The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
How St. Francis blessed the holy Friar Bernard, and left him as his vicar, when he came to pass from this life
FRIAR BERNARD was of such great sanctity that St. Francis held him in great reverence, and ofttimes praised him. On a day St. Francis, being and continuing devoutly in prayer, it was revealed unto him of God that Friar Bernard, by the Divine permission, must bear many and bitter assaults of the fiends; wherefore St. Francis, having great compassion for the said Friar Bernard, whom he loved as his own son, prayed many days with tears, beseeching God for him, and committing him to Jesus Christ that He might give him victory over the demon. And while St. Francis was thus devoutly praying, on a day God answered him: "Francis, fear not; because all the temptations wherewith Friar Bernard must be assailed are permitted him by God for proof of virtue and for a crown of reward; and finally he shall have the victory over all his enemies, because he is one of the Commissaries of the Kingdom of Heaven". Of this answer St. Francis had very great joy and gave thanks to God, and from that hour he bore him ever increasing love and reverence. And well was the same made manifest, not only in his life but also in his death. For when St Francis came to his death, after the manner of the holy patriarch Jacob, his loving sons standing about him, grieved and tearful for the departure of so sweet a father, he asked: "Where is my firstborn? Come unto me my son that my soul may bless thee before I die." Then Friar Bernard said to Friar Elias in secret, the which was vicar of the Order: "Father, go thou to the right
hand of the saint that he may bless thee". And when Friar Elias had set himself upon his right hand, St. Francis, who had lost his sight by reason of excessive weeping, laid his hand upon the head of Friar Elias and said: "This is not the head of my firstborn son Bernard". Then Friar Bernard went unto him upon his left hand, and St. Francis thereupon set his arms in the form of a cross and so laid his right hand on the head of Friar Bernard and his left on the head of Friar Elias, and said unto Friar Bernard: "God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless thee with every spiritual and heavenly blessing in Christ; in that thou art the firstborn, chosen in this holy Order to give an evangelical example and to follow Christ in evangelic poverty; because not only didst thou give thy possessions to be distributed wholly and freely among the poor for the love of Christ; but also thou didst offer thyself unto God in this Order for a sacrifice of a sweet savour. Be thou therefore blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ and by me his mendicant servant with eternal benedictions; going, abiding, waking, sleeping, living and dying. May he who shall bless thee be fulfilled with benedictions; may he who shall curse thee not remain unpunished. Be thou the chief among thy brethren, and let all the friars be obedient unto thy commandment. Have thou licence to receive into this Order whomsoever thou wilt, and let no friar have dominion over thee; and be it lawful unto thee to go and to abide wheresoever thou shalt please." And after the death of St. Francis the friars loved and reverenced Friar Bernard as a venerable father; and when he drew nigh unto death, many friars came unto him from divers parts of the world, among whom came that hierarchical divine Friar Giles, the which beholding Friar Bernard, with great joy, said: "Sursum
corda, Friar Bernard, sursum corda". And Friar Bernard secretly bade a friar prepare for Friar Giles a place fit for contemplation; and so was it done. And Friar Bernard, being at the last hour of death, caused himself to be lifted up, and spake unto the friars that were before him saying: "Most dear brethren, I desire not to speak many words unto you; but ye ought to consider that the state of Religion which I have had ye have, and this which I now have ye too shall have, and I find this in my soul that for a thousand worlds equal to this, I would not have served any other Lord than our Lord Jesus Christ; and of every wrong that I have committed I accuse myself and confess myself guilty to Jesus my Saviour and to you. I beseech you, my dearest brethren, that ye love one another." And after these words, and other admonitions, he laid him down again upon his bed, and his face became splendid and beyond measure glad, so that all the friars marvelled greatly, and in that gladness his most saintly soul, crowned with glory, passed from this present life to the blessed life of the angels.