The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
How for an evil thought which St. Francis had against Friar Bernard, he commanded the said Friar Bernard to tread with his feet three times upon his throat and upon his mouth
THE most devout servant of the Crucified, Messer St. Francis, by the severity of his penance and by his continual weeping, had become almost blind and saw
but little. Upon one occasion among others, he left the Place where he was and went to the Place where Friar Bernard was, to speak with him of Divine things; and on reaching the Place, he found that he was in the wood in prayer, all uplifted and joined with God. Then St. Francis went into the wood and called him. "Come," said he, "and talk to this blind man;" and Friar Bernard answered him never a word; because, being a man of great contemplation, his mind was transported and raised to God; and because he had singular grace in speaking of God, as St. Francis had ofttimes proved, he therefore desired to speak with him. After waiting a little, he called him a second and a third time, in the same manner, and never a time did Friar Bernard hear him, and therefore he answered him not neither went unto him, so that St. Francis departed thence, somewhat cast down and marvelling and lamenting within himself that Friar Bernard, albeit he had been called three times, had not come unto him. Departing with this thought, St. Francis, after he had gone a little way, said unto his companion: "Await me here"; and he betook himself to a solitary place hard by, and casting himself upon his knees, besought God that He would reveal to him the reason why Friar Bernard had not answered him; and, while he yet prayed, there came to him a voice from God which spake thus: "O poor manikin, why art thou disquieted? Should a man leave God for a creature? Friar Bernard, when thou calledst him, was joined unto Me; and therefore he could not come to thee nor answer thee; marvel not then if he could not answer thee; because he was beside himself, and heard nothing of thy words." St. Francis, having received this answer from God, immediately and with great haste returned toward Friar Bernard, to accuse
himself humbly of the thought which he had had concerning him. And when Friar Bernard saw him coming towards him, he went to meet him and cast himself down at his feet; then did St. Francis lift him up, and with great humility he told him of the thought and tribulation which he had had concerning him, and of the answer which God had given him touching the same; and he made an end of speaking after this manner: "I command thee in the name of holy obedience to do that which I bid thee." Now Friar Bernard, fearing lest St. Francis should command something excessive, as he was wont to do, sought a way to escape from that obedience honestly; wherefore he made answer on this wise: "I am ready to do your obedience, if you promise me to do that which I shall command you". And when St. Francis had promised him, Friar Bernard said: "Now, father, tell me that which you wish me to do". Then said St. Francis: "I command thee in the name of holy obedience that, to punish my presumption and the arrogance of my heart, when now I shall cast myself down upon my back upon the earth, thou shalt set one foot on my throat and the other on my mouth and so pass over me three times, from one side to the other, crying shame and infamy upon me, and especially say thou unto me: 'Lie there, thou churl, son of Pietro Bernardoni, whence hast thou so much pride, thou that art a very abject creature?'" Hearing this, Friar Bernard, albeit it was exceeding hard for him to do so, for the sake of holy obedience, fulfilled that which St. Francis had commanded him, as courteously as he was able; and when he had so done, St. Francis said: "Now do thou command me that which thou wouldest that I should do unto thee; for I have promised thee obedience". Said Friar Bernard: "I
command thee in the name of holy obedience that every time that we are together thou shalt rebuke me and correct me harshly for my faults". Thereat St. Francis marvelled much because Friar Bernard was of so great sanctity that he held him in exceeding reverence and deemed him not blameworthy in anything. Wherefore, from thenceforward, St. Francis was careful to avoid being much with him by reason of the said obedience, to the end that he might speak no word of correction to one whom he knew to be of so great sanctity; but when he desired to see him or to hear him speak of God, he left him as quickly as possible and gat him thence. And it was a passing edifying thing to see with what love and reverence and humility, St. Francis, the father, conversed and spake with Friar Bernard, his first-born son. To the praise and glory of Jesus Christ and of the mendicant Francis. Amen.