The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
Of the conversion, life, miracles and death of the holy Friar John of Penna
WHEN Friar John of Penna was still a boy and a scholar in the Province of the March, one night there appeared unto him a very beautiful Child
and called him, saying: "John, go to [the church of] Santo Stefano, where one of My minor friars is preaching; believe his doctrine, and give ear unto his words, for I have sent him thither; and, when thou hast so done, thou hast a long journey to make; and thereafter thou shalt come to Me". Thereupon, he rose up at once, and he felt a great change in his heart; and going to Santo Stefano, he found a great multitude of men and women there, who were waiting to hear the preaching. And he who was to preach was a friar whose name was Philip, the same being one of the first friars who had come to the March of Ancona; for as yet but few Places were taken in the March. Now this Friar Philip rose up to preach, and he preached most devoutly, not with words of human wisdom but by virtue of the Spirit of Christ, proclaiming the Kingdom of Life Eternal. And, when the sermon was ended, the said boy went to the said Friar Philip and said unto him: "Father, if you would vouchsafe to receive me into the Order, I would willingly do penance and serve our Lord Jesus Christ". Friar Philip, perceiving and knowing the marvellous innocence of the boy, and his ready will to serve God, said unto him: "Thou shalt come to me on such a day at Recanati, and I will cause thee to be received". (Now in that place the Provincial Chapter was about to be held.) Wherefore the boy, who was very simple, thought within himself that this was the long journey which he must make, according to the revelation which he had had, and that thereafter he must go to paradise; and this he believed that he must do as soon as he had been received into the Order. He went, therefore, and was received; and, perceiving that his expectations were not fulfilled at once, when the minister said in the Chapter that whosoever
desired to go into the Province of Provence, for the merit of holy obedience, would be freely given leave so to do, there came upon him a great desire to go thither; for he thought in his heart that this was the long journey which he must make before he went to paradise; but, being ashamed to say so, at the last, having great trust in the aforesaid Friar Philip who had received him into the Order, he besought him earnestly that he would obtain for him this favour, that he might have leave to go into the Province of Provence. Then Friar Philip, seeing his simplicity of heart and holy purpose, obtained for him that leave; whereupon Friar John set out with great rejoicing, having this opinion, that, when he had finished that journey, he would go to paradise. But, as God willed it, he abode in the said province twenty-five years, in this expectation and desire; living in very great honesty and sanctity, ever setting a good example and growing in favour with God and man; and he was greatly beloved by the friars and by the laity. Now, one day, while Friar John was praying devoutly, and weeping and lamenting because his desire was not fulfilled and his earthly pilgrimage was too much prolonged, Christ the Blessed appeared unto him; at the sight of Whom his soul was altogether melted. And He said unto him: "My son, Friar John, ask Me what thou wilt"; and he replied: "My Lord, I know not what to ask of Thee save Thyself alone, for I desire nothing else; but this only do I beseech Thee that Thou pardon all my sins, and give me grace to see Thee another time, when I have greater need thereof". Jesus said: "Thy prayer is heard". And when He had thus spoken He departed and Friar John remained full of consolation. At last, the friars of the March, hearing report of his
sanctity, so wrought with the General that he sent him his commandment to return to the March; and, when he had received the said commandment, he set out on his way with joy, thinking that, when he had finished that journey, he would go to heaven according to the promise of Christ. But, after he had returned to the Province of the March, he lived therein thirty years; and there was not one of his kinsmen who knew him again; and every day he awaited the mercy of God, that He should fulfil His promise to him. And in those days, he divers times filled the office of guardian with great discretion; and through him God wrought many miracles. And among the other gifts which he had of God, was the spirit of prophecy; whereby it came to pass that, on a time, when he was away from the Place, a certain novice of his was assailed by the devil, and so grievously tempted that he, consenting unto the temptation, resolved within himself to leave the Order, as soon as Friar John should have returned; the which thing, to wit his temptation and resolve, having been made known unto Friar John through the spirit of prophecy, he forthwith returned home, and called unto him the said novice, and said that he desired that he should confess; but, before he confessed, he recounted to him in order all his temptation, even as God had revealed it unto him, and concluded thus: "Son, because thou didst await me, and desiredst not to depart without my blessing, God hath granted thee this grace that never shalt thou leave the Order, but shalt die therein with the Divine blessing". Then was the said novice stablished in good resolve, and, continuing in the Order, became a holy friar; and all these things Friar Hugolin told me. The said Friar John was a man of cheerful and quiet mind, and rarely spake; he was constant in prayer
and in devotion, and especially after matins he never returned to his cell, but abode in the church in prayer even until day. And one night, while he continued in prayer after matins, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him and said: "Friar John, thy journey hath reached its end, the which thou hast so long awaited; and therefore I announce unto thee, in the name of God, that thou mayest choose what grace thou wilt. And further I announce unto thee that thou mayest choose which thou wilt, either one day in purgatory, or seven days of suffering in this world." And, Friar John choosing rather the seven days of suffering in this world, he straightway sickened of divers sicknesses; for he was sore smitten with a fever, and with gout in his hands and feet, and with colic and many other ills; but that which vexed him worse than all was this: that a demon ever stood before him, holding in his hand a great scroll, whereon were written all the sins that he had ever done or thought, and spake unto him continually, saying: "For these sins which thou hast committed in thought, word and deed, thou art condemned to the depths of hell". And he remembered not any good thing that he had ever done, nor that he was in the Order, nor that he had ever been therein; and so he verily believed that he was damned, even as the demon said unto him. Wherefore, whenever he was asked how he fared, he made answer: "Ill, for I am damned". Now, when the friars saw this, they sent for an aged friar, who was called Friar Matthew of Monte Rubbiano, the same being a holy man and a great friend of this Friar John; and the said Friar Matthew came unto him on the seventh day of his affliction, and saluted him and asked him how he fared; whereto he replied that he fared ill because he was damned. Then Friar Matthew
said: "Dost thou not remember that thou hast ofttimes been confessed by me, and that I have wholly absolved thee of all thy sins? Dost thou not remember that thou hast ever served God in this holy Order for many years? Further, dost thou not remember that the mercy of God is greater than all the sins of the world, and that Christ the blessed, our Saviour, paid to redeem us an infinite price? Wherefore be thou of good hope that of a surety thou art saved." And while he thus spake, inasmuch as the period of Friar John's purgation was ended, the temptation left him, and consolation came unto him. Then spake Friar John to Friar Matthew, with great joy, saying: "Because thou art weary and the hour is late, I pray thee go and take some rest": and albeit Friar Matthew desired not to leave him, at the last, by reason of his much urging, he departed from him and went to lie down; and Friar John remained alone with the friar which waited on him. And lo! Christ the Blessed came with very great splendour and with an exceeding sweet fragrance, even as He had promised him that He would appear to him a second time when he should have greater need thereof: and so He healed him thoroughly from all his sickness. Then Friar John, with clasped hands, gave thanks to God, because He had brought the long journey of the present miserable life to so fair an ending; and, commending his soul into the hands of Christ and yielding it up to God, he passed from this mortal life to the life eternal with Christ the blessed, whom He had so long waited for and desired to behold. And the said Friar John was buried in the Place of Penna San Giovanni.