to kneel down with great respect and, covering his head with his hood and crossing his arms on his breast, to prostrate himself, as he had been taught to do by the master of novices.

    It so happened, that the night when he had made up his mind to leave the convent, he passed before the altar, and, kneeling down as he was wont to do, he prostrated himself to the ground, and, being ravished in spirit, the Lord sent him a most wonderful vision. He saw before him a great multitude of saints ranged in procession, two by two, clothed in vestments made of precious material: Two of them were more nobly and more richly dressed than the rest, and surrounded by such a blaze of light that none could look on them without being dazzled.

    At the end of the procession was one so gloriously adorned, that he seemed, like a new knight, to be more favoured than the others. Now the young man, seeing such a beautiful procession, was struck with wonder; but although he could not guess the meaning of the vision, he dared not ask, and seemed struck dumb with amazement. When the procession had almost passed away, he took courage, and addressing himself to those who were in the rear, he said: Now, my son, do not find the robe of religion too rough to wear; for if, clothed in the sackcloth of St Francis, and out of love to Christ, thou dost despise the world, mortifying thy flesh, and fighting valiantly against the devil, thou too shalt receive these splendid vestments, and shine with this glorious light.

    At the time when St Francis was living in the city of Gubbio, a large wolf appeared in the neighbourhood, so terrible and so fierce, that he not only devoured other animals, but made a prey of men also; and since he often approached the town, all the people were in great alarm, and used to go about armed, as if going to battle. Notwithstanding these precautions, if any of the inhabitants ever met him alone, he was sure to be devoured, as all defence was useless: St Francis, feeling great compassion for the people of Gubbio, resolved to go and meet the wolf, though all advised him not to do so.

    Making the sign of the holy cross, and putting all his confidence in God, he went forth from the city, taking his brethren with him; but these fearing to go any further, St Francis bent his steps alone toward the spot where the wolf was known to be, while many people followed at a distance, and witnessed the miracle. The wolf, seeing all this multitude, ran towards St Francis with his jaws wide open. As he approached, the saint, making the sign of the cross, cried out: And the saint thus addressed him: All men cry out against thee, the dogs pursue thee, and all the inhabitants of this city are thy enemies; but I will make peace between them and thee, O brother wolf, is so be thou no more offend them, and they shall forgive thee all thy past offences, and neither men nor dogs shall pursue thee any more.

    On this St Francis added: Said St Francis again: Then said St Francis, addressing him again: Now, the news of this most wonderful miracle spreading quickly through the town, all the inhabitants, both men and women, small and great, young and old, flocked to the market-place to see St Francis and the wolf. All the people being assembled, the saint got up to preach, saying, amongst other things, how for our sins God permits such calamities, and how much greater and more dangerous are the flames of hell, which last for ever, than the rage of a wolf, which can kill the body only; and how much we ought to dread the jaws of hell, if the jaws of so small an animal as a wolf can make a whole city tremble through fear.

    The sermon being ended, St Francis added these words: Then St Francis continued: Now this event caused great joy in all the people, and a great devotion towards St Francis, both because of the novelty of the miracle, and because of the peace which had been concluded with the wolf; and they lifted up their voices to heaven, praising and blessing God, who had sent them St Francis, through whose merits they had been delivered from such a savage beast.

    The wolf lived two years at Gubbio; he went familiarly from door to door without harming anyone, and all the people received him courteously, feeding him with great pleasure, and no dog barked at him as he went about. At last, after two years, he died of old age, and the people of Gubbio mourned his loss greatly; for when they saw him going about so gently amongst them all, he reminded them of the virtue and sanctity of St Francis. A certain young man having caught one day a great number of doves, as he was to sell them he met St Francis, who always felt a great compassion for such gentle animals; and, looking at the doves with eyes of pity, he said to the young man: I will save you from death, and make your nests, that you may increase and multiply, according to the command of God.

    Then said St Francis to the young man who had given them to him: St Francis, being one day in prayer in the Convent of the Portiuncula, saw, by the revelation of God, that all the convent was surrounded and besieged by devils, as by a great army; but none could penetrate into the convent, because the brothers were so holy that the demons could not enter into any of them. They remained, however, on the watch, until one day a certain brother being offended by another, thought in his heart how he could accuse and do him harm.

    Having yielded to this evil thought, the devil, seeing a way open to him, entered the convent and took possession of the brother. On this St Francis, like a vigilant pastor, ever watching over his flock, seeing the brother, and commanded him to confess immediately the hatred he had nourished in his heart towards his neighbour, which had caused him to fall into the power of the enemy.

    The brother, much alarmed, and seeing that his saintly father had penetrated into his deepest thoughts, confessed the evil feeling which had entered into his heart, and humbly asked pardon and penance. When he had done this, and being absolved of his sin had accepted his penance, St Francis beheld the devil to flee away; and the brother, being freed from such a cruel monster through the charity of his good shepherd, thanked God, and returned to the little flock of the saintly pastor corrected and strengthened, and lived afterwards in great sanctity.

    St Francis, urged by zeal for the faith of Christ and by a wish to suffer martyrdom, took with him one day twelve of his most holy brethren, and went beyond the sea with the intention of going straight to the Sultan of Babylon. They arrived in a province belonging to the Saracens, where all the passes were guarded by men so cruel, that no Christian who passed that way could escape being put to death. Now it pleased God that St Francis and his companions should not meet with the same fate; but they were taken prisoners, and after being bound and ill-treated, were led before the Sultan.

    Then St Francis standing before him, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached most divinely the faith of Christ; and to prove the truth of what he said, professed himself ready to enter into the fire. Now the Sultan began to feel a great devotion towards him, both because of the constancy of his faith, and because he despised the things of this world for he had refused to accept any of the presents which he had offered to him , and also because of his ardent wish to suffer martyrdom.

    From that moment he listened to him willingly, and begged him to come back often, giving both him and his companions leave to preach wheresoever they pleased; he likewise gave them a token of his protection, which would preserve them from all molestation. At length St Francis, seeing he could do no more good in those parts, was warned by God to return with his brethren to the land of the faithful. Having assembled his companions, they went together to the Sultan to take leave of him.

    The Sultan said to him: As thou mayest still do much good, and I have certain affairs of great importance to conclude, I will not at present be the cause of thy death and of mine. But teach me how I can be saved, and I am ready to do as thou shalt order. Then St Francis returned with his company of venerable and saintly brethren, and after a few years ending his mortal life, he gave up his soul to God. The Sultan, having fallen ill, awaited the fulfillment of the promise of St Francis, and placed guards in all the passes, ordering them if they met two brothers in the habit of St Francis to conduct them immediately to him.

    At the same time St Francis appeared to two of his friars, and ordered them without delay to go to the Sultan and save his soul, according to the promise he had made him. The two set out, and having crossed the sea, were conducted to the Sultan by the guards he had sent out to meet them. The Sultan, when he saw them arrive, rejoiced greatly, and exclaimed: The true disciple of Christ, St Francis, as long as he lived in this miserable life, endeavoured with all his might to follow the example of Christ the perfect Master; whence it happened often, through the operation of grace, that he healed the soul at the same time as the body, as we read of Jesus Christ himself; and not only did he willingly serve the lepers himself, but he willed that all the brethren of his Order, both when they were travelling about the world and when they were halting on their way, should serve the lepers for the love of Christ, who for our sake was willing to be treated as a leper.

    It happened once, that in a convent near the one in which St Francis then resided there was a hospital for leprosy and other infirmities, served by the brethren; and one of the patients was a leper so impatient, so insupportable, and so insolent, that many believed of a certainty that he was possessed of the devil as indeed he was for he ill-treated with blows and words all those who served him; and, what was worse, he blasphemed so dreadfully our Blessed Lord and his most holy Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, that none was found who could or would serve him.

    The brethren, indeed, to gain merit, endeavoured to accept with patience the injuries and violences committed against themselves, but their consciences would not allow them to submit to those addressed to Christ and to his Mother, wherefore they determined to abandon this leper, but this they would not do until they had signified their intention to St Francis, according to the Rule. On learning this, St Francis, who was not far distant, himself visited this perverse leper, and said to him: For not only am I greatly afflicted by my infirmity, but the friars thou hast sent to serve me make it even worse, for they do not serve me as they ought.

    Having finished his prayer, he returned to the leper and said to him: On this the leper, seeing his leprosy beginning to vanish, felt great sorrow and repentance for his sins, and began to weep bitterly. While his body was being purified externally of the leprosy through the cleansing of the water, so his soul internally was purified from sin by the washing of tears and repentance; and feeling himself completely healed both in his body and his soul, he humbly confessed his sins, crying out in a loud voice, with many tears: I am worthy of hell for the wickedness of my conduct to the brethren, and the impatience and blasphemy I have uttered against the Lord"; and for fifteen days he ceased not to weep bitterly for his sins, imploring the Lord to have mercy on him, and them made a general confession to a priest.

    St Francis, perceiving this evident miracle which the Lord had enabled him to work, returned thanks to God, and set out for a distant country; for out of humility he wished to avoid all glory, and in all his actions he sought only the glory of God, and not his own. It pleased God that the leper, who had been healed both in his body and in his soul, after having done penance for fifteen days, should fall ill of another infirmity; and having received the sacraments of the Church, he died a most holy death.

    His soul on its way to heaven appeared in the air to St Francis, who was praying in a forest, and said to him: Blessed by thy soul and thy body, blessed by thy holy words and works, for through thee many souls are saved in the world; and know that there is not a single day in which the angels and other saints do not return thanks to God for the holy fruits of thy preaching and that of thy Order in various parts of the world. Be comforted, then, and thank the Lord, and may his blessing rest on thee. As St Francis went one day through the desert of Borgo di San Sepolcro, and was passing by a castle called Monte Casale, he saw a young man of noble mien, and elegant in appearance, coming towards him, who thus addressed him: If you, then, can support these things, through the grace of God I shall be able to do so likewise.

    And this young man was so remarkable and so distinguished, that shortly after he was named Guardian of the Convent of Monte Casale. At that time there were three famous robbers in that part of the country, who did much evil in all the neighbourhood. Coming one day to the said convent, they asked Brother Angelo, the guardian, to give them something to eat. The guardian, reproving them harshly, answered thus: Go about your business, and do not appear here again.

    Shortly after, St Francis arrived at the convent with a sack of bread and a little vessel of wine, which he and his companion had begged; and the guardian related to him how he had sent away the robbers. On this St Francis reproved him sharply, saying that he had behaved most cruelly, for sinners are brought back to God more easily by kindness than by harsh words. As, then, thou hast acted against charity, and against the Gospel of Christ, I command thee, in the name of holy obedience, to take with thee this sack of bread, which I have begged, and this little vessel of wine, and go after the robbers, over the hills and across the valleys, until thou meet with them.

    And when thou hast found them, give them from me this bread and wine; and then, kneeling down before them, thou shalt humbly confess thy fault, begging them, in my name, not to do evil any more, but to fear God and never again offend him. If they consent to this, I promise to provide for all their wants, and to give them continually both meat and drink; and when thou hast told them this, thou shalt humbly come back here. The obedient guardian, having found out their retreat, presented to them the bread and wine, and said and did what St Francis had commanded; and it pleased God that as the robbers ate the bread of charity which St Francis had sent them, they reasoned thus among themselves; "Alas for us, miserable men that we are!

    What pains await us in hell; for not only have we robbed, beaten and wounded our neighbours, but we have likewise taken away their lives, and yet for all these cruel deeds we feel no remorse of conscience, and no fear of God! These men indeed are holy religious of God who merit his Paradise, and we are sons of perdition, worthy of the pains of hell; and each day we add to our perdition, and we know not whether yet, because of our sins we have committed hitherto, we can find mercy in the sight of God. He told them that his mercy knows no bounds, and that were their sins without number the mercy of God is even greater, according to the word of the Gospel and of the Apostle St Paul, who says our Blessed Lord came into the world to save sinners.

    The three robbers on hearing these words resolved to renounce the devil and his works; and St Francis received them into the Order, in which they did great penance. Two of them died shortly after their conversion, and went to heaven; but the third survived, and, reflecting on his sins, he did penance during fifteen years. Besides the ordinary fasts which he observed with the brethren, he fasted at other times three days in the week on bread and water, went barefooted, wore no other vestment but his tunic, and never slept after Matins.

    During this time St Francis passed from this miserable life. The converted robber having continued to do penance for many years, it so happened that one night, after Matins, he was visited by such a strong temptation to sleep, that he could neither pray nor watch according to his custom. At last, finding it impossible to resist any longer, he threw himself on his bed to sleep. No sooner had he laid down his head than he was rapt in spirit and led up into a very high mountain, on the side of which was a deep precipice bordered with sharp stones and large rocks all broken to pieces, so that the precipice was frightful to look at; and the angel who conducted the brother pushed him with such violence, that he fell into the abyss, and rolling down from stone to stone and from rock to rock, he reached the bottom shattered all to pieces, as it seemed to him.

    As he lay on the ground in this pitiable condition, the angel said to him: Thou seest that I am about to die from my fall, which has shattered me all to pieces, and thou tellest me to arise. He then showed him an immense plain, full of sharp and pointed stones, covered with thorns and brambles, and told him that he was to run all over the plain, and cross it barefooted till he reached the other end, where was a burning furnace, which he was to enter.

    And the brother having crossed the plain with great pain and suffering, the angel ordered him to enter the furnace, as it was meet for him to do. Thou seest that I am nearly dead, having crossed this horrible plain; and to rest me thou commandest me to enter this burning furnace"; and looking up, he saw all around many demons with iron pitchforks in their hands; and as he hesitated to obey the angel, they pushed him into the furnace.

    When he was in the furnace, he looked around and saw one who had formerly been his companion burning all over from head to foot; and he said to him: It is for this that I am condemned to burn in this dreadful place. Thou seest how I am almost burnt to death in this furnace, and thou preparest for me another horrible and dangerous journey.

    Then said the angel to him: When the brother saw whither the angel had flown, being without his guide and looking down, he saw all those terrible animals with their heads out of the water, and their mouths open ready to devour him, if he were to fall into the river; and he trembled much with fear, not knowing what to do or what to say, as he could neither go back nor go forward. Seeing himself in such tribulation, and having no refuge but in God, he bent down, and clinging to the bridge, with all his heart and with many tears he recommended himself to the Lord, praying him to have mercy on him.

    Having finished his prayer, it seemed to him as if wings were growing out of his back, and he waited with great joy till they should be large enough to enable him to fly away from the bridge, and go to the spot whither the angel had flown. After waiting a little time, his impatience to leave the bridge became so great that he tried to fly; but his wings not having reached their growth, he fell on the bridge, and the feathers came off; upon which he clung again to the bridge, as he had done before, and recommended himself to God.

    Having finished his prayer, it seemed to him as if the wings were growing again; but losing patience a second time, he tried to fly before the wings were fully grown, and falling down on the bridge as before, the feathers came off. And seeing that it was his impatience to fly away which made him fall down thus, he said within himself: At last he arose for the third time, and exerting all his strength, he flew up to the spot whither the angel had flown before him; and knocking at the gate of the place into which he had entered, the porter asked of him who he was and whence he came.

    To this he answered: As he was struck with wonder at this sight, St Francis came towards him, with Brother Bernard and Brother Giles, followed by a great multitude of saints, both men and women, who had followed him in life, and they appeared to be innumerable. Then St Francis said to the porter: And St Francis, taking him inside, showed him that thou return to the world; thou shalt remain there seven days, during which thou shalt prepare thyself with great devotion and great care; for after the seven days I will come and fetch thee, and then thou shalt be with me in this abode of the blessed.

    And Brother Giles was adorned with a blazing light, and he saw there many other holy brothers whom he had not known in the world. Having taken leave of St Francis, he returned, much against his will, to the world. When he awoke and came back to himself, the brothers were singing prime; so that the vision had lasted only from matins to prime, though it seemed to him as if many years had elapsed.

    He related to the guardian all the vision from beginning to end. After seven days he fell ill of a fever, and on the eighth day St Francis came to him, as he had promised with a great multitude of glorious saints, and conducted his soul to life eternal in the kingdom of the blessed. St Francis coming one day to the city of Bologna, all the inhabitants went out to meet him, and the crowd was so great that it was with much difficulty he made his way to the market-place, which was filled with men, women, and scholars.

    And St Francis, on arriving there, stood upon an elevated spot, and began to preach that which the Holy Spirit put into his mind to say; and he preached so wonderfully that he appeared to be an angel, not a man; and his words were like sharp arrows, which pierced through the hearts of those who listened to them. And many men and women were brought to repentance through that sermon; of this number were two noble students of the March of Ancona - one named Pellegrino and the other Rinieri. These two being touched in their hearts by divine inspiration, through the said sermon, went to St Francis, saying that they wished to leave the world and become friars in his Order.

    And it having been revealed to St Francis that they had been sent by God to be examples of virtue in the Order, he received them joyfully, on account of the great fervour they showed, saying to them: And Brother Rinieri served the brothers most devoutly and most faithfully, living in great sanctity and great humility, and becoming very intimate with St Francis. And having been named Minister of the province of the March of Ancona, he governed it for a long time with much discretion and most peaceably; and St Francis revealed to him many secrets.

    Now after some time the Lord allowed a great temptation to take possession of his soul, which greatly grieved and troubled him; he observed severe penance, subjected himself to much rigorous discipline, and endeavoured day and night, with prayers and tears, to drive away the temptation, but not succeeding he believed that God had abandoned him. Being in a state of great despair he determined as a last remedy to go to St Francis, thinking thus within himself: The message brought such sweetness and such consolation to him, that he was quite beside himself with joy; and thanking God with all his heart, he reached the place where St Francis was lying ill.

    Now though St Francis was grievously ill, yet when he heard that Brother Rinieri was approaching, he arose and went to meet him; and embracing him with much affection he said to him: Brother Bernard of Quintavalle was an example of the manifestation of the grace of God in the poor followers of the Gospel, who gave up the world to follow Christ. For since he had taken the habit of St Francis, he was often rapt in God through the contemplation of celestial things.

    It happened one day, as he was in a church hearing Mass, his mind was so raised to God that he was transfixed and enraptured, so as not to be aware of the moment of the elevation of the Body of Christ; for he neither knelt down nor removed his hood, as did the others, but remained motionless, with his eyes intently gazing upwards, and remained so even from Matins till the hour of None. On coming back to himself, he went about the convent crying out with a loud voice: In all that time he never satisfied his hunger, though he ate a little of whatever was set before him; wherefore he used to say that if a man does not taste what he eats his abstinence has no merit, for true abstinence is to moderate oneself in those things which are agreeable to the palate.

    His intelligence also became so enlightened that many great divines had recourse to him to solve difficult questions and explain obscure passages of Scripture, which he did with great facility.

    tr. by W. Heywood

    So completely was his mind detached and withdrawn from all things earthly, that he soared like the swallows above the earth, and remained sometimes twenty, sometimes thirty days at the top of a high mountain contemplating things divine. For which reason Brother Giles said that he had received a gift from God which had been given to no other human being - namely, that in his divine flight he was fed like the swallows. And, because of this wonderful grace of contemplation which he had received from God, St Francis willingly and frequently held converse with him day and night; and often they were found to be in a state of ecstasy all night long, in the wood where they used to meet together to talk on things divine.

    BROTHER RUFFINO, one of the most noble men of the city of Assisi, a companion of St Francis and a man of great sanctity, was one day violently tempted in mind on the subject of predestination, so that he grew quite melancholy and sorrowful; for the devil put it into his heart that he was damned, and not of the number of those predestined to life eternal, making him believe that all he did in the Order was of no avail.

    And this temptation increasing more and more, he had not the courage to reveal it to St Francis, though he never ceased to pray and to fast: One day he appeared to him under that of a crucifix, and said to him: Believe me - for I know whom I have chosen and predestined - and believe not the son of Peter Bernardoni if he tell thee the contrary; and do not take his advice in this matter, since neither he nor any man knows the truth but I, who am the Son of God. Know of a certainty that thou art of the number of the damned; and the son of Peter Bernardoni, thy father, and his father likewise, are damned, and whosoever followeth them is damned also.

    But that which Brother Ruffino did not reveal to his saintly father was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit.

    When, therefore, the saint learned to what dangers his son was exposed, he sent to him Brother Masseo; but Brother Ruffino refused to listen to him, saying: I will take away from thee the heart of stone, and will give thee a heart of flesh. He was greatly consoled and comforted by the admonitions of his saintly father, which St Francis ended by saying: He thus addressed him: What is the use of inflicting on thyself privations in this world, seeing thou hast no hope of salvation after death?

    Then Brother Ruffino saw plainly that it was the devil who had deceived him, and returning to St Francis he threw himself at his feet, acknowledging his fault. St Francis comforted him with kind words, and sent him back to his cell full of consolation. As he was praying there most devoutly, Christ, the blessed one, appeared to him, and filling his soul with the fire of divine love, he thus addressed him: But I am Christ, thy Master; and in order to prove to thee that I am he, I promise thee that thou shalt never again be troubled in this way.

    Most willingly would he have remained day and night in prayer and in the contemplation of divine things, had he been permitted to do so. Wherefore St Francis said of him that he had been canonised during his lifetime by Christ, and that, save in his presence, he would not hesitate to call him St Ruffino, even though he were still on earth.

    The Little Flowers of St. Francis

    The said Brother Ruffino, through constant contemplation, was so absorbed in God that he became almost insensible to things external, and very seldom spoke; added to which he never had possessed the gift of speech, neither was he eloquent nor self-possessed. Notwithstanding this, St Francis ordered him one day to go to Assisi and preach to the people that which God should dictate to him. On this Brother Ruffino expostulated, saying: I am simple and ignorant.

    May God forgive thee! But thou shalt do the same thing which thou hast ordered him to do. The inhabitants of Assisi, seeing him thus accoutred, reviled him, believing that both he and Brother Ruffino were out of their minds through much penance. St Francis entered the church as Brother Ruffino was saying these words: Then St Francis put on the clock of Brother Ruffino and his own, and returned to the convent of the Portiuncula, praising and glorifying God, who had given them grace to conquer and despise themselves, to the edification of the flock of Christ, and enabled them, by their example, to show how the world ought to be despised.

    And from that day the people greatly revered them, so that those who could touch but the hem of their garments esteemed themselves blessed. As our Lord Jesus Christ says in his Gospel, I know my sheep and mine know me, so the holy St Francis, like a good shepherd, knew, through divine revelation, all the merits and virtues of his companions, and also their defects and faults, and was enabled to deal with them according to their needs - humbling the proud and exalting the humble, rebuking vice and praising virtue - as we read in the wonderful revelations which were made to him by God with regard to his first children.

    Amongst others, we are told that once St Francis was with his companions in a convent talking of God, when Brother Ruffino was absent, being in contemplation in the forest; and, as the saint was conversing with them, Brother Ruffino passed by at some distance, whereon St Francis asked them whom they believed to be the holiest soul in the world. They answered immediately, that they believed it to be St Francis. The saint reproved them, saying: That he was equally acquainted with the defects of his brethren, we learn in the case of Brother Elias, whom he often reproved for his pride; and of Brother John della Cappella, to whom he foretold that he would hang himself; and of that brother who was seized by the devil as a punishment for his disobedience; and of many others whose defects and virtues were clearly revealed to him by Christ.

    The first companions of St Francis set themselves with all their might to follow holy poverty with regard to earthly things, and to acquire every other virtue, as the sure means of obtaining celestial and eternal riches. It happened, therefore, that one day, as they were assembled together to speak of things divine, one of them related the following example: He was at the same time so humble, that he looked upon himself as a very great sinner; and his humility was to him a means of sanctification, and confirmed him in the grace of God; for it caused him to increase in virtue, and saved him from falling into sin.

    From that moment he was constantly shut up in his cell, maserating his body with fasts and vigils and prayers, weeping before the Lord, and earnestly imploring him to grant him this virtue, without which he felt that he was only worthy of hell, and with which the friend of God of whom he had heard was so richly endowed. Brother Masseo having passed several days in this state of mind, as he was entering the forest and asking the Lord, who willingly listens to the prayers of the humble, with cries and tears to grant him this divine virtue, he heard a voice from heaven, which called him twice: And often when he was in prayer he was heard to utter a joyful sound, like the song of a bird, resembling "U-u-u", and his face bore a most holy and happy expression.

    With this he grew so humble that he esteemed himself less than all other men in the world. And Brother James of Fallerone having asked him why in his joy he used always the same sound, he replied gaily, that when in one way he found all good he saw no reason to change it. St Clare, a most devout servant of the Cross of Christ, and one of the sweetest flowers of St Francis, was so holy, that not only the Bishops and Cardinals but the Pope himself wished to see and hear her, and went often to visit her in person.

    One day, amongst others, the holy Father went to her convent to hear her speak of things celestial; and having long reasoned together, St Clare ordered the table to be laid and bread to be placed upon it, in order that the holy Father might bless it.