Sacred Texts  Christianity  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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


How, while he was saying Mass, Friar John of Alvernia fell down as if he were dead

TO the said Friar John in the aforesaid Place of Moliano, according to that which the friars who were there present related, there befel on a time this marvellous case: On the first night after the octave of St. Laurence and within the octave of the Assumption of Our Lady, having said matins in the church with the other friars, the unction of the Divine grace fell upon him and he betook himself to the garden to meditate on the Passion of Christ, and to prepare

p. 138

himself with all devotion to celebrate the Mass which, that morning, it fell to his turn to sing; and, while he meditated on the words of the consecration of the body of Christ, considering the infinite love of Christ, by reason whereof He not only willed to redeem us with His precious blood, but also to leave us, for spiritual food, His body and most excellent blood, the love of the sweet Jesus began to increase in him, with so great fervour and with such tenderness, that his soul might no more endure for the great sweetness which he felt; but he cried aloud and, as one drunken in spirit, never ceased to say within himself: Hoc est corpus meum; for, as he said these words, it seemed to him that he beheld the blessed Christ, with the Virgin Mary and with a multitude of angels, and, in thus speaking, he was illuminated by the Holy Spirit touching all the profound and lofty mysteries of that most exalted sacrament. And, when day broke, he entered into the church, in that fervour of spirit and with that anxiety and with those words upon his lips, not thinking to be heard or seen by any one; but there was in the choir a certain friar, who was praying; and who saw and heard all. And, not being able to restrain himself in that fervour, through the abundance of the Divine grace, he cried with a loud voice, and continued after this manner until it was time to say the Mass; and thereupon he went to make himself ready for the altar. And, when he began the Mass, the farther he proceeded the more did there increase in him the love of Christ, and that fervour of devotion, wherewith there was given unto him an ineffable sense of God's presence, the which he himself knew not, nor was afterward able to express with his tongue. Wherefore, fearing that that fervour and sense of God's presence would increase so much that he would be compelled to leave the Mass,

p. 139

he stood in great perplexity, knowing not what to do, whether to proceed further with the Mass or to stop and wait. But, because, once before, a like case had befallen him, and the Lord had so tempered that fervour that he had not been obliged to leave the Mass, he trusted, at this time also, to he able to do the like, and, with great fear, set himself to continue the Mass until he came to the Preface of Our Lady, when the Divine illumination and the gracious sweetness of the love of God increased so much within him, that, reaching the Qui pridie, scarcely might he endure such joy and sweetness. Finally, coming to the act of consecration, and having spoken half of the words over the Host, to wit Hoc est; on nowise might he proceed farther, but continued to repeat these same words, to wit Hoc est enim; and the reason wherefore he could not proceed farther was that he felt and saw the presence of Christ with a multitude of angels, whose majesty he might not endure; and he saw that Christ entered not into the Host, neither was the Host transformed into the body of Christ, because he could not utter the other half of the words, to wit corpus meum. Wherefore, while he abode in this anxiety and could proceed no farther, the Guardian and the other friars, and also many lay folk, which were in the church to hear Mass, drew nigh unto the altar, and there stood, terrified to behold and to consider the action of Friar John; and many of them wept for devotion. At the last, after a long time, to wit when God willed it, Friar John pronounced the enim corpus meum with a loud voice; and straightway the form of the bread vanished away, and on the Host appeared Jesus Christ the blessed, incarnate and glorified, and manifested unto him the humility and charity which caused Him to become incarnate of the Virgin Mary,

p. 140

and which causes Him to come every day into the hands of the priest when he consecrates the Host; for the which cause he was yet more lifted up in sweetness of contemplation. Thereafter, when he had elevated the Host and the consecrated chalice, he was rapt out of himself and, his soul being raised above corporal feelings, his body fell backwards, and, if he had not been held up by the guardian, who stood behind him, he had fallen supine to the ground. Wherefore there ran thither the friars and the lay folk who were in the church, both men and women, and he was carried by them into the sacristy, as one dead, for his body was all cold and the fingers of his hands were clenched so tightly that scarcely could they be unclosed or moved at all. And on this wise he lay swooning or rapt even until Terce; and it was summer-time. And because I, who was there present, desired greatly to know that which God had wrought upon him, as soon as he had returned to himself, I went to him, and besought him, for the love of God, that he would tell me everything; wherefore, because he trusted me much, he narrated everything to me in order; and, among other things, he told me that, while he was considering the body and blood of Jesus Christ there present, his heart became even as wax which is melted in a great heat, and his flesh appeared to be without bones, on such wise that scarcely might he raise his arms and his hands to make the sign of the cross over the Host and over the chalice. Also he told me that, or ever he became a priest, it had been revealed to him by God that he must swoon during the Mass; but, because he had already said many Masses and this had not befallen him, he deemed that the revelation had not been of God. Nevertheless, perhaps fifty days before the Assumption of Our Lady, whereon the aforesaid

p. 141

case befel him, it had been again revealed unto him of God that this thing would befal him about the said feast of the Assumption; but thereafter he remembered not the said vision, or revelation, made to him by our Lord.

Next: Introduction