The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
How Friar Juniper plucked off certain bells from the altar, and gave them away for the love of God
ONCE Friar Juniper was at Assisi for the Nativity of Christ, in deep meditation before the altar of the Convent, the which altar was passing well draped and adorned; at the prayer of the sacristan, Friar Juniper remained to guard the said altar, while the sacristan went to eat. And, while he was in devout meditation, a beggar woman asked alms of him for the love of God. To whom Friar Juniper made answer after this wise: "Wait a little, and I will see whether I cannot give thee something from this altar which is so richly decked". There was upon the altar a border of gold, very beautiful and lordly, with little silver bells of great price. Said Friar Juniper: "These bells are a superfluity"; and he took a knife and cut them all off from the border; and for compassion's sake he gave them to the beggar woman. The sacristan, when he had eaten three or four mouthfuls, recalled to mind the ways of Friar Juniper, and began to fear greatly lest Friar Juniper, for zeal of charity, should do him some injury in regard to that altar, so richly adorned, which he had left in his charge. And anon, being full of suspicion, he rose up from table and gat him to the church and looked to see if any of the ornaments of the altar had been removed or taken away; and he saw that the bells had been cut and plucked off the border; whereat he was beyond measure disquieted and scandalised. Friar Juniper, seeing him thus perturbed, said: "Do not disquiet thyself touching those bells, for I have given
them to a poor woman who had very great need thereof, and here they were no use at all save for vain and worldly pomp". When the sacristan heard this he was sore grieved, and forthwith ran through the church and through all the city, if perchance he might find her; but not only could he not find her, but he found no one who had seen her. He returned to the Place, and, in great anger, took the border and carried it to the General, who was then in Assisi, and said: "Father General, I ask of you justice against Friar Juniper who hath destroyed this border for me, the which was the most honourable that was in the sacristy. See now how he hath spoiled it, and hath plucked off from it all the silver bells; and he saith that he hath given them to a poor woman." The General made answer: "Friar Juniper hath not done this, but rather thy folly; for by this time thou shouldst know his ways; and I tell thee that I marvel that he did not give away all the rest; nevertheless I will correct him well for this fault". And, all the friars having been assembled in Chapter, he caused Friar Juniper to be summoned, and, in the presence of all the convent, rated him soundly touching the aforesaid bells, and so much did his wrath increase that he shouted himself well-nigh hoarse. Friar Juniper cared little or nothing for those words, because he delighted in insults and in being put to shame; but, when he considered the inflammation of the General, he began to think of a remedy. Wherefore, as soon as he had received the rebuke of the General, Friar Juniper went into the city and ordered and caused to be made a good porringer of gruel with butter; and, when a good part. of the night was over, he went for it and returned, and, having lighted a candle, gat him to the cell of the General with this porringer of gruel, and knocked
upon the door. The General opened it and saw him standing there with the lighted candle and the porringer in his hand, and demanded in a low voice: "What is this?" Friar Juniper replied: "My father, to-day when you rebuked me for my faults, I perceived that your voice became hoarse, as I believe, from over-exertion, and therefore I thought of a remedy and caused this gruel to be made for thee. Eat it, I pray thee, for I assure thee it will relieve thy throat and chest." Said the General: "What hour is this to come disturbing others?" Friar Juniper made answer: "See it hath been made for thee; eat it, I pray thee, without more ado, for it will do thee much good". The General, angered at the lateness of the hour and at his importunity, bade him depart, because at such an hour he did not wish to eat, calling him by name, a very low fellow and a scoundrel. Friar Juniper, perceiving that neither entreaties nor soft words prevailed, spake thus: "My father, since thou wilt not eat this gruel which was made for thee, at least do this for me; hold the candle for me and I will eat it myself". Then the General as a compassionate and devout person, considering the piety and simplicity of Friar Juniper, and that all this was done by him of devotion, replied: "Behold now since thou wilt have it so, let us eat it, thou and I, together"; and so they two ate this porringer of gruel by reason of his importunate charity. And far more were they comforted by devotion than by the food.