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


How St. Francis converted the Soldan of Babylon to the faith

ST. FRANCIS, urged thereto by zeal for the faith of Christ, and by the desire of martyrdom, went once across the seas with his twelve most holy companions, to betake himself straight to the Soldan of Babylon; and being come unto a country of the Saracens, where the passes were guarded by certain

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cruel men to the end that no Christian who went thereby might be able to escape death; they, as it pleased God, were not slain, but taken, beaten and bound, and so led into the presence of the Soldan. And being in his presence, St. Francis, taught by the Holy Ghost, preached so divinely of the faith of Christ, that for that faith he even wished to enter into the fire. Wherefore the Soldan began to have very great devotion toward him, alike for the constancy of his faith and for the contempt of the world which he saw in him (inasmuch as he would receive no gift from him, albeit he was exceeding poor), and also for the zeal of martyrdom which he saw in him. From thenceforward the Soldan heard him gladly and prayed him that he would often return to him; granting, to him and to his companions, leave to preach wheresoever they pleased; and he gave them a token to the end that they might not be offended by any man. [Having this leave then, St. Francis sent his chosen companions, two by two, into divers regions of the Saracens to preach the faith of Christ. And he, with one of them, chose a street and, arriving thereat, entered into an inn to rest himself. And there he found a woman, most beautiful of body but foul of soul, the which accursed one tempted him to sin. And St. Francis said: "I accept, let us to bed," and she led him into a chamber. Then St. Francis said: "Come with me"; and he conducted her to a very great fire which was burning in that chamber; and in fervour of spirit he stripped himself naked and cast himself down beside that fire, on the hot hearthstone; and he invited her to go and undress herself and to lie with him in that downy and beautiful bed. And, when St. Francis had thus lain there for a long time, with cheerful face and without being burned or singed at all, that woman, terrified at so great

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a miracle and pricked in the heart, not only repented her of her sin and evil intent, but also turned perfectly to the faith of Christ, and became of so great sanctity that, through her, many souls were saved in those lands.] At last St. Francis, seeing that he could have no more fruit in those parts, prepared, by Divine revelation, to return with all his companions to the land of the faithful; and, having gathered them all together, he returned to the Soldan and took leave of him. Then the Soldan said unto him: "Friar Francis, I would willingly be converted to the faith of Christ, but I fear to be so now, because, if these heard thereof, they would slay both thee and me, with all thy companions: and seeing that thou canst yet do much good and that I have certain matters of great moment to conclude, I would not now bring about thy death and mine; but do thou teach me how I may save myself; I am ready to do that which thou mayest lay upon me". Then St. Francis said: "Sir, I now go from thee; but after I shall be come into my own country and, through the grace of God, shall have ascended into heaven, after my death, according as it shall please God, I will send thee two of my friars from whom thou mayest receive the holy baptism of Christ, and thou shalt be saved, as my Lord Jesus Christ hath revealed unto me. And do thou, in the meantime, free thyself from every hindrance, to the end that, when the grace of God shall come unto thee, it may find thee prepared to faith and to devotion." And this he promised to do, and so did he. Now when this was done, St. Francis returned with that venerable college of his holy companions; and after certain years, St. Francis by bodily death rendered his soul to God. And the Soldan, falling sick, awaited the fulfilment of the promise of St. Francis, and set guards at certain

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passes and ordered that, if two friars should appear in the habit of St. Francis, they should immediately be brought to him. At that time St. Francis appeared to two friars, and commanded them to go without delay to the Soldan to provide for his salvation, according as he had promised him; the which friars set out immediately, and crossing the sea, were led before the Soldan by the aforesaid guard; and when the Soldan saw them, he was exceeding glad and said: "Now know I of a truth that God hath sent me His servants for my salvation, according to the promise which St Francis made me by Divine revelation." And, when he had been instructed in the faith of Christ and baptised by the said friars, thus born again in Christ, he died of that sickness and his soul was saved through the merits and prayers of St. Francis.

Next: Chapter XXV. How St. Francis miraculously healed one who was a leper both in soul and body . . .