The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
THE fifth and last consideration is touching certain visions and revelations and miracles which God wrought and showed forth after the death of St. Francis, in confirmation of his most holy Stigmata, and for a declaration of the day and the hour whereon Christ gave them unto him. And as touching this matter, it is to be considered that, in the year of our Lord M.CC.LXXXII., (1282) on the . . . day of the month of October, Friar Philip, Minister of Tuscany, at the commandment of Friar John Buonagrazia, Minister-General, in the name of holy obedience, asked Friar Matthew of Castiglione Aretino, a man of great devotion and sanctity, to tell that which he knew concerning the day and the hour whereon the most holy Stigmata were imprinted by Christ on the body of St. Francis; because he heard that he had had a revelation touching the same. Whereupon Friar Matthew, constrained by holy obedience, answered him after this manner: "While I was in the community of Alvernia, last year in the month of May, I one day betook myself to prayer in my cell, which is on the spot where it is believed that that seraphic vision took place. And in my prayer I besought God most devoutly that He would vouchsafe to reveal unto some person the day and the hour and the place wherein the most holy Stigmata were imprinted upon the body of St. Francis; and, when I had continued in prayer and i in this petition beyond the first watch, St. Francis appeared to me with very great radiance, and said unto me: 'Son, for what dost thou pray to God?' And I said unto him: 'Father, I pray for such and such a
thing'. And he said unto me: 'I am thy Father Francis. Dost thou know me well?' 'Father,' I said, 'yes.' Then he showed me the most holy Stigmata in his hands and feet and side, and said: 'The time hath come when God wills that that, which afore-time the friars have not been curious to know, shall be made manifest for His glory. Know thou then that He which appeared unto me was not an angel, but was Jesus Christ, in the form of a Seraph, who, with his own hands, imprinted on my body these wounds, even as He received them in His body on the Cross. And it was after this manner: On the day before the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, an angel came unto me, and, in God's name, bade me make me ready unto patience and to receive that which God might will to send me. And I made answer that I was ready to receive and to endure everything which might be God's good pleasure. Thereafter, on the following morning, to wit the morning of [the festival of the] Holy Cross, the which that year fell upon a Friday; at daybreak I came forth from my cell, in very great fervour of spirit, and went to pray in this place where thou now art and where I ofttimes prayed, and, as I prayed, lo, through the air, there came down from heaven, with great swiftness, a young man crucified, in the form of a Seraph with six wings; at which marvellous sight I humbly kneeled me down and began to contemplate devoutly the boundless love of Jesus Christ crucified, and the boundless pain of His passion; and the sight of Him engendered in me such pity that I verily seemed to feel His passion in my own body; and, at His presence, all this mountain shone as doth the sun; and, so descending, He came nigh unto me. And, standing before me, He said certain secret words unto me, the which I have not yet revealed unto any
man; but the time draweth nigh when they shall be revealed. Then, after a while, Christ departed, and returned into heaven, and I found myself thus marked with these wounds. Go then,' said St. Francis, 'and tell these things to thy minister nothing doubting; for this is the operation not of man but of God.' And, when he had said these words, St. Francis blessed me and went back to heaven with a great multitude of youths, exceeding bright." All these things the said Friar Matthew said that he had seen and heard, not sleeping but awake. And he sware that he had of a truth told these things to the said minister in his cell at Florence, when he inquired of him concerning the same for obedience’ sake.
UPON another time, a devout and holy friar, while reading the legend of St. Francis in the chapter of the most holy Stigmata, began with great travail of spirit to consider what those so secret words could have been, which St. Francis said that he would not reveal to any one while he lived; the which the Seraph had spoken to him when He appeared unto him. And this friar said within himself: "St. Francis willed not to speak those words to any one during his lifetime; but now, after his bodily death, perchance he would tell them, if he were prayed devoutly so to do".
[paragraph continues] And from thenceforward, the devout friar began to pray God and St. Francis that they would vouchsafe to reveal those words; and this friar continuing eight years in this prayer, in the eighth year he merited to be heard on this wise: One day, after eating, thanks having been given in the church, he was in prayer in a certain part of the church, and was praying to God and St. Francis touching this matter, more devoutly than he was wont, and with many tears; when he was called by another friar, who commanded him in the name of the Guardian to bear him company to the town for the good of the Place. For the which cause, he, doubting not that obedience is more meritorious than prayer, as soon as he had heard the commandment of his superior, humbly left off praying and went with that friar that called him. And, as God willed it, he, by this act of ready obedience, merited that which he had not merited by his long praying. Whence, as soon as they had gone forth from the gate of the Place, they met two strange friars, who appeared to have come from a far country; and one of them seemed a young man and the other old and lean; and, by reason of the bad weather, they were all muddy and wet. Wherefore that obedient friar had great compassion for them, and said unto the companion, with whom he was going: "O dearest brother mine, if the business whereon we are going may wait a little, inasmuch as these strange friars have great need to be charitably received, I beseech thee to permit me first to go and wash their feet, and especially those of this aged friar, who hath the greater need thereof; and you will be able to wash those of this younger one; and thereafter we will go about the business of the convent". Then this friar consenting unto the charitable desire of his companion, they went back and
received those strange friars very charitably, and took them into the kitchen to the fire to warm and dry themselves; at the which fire eight other friars of the Place were warming themselves. And, after they had been a little while at the fire, they took them aside to wash their feet, even as they had agreed together. And while that obedient and devout friar was washing the feet of the older friar, and removing the mud therefrom, for they were very muddy, he looked and saw that his feet were marked with the most holy Stigmata; and anon, for joy and wonder he embraced them closely, and began to cry aloud: "Either thou art Christ, or thou art St. Francis". At that cry and at those words, the friars, which were at the fire, arose and came thither with great fear and reverence to see those glorious stigmata. And then, at their prayer, this ancient friar permitted them clearly to see and touch and kiss them. And, while they marvelled yet more for joy, he said unto them: "Doubt not and fear not, dearest friars and sons; I am your father Friar Francis, who, according to the will of God, founded three Orders. And seeing that, for eight years, I have been entreated by this friar, who is washing my feet, and to-day more fervently than ever before, that I would reveal unto him those secret words which the Seraph spake unto me when He gave me the stigmata, the which words I resolved never to reveal in my lifetime, to-day, by the commandment of God, by reason of his perseverance and the ready obedience with which he left the sweetness of contemplation, I am sent by God to reveal unto him, before you all, that which he asks." And then, turning unto that friar, St. Francis spake thus: "Know, dearest friar, that, when I was upon the mountain of Alvernia, wholly absorbed in the remembrance of the passion of Christ
in that seraphic apparition, I was by Christ thus marked on my body with the Stigmata, and then Christ said unto me: 'Knowest thou what I have done unto thee? I have given thee the tokens of My passion, so that thou mayest be My standard-bearer. And even as I, on the day of My death, descended into Limbo, and, in virtue of these My Stigmata, drew out thence all the souls which I found there, and took them to Paradise; so to thee do I grant even from this hour, to the end that thou mayest be conformed to Me in death as thou hast been in life, that, after thou shalt have passed from this life, every year on the day of thy death, thou shalt go to Purgatory, and, in virtue of thy Stigmata which I have given thee, shalt draw out thence all the souls of thy three Orders, to wit minors, sisters and continents, and, beyond this, those others whom thou shalt find there, who have borne devotion unto thee, and shalt lead them into Paradise.' And these words I never spake while I lived in the world." And, when he had said these words, St. Francis and his companion suddenly vanished away. Many friars afterwards heard this from those eight friars, who were present at this vision and at these words of St. Francis.
ONCE, upon the mountain of Alvernia, St. Francis appeared to Friar John of Alvernia, a man of great sanctity, while he was praying, and abode and talked with him for a very long time; and, at the last, desiring to depart, he spake thus: "Ask of me what
thou wilt". Said Friar John: "Father, I pray thee to tell me that which I have long desired to know, to wit what you were doing, and where you were, when the Seraph appeared unto you". St. Francis made answer: "I was praying in that place where is now the chapel of Count Simon da Battifolle, and I was entreating two graces of my Lord Jesus Christ. The first was that He would grant me to feel, in this life, in my soul and in my body, as far as might be possible, all that pain which He had Himself felt at the time of His most bitter passion. The second grace which I asked of Him was in like manner that I might feel in my heart that intense love wherewith He was enkindled to bear so great passion for us sinners. And then God put it in my heart that He would grant me to feel both the one and the other, as much as was possible for a mere creature; the which thing was abundantly fulfilled in me at the imprinting of the Stigmata." Then Friar John asked him whether those secret words which the Seraph had spoken unto him had been even such as were rehearsed by that holy friar aforesaid, who declared that he had heard them from St. Francis in the presence of eight friars. St. Francis replied that the truth was even as that friar had said. Thereupon, Friar John, encouraged by the liberality of the granter, took heart to ask yet more, and said thus: "O father, I beseech thee most earnestly that thou wilt suffer me to behold and to kiss thy most holy and glorious Stigmata; not because I doubt thereof at all, but only for my consolation; for for this have I alway yearned". And, St. Francis freely showing them and offering them unto him, Friar John clearly saw and touched and kissed them. And, at the last, he asked of him: "Father, how great consolation had your soul, beholding Christ the Blessed coming unto you to give you the
marks of His most holy Passion? Now would to God that I might feel a little of that sweetness!" Then St. Francis made answer: "Seest thou these nails?" Said Friar John: "Father, yes". "Touch yet again," said St. Francis, "this nail which is in my hand." Then Friar John, with great reverence and fear, touched that nail, and immediately, as he touched it, so great a perfume issued therefrom, as it were a thin spiral of smoke after the fashion of incense, and, entering through the nose of Friar John, filled his soul and body with so much sweetness, that forthwith he was rapt in God in ecstasy, and became insensible; and he remained thus rapt from that hour, which was the hour of Terce, even until Vespers. And of this vision and familiar conversation with St. Francis Friar John never spake unto any man, save only to his confessor, until he came unto his death; but, being nigh to his death, he revealed it to many friars.
IN the Province of Rome, a very devout and holy friar saw this marvellous vision. A certain friar, a very dear companion of his, having died one night, was buried, in the morning, before the entrance of the, chapter-house; and, on the same day, after dinner, that friar betook himself into a corner of the chapter-house, to pray God and St. Francis devoutly for the soul of that dead friar his companion. And, as he persevered in prayer with supplications and tears, at noon, when all the others were gone away to sleep, he heard a great noise as of one being dragged through
the cloister; whereat immediately with great fear he turned his eyes toward the grave of his companion, and saw St. Francis standing there at the entrance of the chapter-house, and behind him a great multitude of friars round about the said grave. He looked beyond, and saw in the midst of the cloister a very great flaming fire, and in the flames was the soul of his companion who was dead. He looked round the cloister and he saw Jesus Christ walking round the cloister with a great company of angels and of saints. And, while he gazed upon these things and marvelled much, he saw that, when Christ passed before the chapter-house, St. Francis kneeled down with all those friars and spake thus: "I beseech Thee, my dearest Father and Lord, that, through the inestimable charity which Thou didst show to the human race in Thy incarnation, Thou wilt have mercy on the soul of this my friar, who burneth in yonder flame"; and Christ answered him never a word but passed on. And, when He returned, the second time, and passed before the chapter-house, St. Francis again kneeled him down with his friars, as at the first, and besought Him on this wise: "I pray Thee, merciful Father and Lord, through the boundless charity which Thou didst show to the human race when Thou didst die upon the wood of the cross, that Thou wilt have mercy on the soul of this my friar"; and Christ passed on as before and answered him not. And going round the cloister He returned the third time and passed before the chapter-house, and then St. Francis, kneeling down as before, showed unto Him his hands and his feet and his side and spake thus: "I beseech Thee, merciful Father and Lord, by that great pain and great consolation which I endured when Thou didst set these Stigmata in my flesh, that Thou
wilt have pity on the soul of this my friar that is in that fire of purgatory". O wonderful thing! No sooner was Christ prayed that third time by St. Francis in the name of his Stigmata, than He forthwith stayed His steps and, looking upon the stigmata, gave ear unto his prayer and spake thus: "To thee, Francis, I grant the soul of thy friar". And in this, of a surety, He willed to honour and confirm the glorious Stigmata of St. Francis, and openly to signify that the souls of his friars, which go to Purgatory, can in no way be more easily delivered from their pains and brought to the glory of Paradise, than by virtue of his Stigmata, according unto the words which Christ spake unto St. Francis when He imprinted them upon him. Wherefore, as soon as these words had been spoken, that fire in the cloister vanished, and the dead friar came to St. Francis: and, together with him and with Christ, all that blessed company went up into heaven with their glorious King. For the which cause, this friar his companion, who had prayed for him, was exceeding glad when he saw him delivered from his pains and taken to paradise; and thereafter he told all that vision in order to the other friars, and together with them gave praise and thanks to God.
A NOBLE knight of Massa di Santa Piero, by name Messer Landolfo, who bare unto St. Francis very great devotion, and finally received the habit of the Third Order at his hands, was certified upon this
wise of the death of St. Francis and of his most holy Stigmata: When St. Francis was nigh unto death, the devil entered into a woman of the said town, and cruelly tormented her; and therewith he caused her to speak with such subtlety of learning that she put to silence all the wise and learned men who came to dispute with her. It befel that the devil departed from her and, for two days, left her free; and, on the third day, returning unto her again, he afflicted her far more cruelly than before. Whereupon, Messer Landolfo, hearing thereof, gat himself to this woman and asked of the devil who dwelt in her, what was the reason that he had left her for two days, and thereafter returning, tormented her more grievously than before. The devil made answer: "When I left her the reason was this, that I, and all my fellows which are in these parts, gathered ourselves together and went in great force to the death-bed of the mendicant Francis, to dispute with him and to take his soul; but because it was surrounded and defended by a multitude of angels, more numerous than we, and was by them carried straight to heaven, we departed in confusion; wherefore do I requite and render unto this wretched woman that which in those two days I left undone". And then Messer Landolfo conjured him in the name of God to speak the truth concerning the sanctity of St. Francis, who he said was dead, and of St. Clare, who was alive. The demon made answer: "Whether I would or no, I will tell thee thereof that which is true. God the Father was so wrath against the sins of the world that it seemed that ere long He would pronounce the final sentence against men and women, and utterly destroy them from the earth if they amended not themselves. But Christ, His Son, praying for sinners, promised to renew His life and His passion in a man,
to wit in Francis, mendicant and destitute: by whose life and doctrine He would lead back many, throughout all the world, to the way of truth, and many also to penitence. And now, to make manifest unto the world that which He had wrought in St. Francis, He hath willed that the Stigmata of His passion, the which He had imprinted upon his body in his life, should now be seen and touched by many in his death. In like manner, the Mother of Christ promised to renew her virginal purity and her humility in a woman, to wit in St. Clare, on such wise that, by her example, she should deliver many thousands of women out of our hands. And thus, God the Father, being appeased by these promises, delayed His final sentence". Then Messer Landolfo, desiring to know certainly whether the devil, who is the storehouse and father of lies, spake the truth in these things, and especially touching the death of St. Francis, sent one of his faithful squires to Assisi, to Santa Maria degli A ngeli, to know whether St. Francis were dead or alive; the which squire, on his arrival there, found that St. Francis had actually
M departed from this life on the very day and hour which the devil had said; and so returning he reported it unto his lord.
LEAVING all the miracles of the most holy Stigmata of St. Francis, the which may be read in his Legend, for conclusion of this fifth consideration, it is to be known that to Pope Gregory IX. (doubting somewhat of the wound in the side of St. Francis, even
as he afterward related) St. Francis appeared one night and, lifting up his right arm a little, uncovered the wound in his side, and asked of him a phial; and he caused it to be brought; and St. Francis caused it to be set under the wound in his side; and it seemed to the Pope that, of a verity, it was filled even unto the brim with blood mixed with water, which came forth from the said wound; and from thenceforth every doubt departed from him. And thereafter, with the counsel of all the cardinals, he approved the most holy Stigmata of St. Francis, and therefore he gave to the friars a special privilege with the hanging seal; and this he did at Viterbo in the eleventh year of his pontificate; and afterward, in the twelfth year, he gave another more ample. Again, Pope Nicolas III. and Pope Alexander gave ample privileges whereby whosoever should deny the most holy Stigmata of St. Francis, against him might proceedings be taken even as against a heretic. And this sufficeth as touching the fifth consideration of the glorious and most holy Stigmata of our father St. Francis; whose life may God give us grace so to follow in this world that, by virtue of his glorious stigmata, we may merit to be saved with him in paradise. To the praise of Jesus Christ and of the mendicant St. Francis. Amen.