The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
How St. Francis taught Friar Leo to make answer; and how he was never able to speak save the contrary to that which St. Francis desired
ON a time in the beginning of the Order, St. Francis being with Friar Leo in a Place where they had not books for the saying of the divine office, when the hour of matins came, St. Francis said to Friar Leo: "Most dear companion, we have no breviary wherewith we can say matins; but to the end that we may spend the time to the praise of God, I will speak and thou shalt answer as I will teach thee: and look to it that thou changest not the words otherwise than I shall teach thee. I will say thus: 'O Friar Francis, thou hast done so many evils and so many sins in the world that thou art worthy of hell'; and thou shalt make answer: 'It is a true thing that thou meritest the lowest hell'." And Friar Leo with dove-like simplicity replied: "Willingly, father. Begin in the name of God." Then St. Francis began to say: "O Friar Francis, thou hast done so many evils and so many sins in the world, that thou art worthy of hell". And Friar Leo answered: "God shall do through thee so much good that by reason thereof thou shalt go to paradise". Said St. Francis: "Say not so, Friar Leo, but when I shall say, 'Friar Francis, thou hast done so many wicked things against God, that thou art worthy to be accursed from God,'
answer thou thus: 'Verily thou art worthy to be set among the accursed'". And Friar Leo answered: "Willingly father". Then St. Francis, with many tears and sighs and beatings of the breast, said with a loud voice: "O my Lord of heaven and earth, I have committed so many wickednesses and so many sins against Thee that I am altogether worthy to be accursed from Thee"; and Friar Leo answered: "O Friar Francis, God will make thee such an one that among the blessed thou shalt be singularly blessed". And St. Francis, marvelling that Friar Leo answered contrary to that which he had bidden him, rebuked him saying: "Wherefore dost thou not answer as I teach thee! I command thee by holy obedience to answer as I shall teach thee. I will speak thus: 'O Friar Francis, miserable sinner, thinkest thou that God will have mercy upon thee, seeing that thou hast committed so many sins against the Father of mercy and God of every consolation that thou art not worthy to find mercy?' And thou, Friar Leo, little sheep, shalt answer: 'On no wise art thou worthy to find mercy'." But afterward when St. Francis said: "O Friar Francis, miserable sinner," etc., Friar Leo answered: "God the Father, whose mercy is infinitely greater than thy sin, will show thee great mercy, and thereabove will add unto thee much grace". At this reply, St. Francis, sweetly angered and patiently disquieted, said to Friar Leo: "And wherefore hast thou had the presumption to do against obedience, and already so many times hast replied contrary to that which I have commanded thee?" Friar Leo answered very humbly and reverently: "God knoweth, my father, that every time I have resolved in my heart to answer as thou hast bidden me; but God maketh me to speak as it pleaseth Him, and not according to
that which pleaseth me". Thereat St. Francis marvelled and said to Friar Leo: "I beseech thee very lovingly that this time thou answer me as I have told thee". Friar Leo answered: "Speak in the name of God, because of a surety this time I will answer as thou wouldst have me". And St. Francis weeping said: "O Friar Francis, miserable sinner, thinkest thou that God will have mercy upon thee?" Friar Leo answered: "Yea, and not only so, but great grace shalt thou receive from God, and He shall exalt thee and glorify thee for ever, because whosoever humbleth himself shall be exalted, and I cannot speak otherwise in that God speaketh through my mouth". And on this wise, in that humble strife, with many tears and much spiritual consolation, they watched even until day.