The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
Of the miracle which God wrought, when St. Antony, being at Rimini, preached to the fishes of the sea
CHRIST the blessed (willing to show forth the great sanctity of His most faithful servant Messer St. Antony, and to teach with what devotion men ought to give ear to His preaching and to His holy doctrine) one time among the rest, rebuked the folly of infidel heretics through the instrumentality of unreasoning animals, to wit of the fishes, even as, long ago, in the Old Testament, he had rebuked the ignorance of Balaam through the mouth of the ass. For St. Antony being once in Rimini, where was a great multitude of heretics, and wishing to bring them back to the light of the true faith and to the way of virtue, he preached unto them for many days and disputed with them of the faith of Christ and of the Holy Scriptures; but they, as men hard of heart and obstinate, would not even listen to him. Wherefore St. Antony gat himself one day by Divine inspiration to the bank of the river hard by the sea, and standing thus upon the shore between the sea and the river he began to speak unto the fishes, as a preacher sent unto them of God: "Hear the word of God, ye fishes of the sea and of the river, since the infidel heretics refuse to hear it". And anon, when he had thus spoken, there came to him to the bank so vast a multitude of fishes, big, little and of middling size, that never in that sea or in that river had there been seen so great a multitude. And all of them held their heads out of the water, and all gazed attentively on the face of St. Antony, abiding there in very great peace and gentleness and order; for in the front rank and nearest to
the shore were the little tiny fish, behind them were the moderately large fish, and farther out, where was deeper water, the biggest fish. The fish, then, being arranged in this order and disposition, St. Antony commenced solemnly to preach unto them, and spake after this manner: "My brethren the fish, much are ye bounden, as far as in you lies, to give thanks to our Creator, who hath given you so noble an element for your dwelling-place, wherein according to your pleasure ye may have fresh water or salt; He hath given you many places of refuge to escape from the tempest; He hath also given you a clear and transparent element, and food whereby ye may live. God, your Creator, courteous and kind, when He made you, commanded you to increase and multiply and gave you His blessing. Thereafter, when, in the universal deluge, all other creatures died God preserved you alone uninjured. Moreover He hath given you fins wherewith ye may roam wheresoever ye will. To you it was granted, through the commandment of God, to preserve Jonah the prophet, and after the third day to cast him up upon dry land, safe and sound. Ye offered the tribute-money to our Lord Jesus Christ, which He, by reason of His poverty, could not pay. By a singular mystery, ye were the food of the Eternal King, Jesus Christ, both before and after His resurrection; for all which things much are ye bounden to praise and bless God who hath loaded you with so great benefits more than other creatures." At these and other like words and admonishments of St. Antony, the fishes began to open their mouths and to bow their heads, and with these and other signs of reverence, on such wise as they were able, gave praise to God. Then St. Antony, seeing the great reverence of the fishes toward God, their Creator, rejoiced in spirit and cried with a loud
voice: "Blessed be the Eternal God because the fishes of the waters honour Him more than heretic men; and creatures which have not reason hear His word more willingly than unbelieving men". And the longer St. Antony preached the more did the multitude of fish increase; and not one of them left the place which he had taken. To see this miracle the people of the city began to run thither, and among them came also the heretics aforesaid; who, beholding so marvellous and clear a miracle, were pricked in their hearts, and all cast themselves at the feet of St. Antony to hear his words. Then St. Antony began to preach of the Catholic faith; and so nobly did he preach it that he converted all those heretics and they turned to the true faith of Christ; and all the faithful were comforted thereby, being filled with very great joy, and stablished in the faith. And, when the preaching was over, St. Antony dismissed the fishes with the blessing of God, and they all departed with marvellous signs of joy, and likewise also the people. Thereafter, St. Antony abode in Rimini for many days, preaching and gathering much spiritual fruit of souls.