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The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, [1906], at


How St. Francis converted three robbers which were murderers, and how they became friars; and of the very noble vision which one of them, who was a most holy friar, saw

ST. FRANCIS went upon a time through the desert of Borgo San Sepolcro, and as he passed through a walled place which is called Monte Casale, there

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came to him a young man, noble and luxurious, who said unto him: "Father, I would very willingly be one of your friars". St. Francis replied: "Son, thou art a luxurious youth and noble, perchance thou couldst not bear poverty and hardships". And he said: "Father, are ye not men even as I am? Wherefore, even as ye bear them, so shall I be able to do, through the grace of Jesus Christ." This answer pleased St. Francis much, and thereupon he blessed him and forthwith received him into the Order, and gave him the name of Friar Angelo; and so graciously did this youth bear himself that, a short time thereafter, St. Francis made him guardian in the Place which is called [the Hermitage] of Monte Casale. Now at that time three notorious robbers frequented the district, the which wrought many ill deeds therein; and upon a day they came to the said Place of the friars and besought the said Friar Angelo, the guardian, that he would give them to eat; whereupon the guardian answered them after this manner, rebuking them harshly: "Ye robbers and cruel murderers, not only are ye not ashamed to rob others of the fruits of their toil, but, presumptuous and impudent that ye are, ye would even devour the alms which are sent to the servants of God. Unworthy are ye that the earth should bear you up; for ye have no reverence for men or for the God who created you. Go, then, about your business, and never show yourselves here again." Therefore were they wrath and gat them thence in eat indignation. And lo! St. Francis returned from without, with his wallet of bread and a small vessel of wine, which he and his companion had begged; and, when the guardian had told him how he had driven those men away, St. Francis rebuked him severely, saying that he had borne himself cruelly, inasmuch as

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sinners are better led back to God by gentleness than by cruel reproofs;" For [said he] our Master Jesus Christ, whose Gospel we have promised to observe, saith that they that are whole need not a physician but they that are sick, and that He was not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; and therefore often did He eat with them. Seeing, then, that thou hast done contrary to charity and contrary to the Holy Gospel of Christ, I command thee, by holy obedience, that thou forthwith take this wallet of bread, which I have begged, and this vessel of wine, and seek them diligently, through mountains and valleys, until thou find them, and give them all this bread and wine in my name; and afterward do thou kneel down before them and humbly confess to them thy sin of cruelty; and then pray them in my name to do evil no longer, but to fear God and offend Him no more; and, if they will do this, I promise to provide for their needs, and to give them to eat and drink continually; and when thou shalt have told them this, return hither humbly." While the said guardian went to do his commandment, St. Francis betook himself to prayer and besought God that He would soften the hearts of those robbers and convert them to repentance. The obedient guardian came up with them and gave them the bread and wine, and did and said that which St. Francis had laid upon him. And, as it pleased God, while yet those robbers ate the alms of St. Francis, they began to say, one to the other: "Woe unto us, unhappy wretches that we are! how sore are the pains of hell which await us! for we not only go about robbing our neighbours and beating and wounding them, but also slaying them; and yet, notwithstanding all the enormous wrongs and wickednesses which we do, we have no remorse of conscience, nor fear of God; and

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lo! this holy friar, who hath come to us on account of a few words which he spake unto us justly by reason of our wickedness, hath humbly confessed his fault to us; and more than this, he hath brought us bread and wine, and so gracious a promise from the holy father. Verily these friars are saints of God, who merit the paradise of God; and we are children of eternal perdition, who merit the pains of hell, and every day we increase our damnation; nor do we know whether, from the sins which we have committed until now, we shall be able to turn to the mercy of God." And, when one of them had spoken these and like words, the others aid: "Verily thou speakest the truth, but what then ought we to do?" "Let us go," said one, "to St. Francis; and if he gives us hope that we may be able to turn from our sins to the mercy of God, let us do that which he commands us, if so be we may deliver our souls from the pains of hell." This counsel was pleasing to the others; and so, all three of them being agreed, they went in haste to St. Francis and spake unto him thus: "Father, by reason of the many horrible sins which we have committed, we do not believe that we can turn to the mercy of God; but if thou hast any hope that God will receive us to mercy, lo! we are ready to do that which thou shalt bid us, and to do penance with thee". Then St. Francis received them lovingly and with benignity, and consoled them with many ensamples, assuring them of the mercy of God, and promising them that of a surety he would obtain it for them from God, showing them that the mercy of God is infinite, and even if our sins were infinite the mercy of God is greater than our sins, according to the Gospel; and St. Paul the Apostle said: Christ the blessed came into this world to redeem sinners. Through

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the which words and similar teachings, the said three robbers renounced the devil and his works; and St. Francis received them into the Order, and they began to do great penance; and two of them lived but a little while after their conversion, and went to paradise. But the third, surviving his companions, and bethinking him of his sins past, turned himself to the doing of such penance that for fifteen successive years, except during the common Lenten fasts, which he kept with the other friars, he fasted three days a week on bread and water, always going barefoot and with one sole habit on his back, and never did he sleep after matins. During this time, St. Francis passed from this miserable life; and when this man [i.e., the converted robber] had for many years continued in such penance, lo! one night after matins, there came upon him so great a temptation to sleep that he might by no means resist it and keep watch as he was wont to do. Finally, being unable to resist his drowsiness or to pray, he went to his bed to sleep; and anon, as soon as he had laid down his head, he was rapt away and led in the spirit to a very high mountain, where was a chasm exceeding deep; and on this side and on that were rocks, broken and splintered, and uneven ledges which jutted out from the rocks, so that it was a dreadful sight to look into that chasm. And the angel that was leading this friar pushed him and flung him down that chasm; and rebounding and striking from ledge to ledge and rock to rock, at last he reached the bottom of the precipice, all dismembered and dashed to fragments, as it seemed to him; and as he lay thus upon the ground in evil case, he that led him said: "Get up, for thou must needs make a greater journey". The friar answered: "Thou seemest to me a very unreasonable and cruel man, who, when thou seest me at the point of death

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from this fall which hath thus broken me to pieces, biddest me rise up". And the angel drew nigh unto him and, touching him, perfectly healed all his limbs and made him whole. And thereafter he showed him a great plain, full of stones, sharp and cutting, and of thorns and briars, and told him that it behoved him to run across all that plain, and to go barefooted until he reached the end, where he beheld a burning fiery furnace, into the which he must needs enter. And when the friar had passed over all the plain with great anguish and pain, the angel said: "Enter into this furnace for it behoves thee so to do". The friar made answer: "Ah me! how cruel a guide art thou! who seest me well-nigh dead by reason of this grievous plain, and now tellest me to enter for repose into this fiery furnace". And as he looked, he saw, round about the furnace, many demons with forks of iron in their hands, wherewith, because he hesitated to enter, they forthwith thrust him inside. And, when he was come into the furnace, he looked and saw one who had been his godfather, who was all on fire; and he asked of him: "O unhappy godfather, how camest thou hither?" And he replied: "Go a little farther, and thou wilt find my wife, thy godmother, who will tell thee the reason of our damnation". When the friar had gone a little farther, behold! the said godmother appeared to him all ablaze, enclosed in a corn-measure; and he asked of her: "O ill-fated and miserable godmother, wherefore earnest thou into such cruel torment?" And she replies: "Because, at the time of the great famine, which St. Francis foretold, my husband and I sold wheat and grain by false measure, and therefore do I burn shut up in this measure". And, when she had spoken these words, the angel, who was leading the

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friar, thrust him out from the furnace, and thereafter said to him: "Prepare to make a horrible journey, which thou must needs go". And he, lamenting said: "O most cruel guide, who hast no compassion on me, thou seest that I am almost altogether burnt up in this furnace, and yet thou wouldest lead me upon a perilous and horrible journey". And then the angel touched him and made him whole and strong. Thereafter he led him to a bridge, whereover none might pass without great danger; inasmuch as it was very slight and narrow and exceeding slippery and without any railing on the side; and below there ran a terrible river, full of serpents and dragons and scorpions, and it sent forth a very great stench; and the angel said: "Pass over this bridge, for verily it behoveth thee to cross it". He made answer: "And how shall I be able to cross it without falling into that perilous river?" Said the angel: "Follow after me, and set thy foot where thou shalt see me set mine. So shalt thou cross safely." The friar followed the angel as he had told him, until he reached the middle of the bridge, and, when he had come thus to the middle thereof, the angel flew away, and departing from him, betook himself to the top of a very high mountain, a long way off, on the farther side of the bridge; and the friar noted well the place whither the angel had flown; but, being left without a guide, he looked down and saw those very terrible beasts, waiting with their heads out of the water and with their mouths open, ready to devour him, if he should fall; and he was so terrified that he knew not on anywise what to do or to say; because he could neither turn back nor go forward. Wherefore, finding himself in such dire straits, and having no other refuge save God alone, he laid him down and embraced the bridge with his arms, and with all his heart and with

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tears, recommended himself to God, beseeching Him that of His most holy pity He would vouchsafe to succour him. And when he had finished praying, it seemed to him that he began to put forth wings; wherefore he waited for them to grow, with great joy, so that he might be able to fly to the farther side of the bridge whither the angel had flown. But after some time, for the strong desire which he had to cross over this bridge, he set himself to fly; and because his wings were not yet sufficiently grown, he fell upon the bridge and all the feathers dropped out of them. Therefore, he once more embraced the bridge with his arms, and, as at the first, he recommended himself to God; and when he had prayed, it seemed to him that he put forth wings again, but as before he waited not until they were perfectly grown; so that, when he attempted to fly before the time, he fell back anew upon the bridge and the feathers dropped off. For the which cause, perceiving that his fall was due to his haste to fly before the time, he began to say within himself: "Of a surety, if I put forth wings a third time, I will wait until they shall be so large that I shall be able to fly without falling". And as he thus thought, he perceived that he was putting forth wings a third time; and, waiting a long while until they were grown large, it seemed to him that, what with the first and second and third putting forth of wings, he had waited 150 years or more. At last, he raised himself up this third time, and, with all his strength, took flight, and flew high up into the air, even to the place where the angel had flown; and when he knocked upon the gate of the palace, where the angel was, the porter asked him: "Who art thou that comest hither?" He made answer: "I am a minor friar". Said the porter: "Await me here, for I am minded to bring

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[paragraph continues] St. Francis to see whether he knows thee". And, while he went for St. Francis, the other began to regard the wonderful walls of this palace, and lo! these walls showed so transparent and so clear that he saw plainly the choirs of the saints and all that was being done therein. And while he stood looking thereat, beside himself with wonder, behold! St. Francis came, and Friar Bernard and Friar Giles, and behind them so great a multitude of holy men and women who had followed in his footsteps, that they seemed well-nigh innumerable: and, when St. Francis arrived, he said to the porter: "Let him come in, for he is one of my friars". And no sooner had he entered than he felt such great consolation and such sweetness that he forgot all the tribulations which he had had even as though they had never been. And then St. Francis led him in and showed him many marvellous things and thereafter spake to him on this wise: "Son, thou must needs return to the world, and there thou wilt remain seven days, in the which do thou prepare thyself diligently and with great devotion; because, after seven days, I will come for thee and then thou shalt come with me to this place of the blessed". St. Francis was clad in a marvellous robe adorned with very beautiful stars, and his five stigmata were like five most beautiful stars, of such splendour that they illuminated all the palace with their rays. And Friar Bernard had upon his head a crown of very beautiful stars; and Friar Giles was adorned with a marvellous light; and many other holy friars did he recognise among them whom in the world he had never seen. Then, having taken leave of St. Francis, he returned, albeit unwillingly, to the world. Now, although to him it seemed that his dream had lasted many years, yet when he awoke and returned to himself, and re-

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covered his senses, the friars were ringing for prime. And he told all this vision in order to his guardian, and, within the seven days, he fell sick of a fever; and, on the eighth day, St. Francis came for him as he had promised, with a very great multitude of glorious saints, and led away his soul to the kingdom of the blessed, to life eternal.

Next: Chapter XXVII. How St. Francis converted at Bologna two scholars, who became friars. . .