The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
How the Angel of God proposed a question to Friar Elias, guardian of a Place of Val di Spoleto, and because Friar Elias answered him proudly, departed and went on his way to St. James, where he found Friar Bernard and told him this story
AT the beginning and commencement of the Order, when there were few friars and the Places were not yet taken, St. Francis, for his devotion, went to St. James of Galicia, and took with him certain friars, among whom one was Friar Bernard; and, as they thus journeyed together, he found in a town a sick mendicant, upon whom he had compassion, and he said unto Friar Bernard: "Son, I desire that thou
abide here to tend this sick man"; and Friar Bernard, humbly kneeling and bowing his head, received the obedience of the holy father, and remained in that place. And St. Francis with his other companions went to St. James. Now, when they had arrived there, while they passed the night in prayer in the Church of St. James, it was revealed by God to St. Francis that he would take many Places throughout the world, inasmuch as his Order would increase and grow into a great multitude of friars; and, by reason of this revelation, St. Francis began to take Places in those regions. Thereafter, returning by the way whereby he had come, St. Francis found Friar Bernard and the sick man, with whom he had left him, perfectly healed. Wherefore St. Francis gave leave to Friar Bernard to go to St. James in the following year; and so St. Francis returned to the Val di Spoleto, and abode in a desert place, he and Friar Masseo and Friar Elias and others, all of whom were exceeding careful not to annoy or interrupt St. Francis when he was at prayer; and this they did for the great reverence which they bore him, and because they knew that God revealed great things to him in his prayers. Now it befel upon a day that, while St. Francis was at prayer in a wood, a goodly youth, clad as for a journey, came to the door of the Place and knocked thereon so impatiently and loudly, and for so long a time, that the friars marvelled greatly at such unwonted knocking. Friar Masseo went and opened the door and said to that youth: "Whence comest thou, my son, for it seemeth that thou hast never been here before, in so unwonted a manner hast thou knocked?" The youth replied: "And how ought one to knock?" Friar Masseo said: "Knock three times with an interval between each knock, and
then wait long enough for the friar to say the Paternoster and to come unto thee, and, if in this space he cometh not, knock again". The youth replied: "I am in great haste and therefore do I knock so loudly, because I have a long journey to make, and hither am I come to talk with Friar Francis; but he is now in the wood in contemplation, and therefore I would not disturb him; but go and send me Friar Elias whom I wish to ask a question, because I hear that he is very learned". Thereupon, Friar Masseo went and told Friar Elias to go and speak to that youth, and thereat was he wrath and would not go. Wherefore Friar Masseo knew not what to do, nor what answer to carry back, in that, if he said: Friar Elias cannot come, he lied; and if he said that he was angered and would not come, he feared to set a bad example. And because Friar Masseo delayed to return the youth knocked again as at the first, and after a while Friar Masseo returned to the door and said unto him: "Thou hast not observed my teaching with regard to knocking". The youth replied: "Friar Elias is not willing to come to me. Go therefore and tell Friar Francis that I have come to speak with him; but, because I would not hinder him from prayer, bid him send Friar Elias to me." Then Friar Masseo went to St. Francis, who was praying in the wood with his face upraised to heaven, and told him of the message of the youth and the reply of Friar Elias; and that youth was the angel of God in human form. Then, St. Francis, neither moving from his place nor lowering his face, said: "Go and tell Friar Elias, for obedience sake, to go at once to that youth". Now when Friar Elias had heard the commandment of St. Francis, he went to the door in great wrath and opened it with much fury and noise, and said to the
youth: "What dost thou want?" The youth made answer: "Look to it, friar, that thou art not wrath, as thou seemest to be, because anger clouds the mind and prevents the discernment of the truth". Said Friar Elias: "Tell me what thou wantest with me". The youth replied: "I ask thee whether it be lawful for those who observe the Holy Gospel to eat that which is set before them even as Christ said to His disciples; and I ask thee further whether it be lawful for any man to prefer anything contrary to the liberty of the Gospel". Friar Elias answered haughtily: "This I know well, but I will not answer thee. Go about thy business". Said the youth: "I could answer this question better than thou". Then was Friar Elias wrath and he slammed the door and departed. Thereafter he began to think over the said question and to doubt thereof within himself; and he knew not how to answer it, because he was vicar of the Order and had commanded and made an ordinance beyond the Gospel and beyond the Rule of St. Francis, that no friar of the Order should eat meat; so that the said question was expressly intended for him. Wherefore, not knowing how to decide the matter himself, and considering the modesty of the youth and that he had said that he knew how to answer that question better than he, he returned to the door and opened it to inquire of the youth touching the aforesaid question; but he was already gone, because the pride of Friar Elias was not worthy to speak with an angel. This done, St. Francis, to whom everything had been revealed by God, returned from out the wood and sternly and with a loud voice rebuked Friar Elias, saying: "Ill do you, proud Friar Elias, that you drive away from us the holy angels who come to teach us. I tell thee that I fear much lest thy
pride should make thee end thy days outside this Order". And so it befel thereafter, even as St. Francis had said unto him, in that he died outside the Order. On that same day, and in that hour wherein the angel departed, he appeared in that same form to Friar Bernard who was returning from St. James; and he had reached the bank of a great river; and he saluted him in his own tongue, saying: "God give thee peace, O good friar"; and the good Friar Bernard, marvelling greatly at the beauty of the youth and at hearing the speech of his native country, with salutation of peace and with joyful countenance, asked of him: "Whence comest thou, good youth?" The angel made answer: "I come from the Place where St. Francis dwells; and I went thither to have speech with him and was not able to do so, because he was in the wood, wrapped in contemplation of Divine things, and I desired not to disturb him. And, in that Place dwell Friar Masseo and Friar Giles and Friar Elias: and Friar Masseo hath taught me how to knock at the door after the manner of a friar; but Friar Elias, because he would not answer the question which I asked him, afterward repented, and wished to hear me and to see me, and could not." After these words, the angel said to Friar Bernard: "Wherefore dost thou not pass over to the other side?" Friar Bernard answered: "Because I am fearful of danger by reason of the depth of the waters which I see". Said the angel: "Pass we over together; doubt thou not"; and he took him by the hand and in the twinkling of an eye he set him on the other side of the river. Then Friar Bernard knew that it was the angel of God, and, with great reverence and joy, he cried in a loud voice: "O blessed angel of God, tell me thy name". The angel made answer: "Why askest
thou my name, which is Wonderful?" And when the angel had thus said he vanished away and let Friar Bernard greatly comforted, insomuch that he made all that journey with rejoicing, and he gave thought to the day and the hour when the angel appeared unto him. And, when he arrived at the Place where was St. Francis with the aforesaid companions, he told them everything in order, and they knew certainly that that same angel in the day and hour in which he had appeared unto them appeared also unto him.