The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
THE great graces which man receives from God, man cannot possess in tranquillity and peace, because many contrary things arise and many troubles and adversities hostile to these graces; for the more pleasing a man is to God, the more grievously is he assailed and attacked by the fiends. Therefore man ought never to cease from fighting, that he may be able to keep the grace which he hath received from God: for the harder the battle, the more precious will be the crown, if he conquer in the fight. But we have not many battles, nor many hindrances, nor many temptations, because we are not such as we should be in the spiritual life. But very true it is that if man walked well and wisely along the way of God, he would have neither weariness nor toil in his journey; but the man who walketh in the way of the world, will never be able to avoid many toils, wearinesses, anxieties, tribulations and sorrows, even to the day of his death. Said a friar to Friar Giles: "My father, to me it seemeth that these two sayings of thine are contrary to one another, for first thou didst say that the more virtuous and the more pleasing to God a man is, the greater the obstructions and the battles which he will have in the spiritual life; and thereafter thou saidst the opposite, to wit that the man who walked well and wisely along the way of God would not feel either toil or weariness in his journey". To whom Friar Giles, explaining the contrariety of these two sayings, made answer thus: "My brother, certain is it that the demons make greater battle with strong temptations against those who have the will to do right than they do against others who have not good will, to wit after
the mind of God. But to the man who goeth wisely and fervently along the way of God, what toil and what weariness and what harm can the demons and all the adversities of the world cause? since he knoweth and seeth that he is selling his merchandise at a price a thousand times greater than it is worth. Moreover I tell thee certainly that he who hath been enkindled with the fire of Divine love, the more he is assailed by sins the more he bolded) them in hatred and abhorrence. It is the custom of the worst demons to run and tempt man when he is in some sickness and in some bodily weakness, or when he is in some trouble, or very cold or sorrowful, or when he is an hungered or athirst, or when he hath received some shame or wrong, or temporal or spiritual injury; for these wicked ones know that in such hours and moments as these, man is more prone to yield to temptation; but I tell thee that for every temptation and for every sin that thou shalt conquer thou shalt obtain a virtue; and if thou conquerest that sin which assaileth thee, thou shalt receive therefor so much the greater grace and fairer crown." A friar asked counsel of Friar Giles, saying: "Father, often I am tempted by a very evil temptation, and many times have I prayed God to deliver me from it; yet the Lord taketh it not from me; counsel me, father, what I ought to do". To whom Friar Giles made answer: "My brother, the more nobly a king doth furnish his knights with excellent and strong armour, the more manfully would he have them fight against his enemies for his love". A friar asked Friar Giles, saying: "What remedy shall I use, that I may be able to go to prayer more willingly, and with more desire and with more fervour? For when I go to pray I am hard, slothful, dry and lacking in devotion." To whom Friar Giles made answer, saying: "A king hath two servants; and the
one hath arms wherewith to fight, and the other hath not arms wherewith to fight, and both of them wish to enter into the battle and to fight against the enemies of the king. He that is armed enters into the battle and fights valiantly; but the other who is unarmed, speaks on this wise to his lord: 'My lord, thou seest that I am naked without arms; but for love of thee, gladly would I enter into the battle and fight all unarmed as I am'. And then the good king, beholding the love of his faithful servant, saith to his attendants: 'Go with this my servant and clothe him with all those arms which are necessary for him to be able to fight, so that he may enter into the battle with safety; and sign all his arms with my royal sign so that he may be known as my faithful knight'. And so oftentimes it befalleth a man when he goeth to pray, that he findeth himself naked, undevout, slothful and hard of heart, but nevertheless he compelleth himself for love of His Lord to enter into the battle of prayer; and then our gracious King and Lord, seeing the endeavour of His knight, giveth him by the hands of His attendants, the Angels, fervour of devotion and good-will. Sometimes it happens that a man will begin some great and toilsome labour, such as clearing and cultivating the earth or a vineyard, to gather therefrom fruit in due season. And many by reason of the great toil and the many anxieties weary thereof and almost repent of having begun that labour; but if they persevere until harvest, they forget thereafter it weariness and are comforted and glad beholding the fruit which they can enjoy; and even so the man who is strong in the day of temptations will attain unto many consolations; for after tribulations, says St. Paul, are given consolations and crowns of life eternal: and not only will the reward be given in heaven to those who
resist temptations, but also in this life, as saith the Psalmist: Lord, according to the multitude of my temptations and sorrows Thy consolations shall make glad my soul; so that the greater the temptation and the fight the more glorious will he the crown." A friar asked counsel of Friar Giles concerning a certain temptation of his, saying: "O father, I am tempted by two exceedingly grievous temptations. One is that, when I do any good thing, I am forthwith tempted to vainglory; the other is that when I do any evil I fall into such great sadness and listlessness, that I am well-nigh driven to despair." To whom Friar Giles made answer: "My brother, well doest thou and wisely to lament thy sin; but I counsel thee to grieve prudently and in moderation, and always shouldst thou remember that the mercy of God is greater than thy sin. But if the infinite mercy of God receiveth to repentance the man who is a great sinner and who sinneth of his own free will, when he repenteth; believest thou that that good God abandons the good man who sinneth against his will, and is already contrite and repentant? Further, I counsel thee that thou cease not ever to do well, for fear of vainglory; for if a man desiring to sow grain, should say: 'I will not sow because if I should sow, peradventure the birds will devour it '; and if, thus saying, he should not sow his seed, certain is it that he would gather no harvest that year. But if he soweth his seed, albeit the birds eat of that seed, nevertheless the husbandman harvesteth the greater part thereof; and in like manner when a man is assailed by vainglory, if he doth not well for vainglory's sake, but always fighteth against it, I say that he loseth not the merit of the good which he doth, because he is tempted." A friar said to Friar Giles: "Father, I find that St. Bernard once said the seven penitential psalms with so
great tranquillity of mind and with such devotion, that he thought not nor mused on any other thing save only the proper meaning of the aforesaid psalms". Unto whom Friar Giles made answer thus: "My brother, I deem that that lord showeth much greater prowess who holdeth a walled place, and being besieged and attacked by his enemies, defendeth himself so valorously that he alloweth no enemy of his to enter therein, than doth that man who liveth in peace with none to hinder him".