The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
How Friar James of Massa saw in a vision all the minor friars of the world, in a vision of a tree, and knew the virtue and the merits and the faults of each of them
FRIAR JAMES of Massa (to whom God opened the door of His secrets, and gave perfect knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures and of things to come) was of so great sanctity that Friar Giles of Assisi, and Friar Mark of Montino, and Friar Juniper, and Friar Lucidus said of him; that they knew no one in the world greater in the sight of God than this Friar James. I had great desire to see him, because, while I was praying Friar John, the companion of the said Friar Giles, to explain to me certain spiritual things, he said unto me: "If thou wouldst be well informed in the spiritual life, endeavour to have speech with Friar James of Massa; for Friar Giles himself desired to be instructed by him, and to his words no man may add or take away anything, in that his mind hath penetrated celestial secrets and his words are words of the Holy Ghost; and there is no man on this earth whom I so much desire to see". This Friar James, in the beginning of the ministry of Friar John of Parma, was once rapt in God as he prayed; and he remained three days in this ecstasy, with every bodily feeling suspended, and so complete was his insensibility that the friars doubted whether he were not dead; and, while he was in this rapture, that which shall hereafter come to pass touching our Religion was revealed to him of God; for the which cause, when I heard thereof, my desire to hear and to speak with him increased. And when it pleased God that I had
leisure to talk with him, I besought him after this manner: "If that which I have heard tell of thee be true, I beseech thee that thou keep it not hidden from me. I have heard that among the other things which God revealed unto thee, when thou wast for three days as one dead, was that which must befal this our Religion; and Friar Matthew, minister of the March, unto whom thou didst reveal it for obedience’ sake, hath said so." Then Friar James confessed with great humility that that which Friar Matthew said was true. Now the words which he (to wit, Friar Matthew, minister of the March) spake, were these: "I know a friar, to whom God hath revealed that which shall come to pass in our Religion; in that Friar James of Massa hath manifested and said unto me that, after God had revealed to him many things touching the state of the Church militant, he beheld in a vision a passing great and beautiful tree, whereof the root was gold and its fruits men; and all of them were Minor friars. Its main branches were distinct and separate, according to the number of the provinces of the Order, and each branch bore as many fruits as there were friars in the province represented by that branch; and then he knew the number of all the friars of the Order and of every province, as also their names and ages and condition, and the great offices, dignities and graces of all of them, and their faults. And he saw Friar John of Parma on the highest point of the central branch of this tree; and on the tops of the branches, which were round about the central branch, were the ministers of all the provinces. And, thereafter, he saw Christ sitting upon a very great white throne; and Christ called St. Francis up thither and gave him a chalice full of the spirit of life, and sent him forth, saying: 'Go and visit thy Friars, and give them to drink of this chalice of the
spirit of life; for the spirit of Satan will rise up against them and smite them; and many of them will fall and will not rise up again' . And Christ gave to St. Francis two angels that they might bear him company. Then St. Francis came to offer the chalice of life to his friars; and first he offered it to Friar John of Parma; who took it and drank it all, in haste, and devoutly; and anon he became luminous as the sun. And after him St. Francis offered it to all the others in turn; and few there were of them which took it with becoming reverence and devotion and drank it all. Those who took it devoutly, and drank it all, forthwith became resplendent as the sun; and those who spilled it all and did not take it with devotion, became black, dark, and deformed and horrible to see: those who drank part of it and spilled part of it became partly shining and partly dark, and more or less, according to the quantity drunk or spilled; but the aforesaid Friar John was resplendent above all the others, inasmuch as he had more completely drunk the chalice of life, and had thereby gazed more deeply into the abyss of the infinite light divine; and, in that light, had discerned the adversity and the tempest which must arise against the said tree and shake and agitate its branches. For the which cause the said Friar John departed from the top of the branch whereon he had been; and descending below all the branches, hid himself in the solid part of the trunk of the tree, and remained there full of gloomy thoughts; and a friar who had drunk part of the chalice and had spilled part, climbed up to that branch and to that place whence Friar John had descended. And, being in the said place, the nails of his hands became iron, sharp and keen as razors; whereupon he departed from that place, whereto he had climbed up, and with impetuosity and fury
sought to fling himself upon the said Friar John to harm him; but Friar John, beholding this, cried aloud and commended himself to Christ which sat upon the throne; and, at his cry, Christ called St. Francis and gave him a sharp flint and said unto him: 'Go thou with this flint and cut the nails of that friar wherewith he is seeking to tear Friar John, so that he may not be able to harm him'; then St. Francis came and did as Christ had commanded him. And, when he had so done, a great storm of wind arose and smote the tree so strongly that the friars thereof fell to the ground; and the first to fall were they which had spilled the whole of the chalice of the spirit of life; and they were carried away by demons into places of darkness and pain. But Friar John, together with the others which had drunk all the chalice, were borne by the angels into the place of life and light eternal and of beatific splendour. And the aforesaid Friar James understood and discerned particularly and distinctly that which he saw in the vision, touching the name and condition and estate of each one of them clearly. And so long did that tempest continue to rage against the tree that it fell, and the wind carried it away. And afterward, as soon as the tempest had ceased, from the root of this tree, which was of gold, there sprang another tree which was all gold, and which brought forth leaves and flowers and golden fruit. Touching which tree and how it spread abroad its branches and struck deep its roots, and of its beauty and fragrance and virtue, it is better to be silent than to speak thereof at this present."