The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
HE who with steadfast humility and patience suffereth and beareth tribulations for fervent love of God, will soon come to great graces and virtues, and will be lord of this world and will have an earnest of the other glorious world. Everything which a man doth, whether good or ill, unto himself he doth it; and therefore be thou not offended with him who doth thee wrong; rather shouldst thou have humble patience, and for his sin alone shouldst thou grieve, having pity upon him and praying God effectually for him. In proportion as a man is strong to bear and to endure injury and tribulation patiently for love of God, even so is he great in the sight of God, and not more; and the weaker a man is to bear sorrow and adversity for the love of God, the less is he in the sight of God. If any man praise thee speaking well of thee, give that praise to God only; and if any man speak evil of thee or revile thee, do thou aid him, speaking the same evil of thyself and worse. If thou desire to make good thy cause, ever strive to make it bad; and make good that of thy companion, always accusing thyself, and always praising or excusing thy neighbour. When any man would contend or go to law with thee, if thou desire to win, lose, and thou wilt win; for if thou shouldst desire to go to law to win, when thou didst believe that thou hadst won, then wouldst thou find that thou hadst greatly lost. And therefore, my brother, believe me that of a surety the straight way of salvation is the way of perdition. But when we bear not tribulation well, then we cannot be followers of the eternal consolations. A far greater consolation is it. and a more meritorious thing, to bear injuries and
reproaches patiently and without murmuring, for the love of God, than to feed, a hundred poor and to fast continually every day. But what shall it profit a man, or what shall it avail him to despise himself, and to grievously vex his body with great fasts and watchings and scourgings, if he cannot bear a little wrong at the hands of his neighbour? For the which thing a man shall receive a far greater reward and greater merit than for all the afflictions wherewith he may afflict himself of his own will; for to bear the upbraidings and abuse of his neighbour with humble patience and without murmuring much more quickly cleanseth from sin than doth the fountain of many tears. Blessed is that man who always keeps before the eyes of his mind the memory of his sins and the benefits of God! for he will bear with patience every tribulation and adversity; from which things he looks for great consolations. The man who is truly humble looks not for any merit or reward from God, but only strives continually how he may please Him in everything, knowing himself to be His debtor; and every good thing which he hath he knows that he hath only through the goodness of God, and not through any merit of his own; and every adversity which befalleth him he knows to have befallen him through his sins. A friar asked Friar Giles saying: "Father, if great adversities and tribulations shall come in our times, what ought we to do?" To whom Friar Giles made answer, saying: "My brother, I would have thee know that, if the Lord should cause stones and thunderbolts to rain down from heaven, they could not hurt us nor do us any harm, if we were such men as we ought to be; because were a man in truth that which he ought to be, every evil and every tribulation would be turned to good; for we know that the Apostle said that all things work
together for good to them that love God; and so likewise for the man whose desire is evil, all good things are turned to evil and to judgment. If thou wouldst save thyself and go to the celestial glory, it behoveth thee never to desire any vengeance or retribution upon any creature; for the inheritance of the saints is always to do good and always to receive evil. If in very truth thou knewest in what manner and how grievously thou hast offended thy Creator, thou wouldst know that it is a right and just thing that all creatures should persecute thee and work thee pain and tribulation; inasmuch as such creatures would be taking vengeance for the offences which thou hast committed against their Creator. Very great virtue is it for a man to conquer himself; for he who conquereth himself shall conquer all his enemies and attain unto all good. Yet much greater virtue would it be if a man should permit himself to be conquered by all men; because then he would be lord of all his enemies, to wit of vices, of demons, of the world and of his own flesh. If thou wouldst save thyself, renounce and despise every consolation which all worldly things and all mortal creatures can give thee; for greater and more frequent are the falls which come from prosperity and from consolations, than those which come through adversities and tribulations." Once a Religious murmured against his Superior in the presence of Friar Giles by reason of a harsh obedience which he had commanded him; unto whom Friar Giles said: "Dearly beloved, the more thou shalt murmur, the more thy burden increaseth and the heavier will it be for thee to bear; and the more humbly and devoutly thou shalt put thy head beneath the yoke of holy obedience, the lighter will this obedience be and the sweeter for thee to bear. But to me it seemeth that thou art not willing to be
reviled in this world for love of Christ, and yet desirest to be honoured by Christ in the world to come; thou art not willing to be persecuted and cursed in this world for Christ's sake, and yet in the other world thou desirest to be blessed and received by Christ; in this world thou wouldst not labour, and in the other world thou wouldst rest and take thine ease. I tell thee, friar, that thou art badly deceived; for by the path of misery and shames and revilings man cometh to the true heavenly honour, and by patiently bearing derision and curses for love of Christ, man cometh to the glory of Christ; therefore well saith the worldly proverb: He who gives away nothing which he feels the loss of, receives nothing which he wants. Excellent is the nature of the horse, because how fast soever he may run he allows himself to be ruled, guided and turned up and down, forward and backward, according to the will of his rider; and so likewise ought the servant of God to do, to wit he ought to allow himself to be ruled, guided, twisted and bent, according to the will of his superior, and also by every one else, for the love of Christ. If thou wouldst be perfect strive earnestly to be gracious and virtuous, and fight valiantly against vice, bearing patiently every adversity for love of thy Lord, who was tormented, afflicted, reviled, beaten, crucified and slain for love of thee, and not for His fault, or for His glory, or for His profit, but only for thy salvation; and to do this which I have told thee, above all it is needful that thou conquer thyself; because it profiteth a man little to lead and draw souls to God if he doth not first conquer and lead and draw himself."