The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
PRAYER is the beginning, the middle and the end of every good; prayer illuminateth the soul, and through it the soul distinguisheth good from evil. Every sinful man should make this prayer continually every day with fervour of heart; to wit, should pray God humbly to give him perfect knowledge of his own misery and sins, and of the blessings which he hath received and is receiving from the good God. But the man who knows not how to pray, how shall he be able to know God? And all those who would save themselves, if they are persons of true understanding, must, in the end, be converted to holy prayer. Said Friar Giles: "If there were a man who had a son, who had committed so great a crime that he was condemned to death or was banished from the city; certain is it that that man would be very anxious to do
his utmost, both by day and by night and every hour, to obtain the grace of his son's life or to bring him back from banishment; making very great prayers and supplications, and giving gifts or indemnities to the extent of his ability, both he and his friends and kinsmen. If, then, a man doth this for his son, who is mortal, how careful should he be not only to pray to God Himself for his own soul, which is immortal and which hath been banished from the celestial city and condemned to eternal death for his many sins, but also to prevail upon good men in this world, and upon the saints in the other world, to pray for it also." A friar said to Friar Giles: "Father, meseemeth that a man ought to grieve much and to be exceeding sorrowful when he may not have the grace of devotion in his prayers". To whom Friar Giles made answer: "My brother, I counsel thee that thou do thy business gently; for if thou hadst a little good wine in a barrel, and in this barrel there were also lees under the good wine, it is certain that thou wouldst not shake or move that barrel, for fear of mixing the good wine with the lees; and so, I say, until thy prayer shall be separated from every sinful and carnal concupiscence, it will not receive Divine consolation; for that prayer is not clear in the sight of God, which is mingled with the lees of sensuality. And therefore man should strive with all his might to separate himself from all the lees of sinful concupiscence; to the end that his prayer may be clean in the sight of God, and that he may receive therefrom Divine devotion and consolation." A friar asked Friar Giles, saying: "Father, wherefore doth it come to pass that, when a man worshippeth God, he is more tempted, assailed and tormented than at any other time?" To whom Friar Giles made answer thus: "When any man hath to plead his cause
before a judge, and beginneth to state his case to the judge, as it were asking of him advice and help; as soon as his adversary heareth this, he presently appeareth to gainsay and to oppose that which that man demandeth, and he letteth him sore, as it were confuting everything that he saith; and so likewise it befalleth when a man goeth to pray; for he asketh help of God in his need; and therefore his adversary the devil straightway appeareth with his temptations, to offer great opposition and to gainsay him, to use every effort, device and argument that he can to hinder his prayer, to the end that that prayer may not be acceptable in the sight of God, and that the man may not gain therefrom any merit or any consolation. And this may we see well and clearly; for when we are speaking of worldly things we endure no temptation nor any distraction of mind; but, if we go to pray, to delight and console the soul with God, presently we shall feel the mind stricken by divers arrows, to wit by divers temptations; wherewith the devils pierce us to cause our minds to wander, so that the soul may have neither joy nor consolation from that which the said soul speaketh with God." Friar Giles said that the man who prayeth should do as the good knight doth in battle; who, albeit he be pierced or smitten by his enemy, doth not therefore straightway depart out of the battle, but resisteth manfully that he may gain the victory over his enemy, and, having gained it, may rejoice and console himself with the glory he hath won; but, if he departed out of the battle as soon as he was smitten and wounded, certain it is that he would be put to confusion and shamed and reviled. And so likewise ought we to do; to wit not to leave off praying for every temptation, but we ought to resist courageously, because, as saith the Apostle: Blessed is
the man that endured, temptation; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life; but if a man, by reason of temptations, ceaseth to pray, it is certain that he will be confounded, conquered and discomfited by his enemy the devil. A friar said to Friar Giles: "Father, I have seen certain men who have received of God the Grace of devotion in their prayers even unto the shedding of tears; and I cannot feel any of these graces when I worship God". To whom Friar Giles made answer: "My brother, I counsel thee that thou labour humbly and faithfully in thy prayers; for, without toil and without labour first spent thereon, the earth yieldeth not her fruit; and even after the work hath been done, the wished-for fruit cometh not immediately, but delayeth until the proper season hath arrived; and so God giveth not at once these graces to man when he prayeth but withholdeth them until; the fitting time hath come, and until his mind is purged of every carnal affection and sin. Therefore, my brother, labour humbly in prayer; for God, who is all good and gracious, knoweth and discerneth all things best, and when the time and the season shall be come, He, of I His loving kindness, will give thee much fruit of consolation." Another friar said to Friar Giles: "What doest thou, Friar Giles? What doest thou, Friar Giles?" And he replied: "I do ill". And that friar said: "What evil dost thou do?" And then Friar Giles turned him to another friar and said unto him: "Tell me, my brother, who dost thou believe is the more ready, our Lord God to grant us His grace, or we to receive it?" And then friar made answer: "Certain it is that God is more ready .to give us His grace than we are to receive it". And then Friar Giles said: "do we then well?" .And that friar said: "Nay, we do ill". Then Friar
[paragraph continues] Giles turned him again to the first friar and said: "Behold, friar, it is clearly shown that we do ill; and that which I answered thee just now is true, to wit that I did ill". Said Friar Giles: "Many works are praised and commended in the Holy Scriptures, which are works of mercy and other holy works; but when He spake of prayer the Lord said: The heavenly Father seeketh men that will worship Him on earth in spirit and in truth." Also Friar Giles said that the true Religious are like unto wolves; for rarely do they go abroad among men, unless it be for some great necessity; and then they forthwith seek to return again to their secret place without delaying much or holding familiar intercourse with men. Good works adorn the soul; but, above all the rest, prayer adorneth and illuminateth the soul. A friar, who was an intimate companion of Friar Giles, said: "Father, wherefore dost thou not sometimes go to speak of the things of God, and to teach and labour for the salvation of the souls of Christians?" Unto whom Friar Giles made answer: "My brother, I desire to do my duty to my neighbour with humility, and without damage to my own soul, to wit by prayer". And that friar said: "At least thou shouldst sometimes go to visit thy kinsfolk". And Friar Giles replied: "Knowest thou not that. the Lord saith in the Gospel: Whosoever shall leave father and mother, brethren, sisters and possessions for My name's sake shall receive an hundredfold?" And again he said: "A gentleman entered the Order of the friars, whose riches were worth peradventure 60,000 lire; great gifts then await those who for God's sake leave great things, for God giveth them an hundredfold more. But we who arc blind, when we see any man virtuous and full of grace in the sight of God, cannot understand his perfection.
by reason of our imperfection and blindness. But if any man were truly spiritual, scarcely would he ever wish to see or hear any one, save only in great need; for the truly spiritual man always desires to be separated from men and united to God through contemplation." Then Friar Giles said to a friar: "Father, gladly would I know what contemplation is"; and that friar made answer: "Father, I do not yet know". Then Friar Giles said: "Meseemeth that the dignity of contemplation is a Divine fire, and a sweet devotion of the Holy Ghost, and an ecstasy and abstraction of the mind, intoxicated by the contemplation of that ineffable savour of the Divine sweetness; and a soft and still and sweet delight of soul, which is uplifted and rapt in great admiration of glorious, supernal, celestial things; and a burning inward sense of that heavenly and unspeakable glory."