The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
THE man who is slothful loseth this world and the next; for he bringeth not forth any fruit himself, and he is of no profit to his neighbour. It is impossible for man to attain unto virtue without diligence and without great labour. When thou art able to abide in a safe place, abide not in a place which is doubtful; he abided) in a safe place who is diligent and afflicts himself and works and strives according to the will of God and for God, and neither for fear of punishment nor for reward, but for God. The man who refuseth to afflict Himself and to spend himself for Christ verily refuseth the glory of Christ; and even as diligence is profitable and helpful to us, so carelessness is always contrary to us. Thus, even as sloth is the way which leadeth unto hell, so is holy diligence the road to heaven. Very diligent ought man to be to obtain and keep the virtues and the grace of God, ever using that grace and virtue faithfully; because oftentimes it befalleth to that man who laboureth not faithfully that he loseth the fruit for the leaves, or the wheat for the straw. To one God, of His grace, granteth good fruit with few leaves, and to another He gives fruit and leaves together; and others there be which have neither fruit nor leaves. Meseemeth a greater thing to know well how to guard and keep secret the good gifts and graces of the Lord, than to know how to obtain them; for, albeit a man knoweth well how to earn, if he knoweth not well how to store up and keep, he will never be rich; but some there be who earn little by little and become rich, because they keep safe their earnings and their treasure. O what great quantity of water would the Tiber have collected,
if it ran not away in any part! Man asketh of God an infinite gift, without measure and without end; and he desired) not to love God save with measure and with end. Whosoever would be loved of God, and would receive from Him merit boundless and measureless, must love God without measure and without limit, and must always render Him infinite service. Blessed is he who loveth God with all his heart and with all his mind, and always afflicted) his body and his mind for love of God, seeking therefor no recompense under heaven, save only that he may know himself His debtor. If a man were exceeding poor and needy, and another man should say unto him: "I am willing to lend thee a very precious thing for the space of three days; and know that if, during this period of three days, thou shalt make good use of this thing, thou wilt gain an infinite treasure which will make thee rich for evermore"; it is certain that that poor man would be very anxious to use that precious thing well and diligently, and much would he study to profit thereby. So, in like manner, I say that the thing lent us by the hand of the Lord is this body of ours, the which the good God hath lent us for three days; for all our times and years are in comparison but as three days. If then thou wouldst be rich and enjoy eternally the Divine sweetness, study to use well this body of thine lent by the hand of God and to make it bring forth fruit, in this space of three days, to wit in the brief period of thy life; for if thou art not diligent to lay up treasure in this present life, while yet thou hast time, thou wilt not be able to enjoy those eternal riches, nor to rest for evermore in that holy celestial peace. But if all the estates in the world belonged to one person and he cultivated them not neither caused them to be cultivated by others, what fruit or what
profit would he have from these things? Certain it is that he would have no profit therefrom, nor any fruit. But well might it be that a man should have but few fields and, cultivating them well, should have much profit for himself, and for others ample fruit and abundant. A worldly proverb saith: Set not an empty pot on the fire to boil in the hope that thy neighbour will fill it; and so, in like manner, God willeth not that any grace shall remain empty; for the good God never giveth grace to a man that he may keep it empty; rather doth He give it to the end that he may fill it with fruit of good works; for good-will sufficeth not, unless a man seek to follow it out and to fill it with the fruit of holy works. Once a wanderer said to Friar Giles;" Father, I beseech thee give me some consolation"; to whom Friar Giles made answer: "My brother, seek to stand well with God, and forthwith thou wilt have the consolation whereof thou hast need; for if a man prepare not a spotless dwelling-place within his soul for God to live and rest therein, he will never find shelter, nor rest, nor true consolation in created things". When a man is minded to do ill, never doth he ask much advice before doing it; but for doing well many take counsel and make long delay. Once Friar Giles said to his companions; "My brethren, meseemeth that in our day none is found who is willing to do those things which he seeth to be more profitable, not only for the soul but also for the body. Believe me, my brethren, that I could swear in very truth that the more a man flees from and shuns the burden and the yoke of Christ, the more grievous doth he make it for himself, and the more weighty and heavy doth he feel it; and the more zealously a man taketh it, ever increasing the weight thereof of his own free-will, the lighter he feels it
and the greater sweetness he hath in being able to bear it. Now would to God that man might obtain and have the good things of the body in this world, because he would also gain those of the soul; inasmuch as the body and the soul, without any doubt, must be joined together to suffer always or to rejoice always; to wit to suffer in hell for all eternity punishments and torments inestimable, or to enjoy for ever with Saints and. Angels in Paradise, delights and consolations unspeakable, through the merits of good works. Nevertheless if a man did well or forgave his enemies without humility, these things would turn to evil; for there have been many who have done many deeds which seemed good and praiseworthy, but, because they had not humility, it was made manifest and known that they were done through pride, and the works themselves have shown it, for things which are done with humility never become corrupt." A friar said to Friar Giles: "Father, meseemeth that as yet we know not how to recognise what is good for us". Whereto Friar Giles replied: "My brother, certain it is that each man practiseth the craft which he hath learned, for no man can do good work unless he first learn; wherefore, my brother, I would that thou shouldst know that the noblest craft which there is in the world is to do good work: and who can know it, if he have not first learned it? Blessed is that man whom no created thing can teach to do wrong! but more blessed is he who in everything which he sees and hears receiveth edification for himself."