The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
Of the beautiful sermon which St. Francis and Friar Ruffino preached in Assisi, when they preached naked
THROUGH continual contemplation, the aforesaid Friar Ruffino was so absorbed in God that he had become well-nigh insensible and dumb, and exceeding rarely spoke; and moreover he had neither grace nor courage nor eloquence in preaching. Nevertheless St. Francis, one day, ordered him to go to Assisi and preach to the people that which God inspired him to preach. Whereto Friar Ruffino made answer: "Reverend father, I beseech thee that thou have me excused and send me not, because, as thou knowest, I have not the gift of preaching and am a
simple man and ignorant". Then said St. Francis: "Inasmuch as thou hast not obeyed at once, I command thee by holy obedience that thou go to Assisi, naked as thou wast born, save only for thy breeches, and that thou enter into a church, thus naked, and preach to the people". At this command, the aforesaid Friar Ruffino stripped himself, and went to Assisi, and entered into a church; and, when he had bowed himself before the altar, he went up into the pulpit and began to preach; whereat children and men began to laugh, and said: "Behold, now, how these men do so much penance that they become fools and beside themselves". In the meantime, St. Francis, considering the prompt obedience of Friar Ruffino, who was of one of the noblest families of Assisi, and of the hard commandment which he had given him, began to blame himself, saying: "How hast thou such great presumption, son of Peter Bernardoni, vile manikin, as to command Friar Ruffino, one of the first gentlemen of Assisi, to go naked to preach to the people like a madman? By God, thou shalt prove in thine own person that which thou orderest others to do." And anon, in fervour of spirit, he stripped himself naked likewise, and so gat him up to Assisi, taking with him Friar Leo, that he might carry his habit and that of Friar Ruffino. And, when the men of Assisi beheld St. Francis likewise naked they made a mock at him, deeming that he and Friar Ruffino had gone mad through excessive penance. Then St. Francis entered into the church where Friar Ruffino was preaching these words: "Oh most dearly beloved, flee the world and cease from sin; render unto others that which is theirs, if ye would escape hell; keep the commandments of God, loving God and your neighbour if ye would go to heaven; do
penance if ye would possess the kingdom of heaven". Thereupon St. Francis went up naked into the pulpit, and began to preach so marvellously of the contempt of the world, of holy repentance, of voluntary poverty and of the desire of the celestial kingdom, and of the nakedness and shame of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all they which were at the sermon, men and women in great numbers, began to weep very bitterly, with wonderful devotion and compunction of heart; and not there alone, but throughout the whole of Assisi, was there on that day so great weeping for the passion of Christ that never had there been the like; and, the people being thus edified and comforted by the work of St. Francis and Friar Ruffino, St. Francis reclothed Friar Ruffino and himself; and, thus reclothed, they returned to the Place of the Porziuncula praising and glorifying God who had given them grace to conquer themselves through contempt of self, and to edify the little sheep of Christ by their good example, and to show how much the world is to be despised. And on that day so greatly did the devotion of the people increase toward them, that he who might touch the hem of their garment deemed himself blessed.