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Title: Brother Francis - Less than the least
Author: Douglas, Eileen
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Brother Francis - Less than the least" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

  Transcription Notes:

  All obvious punctuation errors have been corrected.

  Both alms-giving and almsgiving appeared in the text. Almsgiving has
  been retained.

  Both grey-green and grey green appeared in the text. Grey-green has
  been retained.

  Both countryside and country-side appeared in the text. Country-side
  has been retained.

  Both lawsuits and law-suits appeared in the text. Lawsuits has been

  Both unheard of and unheard-of both appeared in text. Unheard of has
  been retained.

  Both any one and anyone both appeared in text. Anyone has been

  Both swineherd and swine-herd appeared in the text. Swine-herd has
  been retained.

  Both lay workers and lay-workers appeared in the text. Lay-workers
  has been retained.

  Both Bernard di Quintavelle and Bernard di Quintavalle appeared in
  the text. The variation has been retained.

  p 1. Appenines has been corrected to Apennines.

  p 16. delapidated was corrected to dilapidated

  p 66. Appenines has been corrected to Apennines.

  p 116. amplication has been corrected to application.

  p 116. nomed was corrected to named

         *       *       *       *       *



  No. I.







    LONDON: 79 & 81 Fortess Road, N.W.
    MELBOURNE: 69 Bourke Street
    NEW YORK: 120 West Fourteenth Street
    TORONTO: Albert Street
    CAPE TOWN: Loop Street


  _Second Edition._

  _Uniform with this Volume._

    II. ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER. A Brief History of the Last Days of

















  CHAPTER.                                             PAGE.

      I.--ASSISI AND FRANCIS                              1

     II.--A CHANGE                                        5

    III.--A LONELY STRUGGLE                              10

     IV.--VICTORY WITHOUT AND WITHIN                     15

      V.--FRANCIS' CALL                                  21

     VI.--FRANCIS' EARLY DISCIPLES                       28

    VII.--FRANCIS CALLED TO BE A SAINT                   36

   VIII.--FRANCIS AS A LEADER OF MEN                     44

     IX.--ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ORDER                     50

      X.--THE STORY OF CLARA                             57

     XI.--THE FIRST CHAPTER                              62

    XII.--SOME OF FRANCIS' CONVERTS                      70

   XIII.--THE STORY OF THE MARTYRS                       80

    XIV.--FIRST FOREIGN MISSIONS                         87



   XVII.--CLOUDS                                        111

  XVIII.--LAST DAYS                                     119


The following pages have been written by my request with a view to
making the Soldiers of The Salvation Army somewhat familiar with the
life-story of one of the most remarkable men this world has ever seen.

While many and varied will be the opinions respecting the methods
employed by Francis of Assisi, and while some will doubtless strongly
dissent from these methods, yet I think no serious follower of Jesus
Christ can do otherwise than admire the sincerity, devotion and
sacrifice of the man; and further, there can be, I think, no two
opinions as to his having taught and manifested to the world what it
means to be possessed entirely by the Saviour's spirit.

And what did that spirit produce? Surely it was the same entire
devotion of our all to the service of God and humanity which we
Salvationists daily teach. The difference between our spirit and that
of the subject of this Memoir is, I trust, very slight, although the
manifestations of it are widely diverse. We are quite as extreme in
our demands as to poverty and solitude as he was, only that we do not
value these things for their own sake as he did. We daily induce
persons to leave earthly possessions and prospects in order to go and
seek the salvation of the poor, amongst whom their future life is to
be spent; and we require our Officers to consecrate all they have to
the service of the Kingdom of God right through their career, and to
live always in a state of readiness to be sent away from all they have
known and loved--not, indeed, to live in any cloister or hermitage,
but in the solitude amidst the crowd which must ever be more or less
the lot of the highest leaders of men.

The system established by Francis was not adaptable to family life,
whereas it is our joy to show how as complete a devotion to the good
of others can be manifested by the father or mother, who spend most of
their hours in toil for the support of those dependent upon them, as
by the monks and nuns of old, even when they walked in entire harmony
with the rules of their various orders.

We have demonstrated that most people by the very fact of their being
engaged in business, and having to fulfil the duties of family life,
acquire extra power to capture for God those who are still in the
ranks of worldliness and selfishness.

Nevertheless, we must always expect God to require from time to time
witnesses who might step out of the ordinary path altogether in order
to revolutionise the world for Him. It were better far to aspire to so
high and holy a calling than to excuse in ourselves any less
self-denial, any easier life than this man's boundless love to Christ
constrained him to adopt.

It is most melancholy to reflect that Francis died almost
broken-hearted over what he felt to be the unfaithfulness of his
brethren. We believe that God has guided us to plans which, being
consistent with the possibilities of modern human life, are capable of
being carried out fully and always. But the vital question is the
maintenance of that intense spirit of personal devotion to the good
Shepherd and His lost sheep, which can alone render any such scheme of
life possible. To that great end may this book minister, and God grant
us grace and wisdom to raise up generation after generation of
soldiers, who will not only drink in, but fully carry out that spirit.

                                                      WILLIAM BOOTH.

         _International Headquarters,






    "Hands love clasped through charmèd hours,
    Feet that press the bruisèd flowers,
    Is there naught for you to dare,
    That ye may his signet wear?"

You will not be likely to find Assisi marked on any ordinary map of
Italy. It is far too unimportant a place for that. That is to say,
geographically unimportant. Assisi lies half-way up the Apennines. The
houses, which are built of a curious kind of rosy-tinted stone, press
so closely together one above the other on the rocks, so that each
house seems trying to look over its neighbours' head. The result of
this is that from every window you have one of the grandest views in
Europe. Above, the mountains tower into the sky, and yet they are not
so close as to suggest crowding. Beneath lies stretched out the
Umbrian plain, the centre and heart of Italy. With its rich harvests,
plentiful streams and luxuriant vegetation, it might well be called
the Eden of Italy.

The atmosphere is clear and transparent, and the nights, with their
dark blue cloudless skies, studded with myriads of shining, sparkling
stars, are better imagined than described!

[Sidenote: _Like a Prince._]

It was midway up one of the narrow steep little streets, in one of
those rosy-tinted houses, that Francis Bernardone was born, about six
hundred years ago. Only he wasn't Francis just then. He was John. As
a matter of fact there was no such name as Francis known in Assisi,
and some think it was invented there and then for the first time by
Pietro Bernardone.

When his baby was born, Pietro was far away, travelling in France. He
was a merchant, and his business often took him away from home. As
there were no letters or telegrams to tell him the news, it was not
till he got back that he found he had a baby son, who had been duly
christened John at the parish church. But Pietro had no idea of
letting a little matter of this kind stand in his way, and he told his
wife, Pica, that the baby was not to be John, but Francis or
Francesca. And Francis he was.

The neighbours didn't like it at all. Why should Pietro set himself up
to be so much better than other folks that he must needs invent a name
for his baby? In what was his baby better than any of theirs? And so
forth. Oh, Assisi was a very natural little town! From his babyhood
these neighbours sat in judgment on little Francis. There was nothing
much about him that pleased them. They disapproved of his dress, which
was rich and fine, and always according to the latest fashion; of his
idle, free, careless ways, of his handsome face, of his superabundance
of pocket-money.

"Your son lives like a prince," a neighbour said once to Pica.

"What is that to you!" retorted Pica, "our son does indeed live like a
prince. Have patience, the day may come when he will live like the Son
of God."

But in truth that day seemed long in coming, and the neighbours might
well be forgiven when they said among themselves that young Francis
Bernardone was being utterly spoiled. It was quite true. Frank, gay,
good-tempered, easily led, fond of all kinds of beauty and soft
living, the life of indulgence and ease and pleasure that he was
brought up in was not the one that would best fit him for the battle
of life. Pietro was rich, and he was also exceeding proud of his
handsome gay son. It delighted him more than anything else to hear
people say that he looked like a prince of royal blood, and he denied
him nothing that money could procure.

[Sidenote: _Young Manhood._]

As he grew up into young manhood, Francis nominally assisted his
father in his business as cloth merchant. His duties, however, were
very light, and he was known more as a leader among the gay youth of
Assisi than as a rising business man. He was always chosen as the
leader of the sumptuous feasts that the young men of that era wiled
away the evening hours with. After the feast was over, Francis used to
lead his band out into the streets, and there under those glorious
starry skies they finished the night singing the then popular love
songs of France and Italy. As Francis was intensely musical, and
possessed a very fine voice, he was indispensable at these revelries.

He was almost twenty-five before he had his first serious thought. Up
to then life had been an enchanted dream. Francis, with his handsome
face, beautiful courteous manners, and full pockets the centre of it.
He had seen life outside Assisi, for he had fought for his country and
suffered imprisonment. He had travelled a little, was fairly well
educated, and what was rare in those days spoke and sang in the French
language. Of God he seems to have had no knowledge whatever. His
kindly, polite nature led him to much almsgiving, but that was merely
the outcome of a disposition which hated to see suffering.

Francis' lack of religion is not much to be wondered at when we look
at the state of the church in his time. Christianity had become old,
its first freshness had worn off, and its primitive teaching had
fallen into decay. A Christian's life was an easy one, and the service
rendered was more of church-going and almsgiving, than purity of heart
and life. In many instances those who filled the office of teacher and
preacher were corrupt, and lived only for themselves, and the whole
tendency of the times was to the most extreme laxity.

When almost twenty-five years old, Francis had a very severe illness.
For weeks he lay at death's door, and for weeks after all danger was
passed, he was confined to the house too weak to move. As his weary
convalescence dragged itself along, one absorbing desire filled his
mind. If only he could get out of doors, and stand once again in the
sunshine, and feast his eyes on the landscape below him! Francis, like
all Italians, was a passionate lover of his native country, and at
last, one day, he wearily and painfully crawled out.

[Sidenote: _Things that Perish._]

But what was the matter? The sunshine was there. It flooded the
country. The breeze that was to bring him new life and vigor played
among his chestnut curls. The mountains towered in their noble
grandeur. The wide Umbrian plain lay stretched out at his feet. The
skies were as blue, and the flowers as gay and sweet, as ever his
fancy painted them. But the young man turned away with a sickening
sense of disappointment and failure.

"Things that perish," he said mournfully to himself, and thought
bitterly of his past life with its gaiety and frivolity. It, too, was
among the "things that perish." Life was a dreary emptiness.

It was the old, old story. "Thou hast made us for Thyself, oh God, and
the heart is restless till it finds its rest in Thee." That tide which
flows at least once in the life of every human being was surging round
Francis. Happy they who, leaving all else, cast themselves into the
infinite ocean of the Divine will and design.



    "In this easy, painless life,
    Free from struggle, care, and strife,
    Ever on my doubting breast,
    Lies the shadow of unrest;
    This no path that Jesus trod--
    Can the smooth way lead to God?"

As health returned, Francis determined that he would no longer waste
his life. He had spent a quarter of a century in ease, and pleasure,
and amusement. Now, some way or other, there should be a change.
Religion to Francis meant acting up to all the duties of his church.
This he had already done, and not for a moment did he dream that there
was in what he called "religion" any balm for a sore and wounded
spirit. It never occurred to him to seek in prayer the mind of the
Lord concerning his future. Oh, no, it was many a long day before
Francis knew the real meaning of the word prayer. He was convinced of
his wrong, and determined to right it. That was as far as he had got.
What to do was now the great question.

Just about this time, a nobleman of Assisi, Walter of Brienne, was
about to start for Apulia, to take part in a war which was going on
there. All at once it occurred to Francis that he would go too. He was
naturally courageous, and visions filled his mind of the deeds he
would do, and the honours that would be bestowed upon him.

He hastened at once to the nobleman and begged to be allowed to
accompany him. Permission was granted, and Francis set about getting
his outfit ready. His rich costume was far more splendid than that of
Walter himself, and the trappings of his horse and his general
accoutrements were all in keeping, so that altogether Francis was a
very magnificent personage indeed!

[Sidenote: _A Voice._]

A few nights before he started, he dreamed a strange dream. He was
sleeping, and he thought somebody called him out of his sleep.

"Francis, Francis," said a voice.

Then it seemed to Francis that he awoke and found himself in a vast
armoury. All around him hung shields and spears and swords, and
weapons of all kinds. But the most curious part of it was that each
weapon was marked with a cross. In his heart he wondered what it could
all mean, and as he was wondering, the voice answered his thoughts.

"These are for thee and for thy followers," it said, and then Francis

It was an age when dreams were counted of much importance, and Francis
rejoiced over this of his. Heaven, he said to himself, had smiled upon
his enterprise. God had undertaken to lead him by the hand, and to
what heights could he not aspire! Dreams of earthly honor and
distinction floated through his brain as he dressed, and when he went
downstairs everybody asked what made him look so radiant.

"I have the certainty of becoming a great prince," he answered.

Yes, truly, he was to be a prince among men! Could he have seen then
the rough road that God was preparing for him, would he have drawn
back? Happily for us, we live a day at a time, and further than that
our eyes are holden.

With a great deal of pomp and display, at the appointed time Francis
mounted his horse and set off. But his journey was a short one. About
thirty miles from Assisi he was taken ill with an attack of his
life-long enemy--the fever--and forced to lie by. He chafed a good
deal at this, and wondered and pondered over the mysterious actions
of a Providence which had so manifestly sanctioned his expedition.

[Sidenote: _The Master or the Servant?_]

One evening he was lying half unconscious when he thought he heard the
same voice that spoke to him before he started.

"Francis," it asked, "what could benefit thee most, the Master or the
servant, the rich man or the poor?"

"The Master and the rich man," answered Francis in wonderment.

"Why, then," went on the voice, "dost thou leave God, Who is the
Master and rich, for man, who is the servant and poor?"

"Then, Lord, what wilt Thou that I do?" queried Francis.

"Return to thy native town, and it shall be shown thee there what thou
shalt do," said the voice.

It was characteristic of all Francis' after life that he never stopped
to query what looked like contradiction of orders, but as soon as ever
he was well enough he travelled back home again. His ambition for
future greatness, and earthly distinction and honor, all seemed to be
lost sight of when the Divine voice spoke. For Francis was convinced
that God had spoken to him.

It was certainly not easy for a nature like his to return home whence
a few short days before, he had departed with such pomp and glory. His
father was not over rejoiced to welcome him back, but his friends, who
worshipped him, "the flower of Assisi," as they called him, received
him gladly. Things had been dull without Francis. His merry songs and
jests were missed at the evening feast. For a time he took up the life
he had quitted. There was nothing else to do as far as he could see.
But he was changed. Even his companions were forced to own that. He
sang, and laughed, and jested as usual, but the heart had gone out of
his song and laughter, and he was prone to fall into deep fits of

It was a far from satisfactory life. He cared no longer for what was
once his very existence, and he knew not as yet to what God would have
him turn. He desired to serve God, and gave himself to almsgiving. He
made a pilgrimage to Rome, only to be disgusted with the miserable
offerings put into the treasury by the pilgrims.

[Sidenote: _Conflicts._]

"Is this all they spare to God?" he cried, and pulling out his purse
flung its contents among the rest.

He was tormented and haunted by recollections of his past mis-spent
life, and for days he mourned over what was beyond recall.

There was a certain old woman in Assisi, horribly deformed and
hideously ugly. Francis, with his innate love of the beautiful,
recoiled in horror every time he met her. She was a nightmare to him,
and he would go far to avoid seeing her. The devil, who is ever ready
to work on the weakness of a human soul, used this old woman to
torture him.

"See," he said, "a picture of what you will become if you persist in
mortifying yourself, and leading a life devoted to God. You will
become as ugly and repulsive as that old woman in time."

The bare idea was agonizing to Francis. The old woman turned up
continually, and seemed to pursue him like a phantom. The temptation
may seem to stronger souls an ignoble one, but it was an intense and
severe one to Francis. He conquered by yielding himself up to the will
of God. He accepted everything--deformity, ugliness, pain--if it were
God's plan for him. Then and only then had he rest.

As soon as he had given up his warlike ambitions and returned to
Assisi, he had been in the habit of going off by himself into a cave
or grotto, and there being alone with his thoughts. Many a conflict
did that cave see, as Francis with tears and cries entreated the Lord
to show him how best to employ his life. It was during one of these
seasons that his spiritual eyes were opened. Hitherto he had followed
blindly an almost unknown God, but he _had_ followed and sought, and
the end of his faith was sight.

It came upon him all at once. Christ--His love for the sinner, His love
for him--Christ, bleeding, dying, suffering, for very love--Christ the
pure, long-suffering, merciful, patient--Christ the Son of God made Man
for us. A wave of great joy swept over Francis, and he wept for very
gladness of heart. Here was his Master, his Lord. He had found Him, and
henceforth following was easy.

[Sidenote: _The Lepers._]

Not one of the many translations of the life of Francis, omits to
mention his self-imposed mission to the lepers. Assisi, like most
foreign towns of the age, was infested with lepers. They were not
allowed to live in the towns, but had houses (lazaretti) built for
them quite outside. Francis had a deep-rooted repugnance to a leper,
and, in passing a lazaretto, always carefully covered up his nose lest
any bad odour might reach him, and he always rode far away in the
opposite direction, if he chanced to see one in the plains. Nothing
shows the change in Francis more than his alteration towards the
lepers. One day, when out riding, he saw a leper approaching. His
first instinct was his natural one to get away at once. His second,
that God required something more of him. Who was he, to loathe and
avoid a fellow-creature. Riding up to the leper, he dismounted, gave
him some money, and then without a shudder, kissed the dreadful hand
held out to him. He had done the impossible, and from this time he
constantly visited the lazaretti, putting himself in personal contact
with the lepers, giving them money, and doing all he could to lessen
their sufferings.

Of this period of his experience he writes long years after:--

"When I was in sin it was very bitter to me to behold lepers, but the
Lord Himself having led me amongst them, I exercised mercy towards
them, and when I left them I felt that what had seemed so bitter to me
was changed into sweetness for my soul and body."



    "Thou must walk on, however man upbraid thee,
      With Him who trod the winepress all alone:
    Thou may'st not find one human hand to aid thee,
      One human soul to comprehend thy own."

A rough, stony uphill path, or rather track, under grey-green olive
trees, leading to a perfect tangle of cypresses and pines. Somewhere
in the tangle of cypresses almost hidden from sight, lay a dilapidated
ancient church, which, long ago had been dedicated to the martyr
Damian. Up this stony track one day, stumbled Francis.

His was now a solitary life. He was a complete puzzle to parents and
friends, and, indeed to a great extent he was a puzzle to himself. His
life in his father's house was far from pleasant. Pietro's vanity had
received a serious blow from what he regarded as his son's "ignominious"
return to Assisi. He had been more than willing to give him ample means
for every pleasure, so that he might mingle on an equal footing with the
young nobles of the land, but to see his money given lavishly to the
beggars in the street, and the lepers in the lazar-houses was more than
he could stand. A serious, ever widening breach had formed between
father and son. Pica, poor woman, knew that, sooner or later, a rupture
would come, and much as she loved her strange son, she could do nothing
to prevent it. There was literally no one who could comprehend Francis,
much less render him any spiritual aid. One faithful companion there had
been, who used to follow him round into the woods when he went to pray,
and stand at the doors of caves and grottos until his season of
meditation was over, but after a time, this friend had been obliged to
leave him. Francis tried timidly to tell people a little of what God was
dimly revealing to him, but his--to them--vague ideas only resulted in
mocking smiles, and assurances that he was rapidly becoming stark,
staring mad! So had things come about, that in spite of himself, Francis
was thrown entirely and solely upon his new found Lord.

[Sidenote: _A Prayer and its Answer._]

The cross lay heavy upon him that day, as he stumbled up the tiny
olive-shaded path, and lit upon the almost ruined church. This was a
direction Francis seldom walked in, but to-day he had been so occupied
with his thoughts, that he scarcely knew where he was going. Seeing
the church, he passed in and knelt to pray.

"Great and glorious God," was his prayer; "and Thou, Lord Jesus, I
pray Thee, shed abroad Thy light in the darkness of my mind. Be found
of me, Lord, so that in all things I may act only in accordance with
Thy holy will."

As he prayed, little by little a sense of peace, and a new feeling of
acceptance took possession of him. He had known before that God had
pardoned him for the past, and was keeping him in the midst of trials
and hourly temptations, but this was something quite different. Jesus
accepted him, individually, his body as well as his soul, his time,
talents, all his being, and desired his labour and assistance. The
poor, lonely, crushed heart, was filled to overflowing. He was
conscious of a distinct union with Christ. From this time forth, he
was to know what it meant to be crucified with Christ--to die daily.

As he knelt there among the ruins and decay, it seemed to him that a
voice spoke to his soul thus--

"Francis, dost thou see how my house is falling into ruins? Go and set
thyself to repair it."

"Most willingly, Lord," he answered, hardly knowing what he said.

[Sidenote: _For the Benefit of St. Damian's._]

Now, respecting the incidents we are about to relate, there are many
and various theories. Some say the revelation made to Francis,
referred to the spiritual work to which he had not as yet received
his call, others there are, who blame him and call him rash and
hot-headed, and accuse him of running before he was sent. We are not
prepared to give judgment one way or the other. God has not promised
us that we shall never make mistakes, and if Francis made a mistake,
God certainly over-ruled it, and made it work to His glory, as He has
promised "all things" to work for those who love Him. Again, God has
His own ways of working, mysterious and curious though they often seem
to us, and what looks like "the foolishness of men," often redounds to
His greatest praise. But to return to what really happened.

Francis rose from his knees, and sought the priest who had charge of
St. Damian's. He pressed all the money he had about him into his
hands, begged him to buy oil and keep the lamp always burning, then
rushed off home. Saddling his horse, he loaded it with the most costly
stuffs he could find, and rode off into a neighbouring town, where
they found a ready market, and realized a goodly sum. When his stuff
was all sold, he disposed of his horse too, and returning on foot to
St. Damian's, he placed a well-filled purse in the priest's hands,
told him with much satisfaction what he had done, and begged him to
have the church restored at once. To his utter consternation, the
priest refused, saying he dare not take so large a sum unless Pietro
Bernardone approved.

Poor Francis was in despair. He flung the money on a window seat in
disgust, and begged the priest at least to give him a shelter for a
few days. That much bewildered man, hardly knowing what to say or do,
consented, and Francis took up his abode with him.

But not for long. Pietro, when he found his son did not return home as
usual, made enquiries and found where he was located. He was very
anxious and uneasy, as he was sure now that his son was afflicted by a
religious mania, he would have to renounce all the high hopes he had
formed for him. However, he resolved to make a determined effort to
recover him, and set out with a large party of friends to storm St.
Damian's. They hoped that Francis would listen to reason, and consent
to follow them back quietly to Assisi.

[Sidenote: _A Lonely Struggle._]

But Francis never waited to receive them. An uncontrollable fear took
possession of him, and he fled and hid himself in a cavern he alone
knew of. His father's party ransacked the priest's abode, and all the
country round, but they had to return home baffled.

For a month, Francis remained shut up in the cavern. An old servant
who loved him dearly, was let into the secret, and used to bring him
food. During this month he suffered intensely. It was the first time
in his life he had ever suffered contradiction--the first time in his
life he had ever had anyone really, openly opposed to him. To be sure,
people did not understand him, but they had never shown him any
animosity. A sense of utter failure oppressed him. It was a hard trial
to one of his temperament, and if his consecration had not been very
real, he would never have stood the test.

He wept and prayed, and confessed his utter nothingness, his weakness,
his inability to accomplish anything of himself. Never in his life had
he felt weak and incapable before. Then humbly he entreated that God
would enable him to accomplish His will, and not permit his incapacity
to frustrate God's designs for him. A consciousness of Divine strength
was manifested to him as never before. It was as if a voice said, "I
will be with thee, fear not." Strengthened with a strength he never
knew heretofore, he came out of the cavern and made straight for his
father's house.

That day as Pietro Bernardone sat at work indoors, the voice of a
mighty tumult was borne in to him. Such a clamour, and yelling, and
shouting he never had heard in Assisi in all his time! Rushing
upstairs he looked out of the window. It seemed as though the entire
populace had turned loose, and were buffeting someone in their midst.

"A madman, a madman," yelled the crowd, and sticks and stones and mud
flew from all sides.

"A madman, a madman," echoed the children.

Determined not to lose the fun, Pietro hastened out into the street,
joined the crowd, and discovered that his son Francis was the madman
in question! With a howl of rage, he rushed upon him, dragged him into
the house with oaths and blows, and locked him up in a sort of

During the succeeding days, he and his wife did all they could to
persuade Francis to return to his old mode of life. Pietro entreated
and threatened, Pica wept and caressed, but all in vain.

[Sidenote: _A Command from God._]

"I have received a command from God," was their answer, and "I mean to
carry it out."

At last, after some time, Pietro being absent for several days on
business, Pica unlocked the dungeon and let her son go free.

When Pietro returned, he cursed his wife and set off to St. Damian's
to fetch Francis back. But Francis declined to go. He said that he
feared neither blows nor chains, but God had given him a work to do,
and nothing, nor nobody would prevent him carrying out that mission.
Pietro was struck by his son's coolness, and seeing that force would
be no use, he went to the magistrates and lodged a complaint against
his son, desiring the magistrates to recover the money that his son
had given to the church, and to oblige him to renounce in legal form
all rights of inheritance. The magistrates seem to have been much
shocked at Pietro's harshness, but they summoned Francis, who would
not appear. When asked to use violence, they said--

"No, since your son has entered God's service, we have nothing to do
with his actions," and utterly refused to have anything further to do
with the case.



    "For poverty and self-renunciation
      The Father yieldeth back a thousand-fold;
    In the calm stillness of regeneration,
      Cometh a joy we never knew of old."

Pietro was not avaricious. He cared nothing for the money as money.
His plan now was to cut off all supplies, and when his son, who had
always been accustomed to the daintiest and softest of living, and was
in no way inured to hardship, found that he was now literally a
beggar, he would, after a little privation, come to his senses, and
sue his father for pardon. This was his idea when he sought the bishop
and made his complaint to him. The bishop called Francis to appear
before him.

On the appointed day he appeared with his father. The venerable
bishop, who was a man of great good sense and wisdom, heard all there
was to hear, and then turning to the young man, he said--

"My son, thy father is greatly incensed against thee. If thou desirest
to consecrate thyself to God, restore to him all that is his."

He went on to say that the money was not really Francis', and
therefore he had no right to give away what was not his, besides God
would never accept money that was an occasion of sin between father
and son. Then Francis rose and said--

"My lord, I will give back everything to my father, even the clothes I
have had from him!"

Returning into a neighbouring room, he stripped off all his rich
garments, and clad only in a hair under-garment, laid them and the
purse of money at his father's feet.

[Sidenote: _One Father._]

"Now," he cried, "I have but one father, henceforth I can say in all
truth 'Our Father who art in Heaven!'"

There was a moment of dead silence. Everybody present was too
astonished to speak, then Pietro gathered up the garments and money,
and withdrew. A murmur of pity swept through the crowd as they looked
at the young man standing half-naked before the tribunal. But no
sentiments of pity stirred Pietro. Easy and good-natured when things
went according to his liking, he was equally hard and unbending if his
will was crossed. It was to him a rude awakening out of a glorious,
golden dream, and from his standpoint life looked hard.

When Pietro departed the old bishop threw his own mantle round the
young man's shoulders, and sent out for some suitable garment.
Nothing, however, was forthcoming except a peasant's cloak belonging
to one of the gardeners. This Francis gladly put on and passed out of
the bishop's hall--a homeless wanderer on the face of the earth.

He was not inclined to return to St. Damian's at once. He desired
solitude, so he plunged into the woods. As he travelled he sang with
all his might praises to God in the French tongue. His singing
attracted the notice of some robbers who were hidden in the fastness
of the woods. They sprang out and seized him, demanding--

"Who are you?"

Francis always courteous replied,

"I am the herald of the Great King. But what does that concern you?"

The robbers laughed at him for a madman, and after they had made game
of him for a time, they tore his garment from his back, and tossing him
into a deep ditch where a quantity of snow still lay, they made off

"Lie there, you poor herald of the Good God!"

When they had disappeared Francis scrambled out stiff with cold and
clad only in his one garment, and went on his way singing as before.

[Sidenote: _Kitchen Assistant._]

Happily his wanderings speedily brought him to a monastery among the
mountains. He knocked at the door and begged for help. The monks
regarded this strange half-naked applicant with much suspicion, and
one can hardly blame them. Nevertheless they received him, and gave
him employment in their kitchen as assistant to the cook, to do the
rough and heavy work. His food was of the commonest and coarsest, and
it never seemed to occur to any of them that he would be the better
for a few more clothes. When his solitary garment appeared in imminent
danger of dropping to pieces he left the monastery and went on a
little further to a neighbouring town where a friend of his lived. He
made his way to this friend and asked him out of charity to provide
him with a worn garment to cover his nakedness. The case was
manifestly an urgent one, and the friend bestowed upon him a suit of
clothes consisting of a tunic, leather belt, shoes, and a stick. It
was very much the kind of costume then worn by the hermits.

From here he started back again to St. Damian's. He stopped on his way
to visit a lazar-house, and help in the care of the lepers. He had
quite gotten over all his early antipathies, and it was a joy to him
now to minister to those poor diseased ones. Probably he would have
spent a much longer season here if it were not that again he seemed to
hear the same voice calling him to repair the ruined church. So he
left the lazar-house and proceeded on his way. He told his friend the
priest that he was in no way disappointed or cast down, and that he
had good reason to believe that he would be able to accomplish his

There was only one way in which he could attain this end. Money he had
none, neither did he know of anyone who loved God and His cause well
enough to expend a little of their riches in rebuilding His house.
Next day saw him at work. Up and down the streets of his native town
he went begging for stones to rebuild St. Damian.

"He who gives me one stone shall receive one blessing, he who gives me
two will have two blessings, and he who gives me three, three

[Sidenote: "_He is quite Mad._"]

The people were unable to do anything at first from pure
astonishment. Francis Bernardone, the gay cavalier, the leader of
feasts and song, sueing in the streets like a common beggar! They
could hardly believe their eyes! "Truly the fellow was mad," they said
to each other! But he did not look mad. His smile was as sweet as
ever, and the native, polished, courtly manners that had won for him
so many friends, now that they were sanctified, were doubly winning.
It was impossible to resist him, and stones were brought him in
quantities. Load after load, interminable loads he bore on his back
like a labourer to St. Damian. Up the steep little path he toiled
between the grey-green olives, on and into the tangle of cypress and
pine, and there stone by stone with his own hands he repaired the
crumbling walls. It was a long wearisome toilsome work, and told
considerably on his health.

"He is _quite_ mad," reiterated some as the days passed from spring to
summer, and from summer to autumn and from autumn into winter again.
But there were others who watched him with tears in their eyes. _They_
knew he was not mad. They realized that a great power had changed the
once refined man into a servant of all--even the constraining power of
the love of Christ, and they shed tears when they thought how far they
came short.

The priest of St. Damian's was deeply touched at Francis'
self-sacrificing work, and often grieved when he saw him doing what he
was physically so unfitted for. He conceived a violent admiration for
his young lodger, and in spite of his poverty he always contrived to
have some dainty dish, or tit-bit for him when he returned to meals.
Now Francis always had been particular as to his food, he liked it
well served, and he was also very fond of all kinds of sweets and
confectionery. For a time he thanked his friend and ate gratefully the
pleasant dishes he had provided. One day as he sat at dinner the
thought came to him "what should I do if I had nobody to provide my
meals." Then he saw for the first time that he was still under bondage
to his appetite. He enjoyed nice food, it seemed necessary to him--but
was it like that Life he so earnestly strove to copy. Francis sat
condemned. The next moment he jumped up and seizing a wooden bowl he
went round the streets from door to door begging for scraps of broken
meat and bread. The people stared harder than ever, but in a little
time his bowl was quite full, and he returned home and sat down to eat
his rations.

[Sidenote: _A Beggar._]

He tried hard, but he turned against them with loathing. In all his
life he thought he had never seen such a horrid collection! Then,
lifting his heart to God, he made another trial and tasted the food.
Lo and behold it was not bad, and as he continued his coarse meal he
thought that no dish had ever tasted better! Praising God for victory
he went to the priest and told him that he would be no further expense
to him, from henceforth he would beg his meals.

When Pietro heard that his son had added to his eccentricities by
begging for his food his anger knew no bounds! When he met him in the
streets he blushed with shame, and often cursed him. But if his family
were ashamed of him, there were many among the townsfolk with whom he
found sympathy. Help came in on all sides, and at last the walls were
repaired, and the church was no longer in danger of tumbling into a
mass of ruins. What was needed for the inside was got in the same way
as the stones, and pretty soon a congregation was forthcoming.

One of the hardest sacrifices God required from Francis connected with
this work was one evening when he was out begging from house to house
for oil to light the church. He came to a house where an entertainment
was going on, a feast very similar to those he had so often presided
over in his worldly days. He looked down on his poor common dress, and
thought with shame what a figure he would cut among the gay,
well-dressed crowd within. For a moment he felt tempted to skip this
house. But it was only for a moment; reproaching himself bitterly, he
pushed in and standing before the festive gathering, told them simply
how much he had objected to coming in, and for what reason, adding
that he feared his timidity was counted to him as sin, because he was
working in God's name, and in His service. His request was taken in
good part, and his words so touched all present that they were eager
to give him the aid he sought.

[Sidenote: _St. Damian's Finished._]

After St. Damian's was quite restored, Francis set to work and did the
same for two other equally needy churches in the vicinity. One was St.
Peter's, and the other St. Mary's or the Portiuncula. The second one
became eventually the cradle of the Franciscan movement. Here he built
for himself a cell, where he used to come to pour out his soul in
prayer. When his work of repairing came to an end, he gave himself up
to meditation, his whole idea being that he would henceforth lead the
life of a recluse. But God disposed!



    "Oh, my Lord, the Crucified,
    Who for love of me hast died,
    Mould me by Thy living breath,
    To the likeness of Thy death,
    While the thorns Thy brows entwine,
    Let no flower wreath rest on mine."

But Francis kept a listening ear. God's word was his law, and though
he to a certain extent planned what he would do next, yet he left
himself entirely free in his Lord's hands, and at His disposal. Had he
not remained in this attitude of soul, or had he become wise in his
own conceits, or failed to keep his heart and soul fresh with the
first vital freshness of regeneration, what would have become of the
great Franciscan movement that was destined ultimately to stir the
world? God alone knows. _He_ keeps count of lost opportunities, calls
neglected, soul stirrings lulled to barren fruitless slumber!

The natural tendency of a soul which has been awakened to great
action, and accomplished daring feats, is--the first strain passed--to
relax, or settle down. It is only the minority that struggle and fight
and get the victory over this subtle temptation. The same principle
applies in a larger scale, and that is why it is so many glorious
religious movements have run a course and then dwindled into
mediocrity, the later disciples carving for themselves a medium way.

Francis' life-work might easily have dwindled into nothing just here.
He had not the least intimation that the Lord demanded anything more
of him but that he should love and serve Him all the days of his life,
in an ordinary unobtrusive manner. Two years had been spent in
repairing the churches, and Francis was now between twenty-seven and
twenty-eight years of age.

[Sidenote: _His Commission._]

It was on the twenty-fourth of February in the year 1209 that he
received his call to direct spiritual work. That morning he went to
church as usual, and the words of the Gospel for the day came to him
direct from Jesus Christ Himself.

"Wherever ye go preach, saying, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. Freely ye have
received, freely give. Provide neither silver nor gold nor brass in
your purses, neither scrip, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor staff, for
the laborer is worthy of his hire.'"

These words were a revelation.

"This is what I want," cried Francis, as he left the church, conscious
for the first time that he had wanted something. "This is what I have
long been seeking, from this day forth I shall set myself with all my
strength to put it in practice."

Immediately he took up his new commission. He threw away his shoes,
his stick, his purse, and put on the coarse dress of the peasant of
the Apennines, and girded it with a rough piece of rope, the first
thing he could find. Thus equipped, he set out a true Knight of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and for the first time in his life began to talk to
the people he met about their souls. That eloquent fiery tongue, that
was destined to make him one of the orators of the age, had not yet
become unloosed, and Francis was simplicity itself. Indeed, he did not
at first attempt to make anything like a speech or sermon. His efforts
were directed towards people whom he was acquainted with, and these he
urged to repent in the name of the Lord. He told his own experience,
and spoke of the shortness of life, of punishment after death, of the
need of heart and life holiness. His halting words struck home, they
pierced like a sword, and many thus convicted, repented and turned
from their evil ways.

[Sidenote: _A Sanctified Leader of Men._]

For over two years now, Francis had lived a solitary, and--humanly
speaking--a lonely life. He had, however, during that time proved the
sufficiency of God. We do not read that he ever longed for a human
friend, one that could understand and sympathise with him, so richly
had God supplied his every need. But the time had come when his
solitude was to end. God was about to raise him up friends. Again he
was to take up his old position as a leader of men, only a sanctified

Bernardo di Quintavelle was a man of birth and position. He was a few
years older than Francis, and as he lived in Assisi, he had full
opportunity of watching all Francis' vagaries, for so his actions
looked to him at first. However, as time passed, and Francis' supposed
mania failed to develop into anything very dangerous, Bernardo puzzled
and wondered. What was it, he asked himself, that had so completely
changed the gay, frivolous, ease-loving Francis Bernardone, into a
poor hard-working beggar? Was he really as good and holy as the common
people began to whisper to themselves? We must bear in mind that vital
religion in Assisi was at its lowest ebb, and the kind that worked
itself out in daily life and action almost unknown.

Pretty soon Bernardo determined to study Francis close to. Again and
again he invited him to his house, and the more he saw of the
gracious, humble, God-fearing, Francis, the more he liked him. One
night he asked him to stay till the next day, and Francis consenting,
he had a bed made up for him in his own room. They retired. In a short
time Bernardo was, to all appearances, extremely sound asleep. Then
Francis rose from his bed, and kneeling down began to pray. A deep
sense of the Divine presence overflowed him, and he could do nothing
but weep and cry, "Oh, my God, oh, my God!" He continued all night
praying, and weeping before the Lord.

[Sidenote: _Bernardo._]

Now Bernardo, who was only pretending to be asleep in order to see
what Francis would do, was greatly touched. God visited him too that
night, and spoke to his soul so loudly and clearly that he dare not do
ought but follow the light that that night began to glimmer on his
future path. Little he thought into what a large place it would
ultimately lead him.

Next morning, true to his new-born inspiration, he said to Francis--

"I am disposed in my heart to leave the world and obey thee in all
that thou shalt command me."

To say that Francis was surprised is to say too little! He was
astonished--so astonished that it was difficult to find words in which
to answer. That the people he influenced would rise up and desire to
share his life, with its privations, and eccentricities had never as
yet occurred to him. His sole and only aim had been that his every
individual act and thought should be in conformity to that of our Lord
Jesus Christ. But "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me,"
and Francis, by his humble life and work, had brought that Blessed
Life wherever he went. This is the Divine design for every faithful
soul that seeks to truly follow its Master. The man who could live and
spread holiness as an ordinary day-laborer and stone-mason was now to
receive a greater charge. As soon as he recovered from the first
surprise of Bernardo's statement, he said--

"Bernardo, a resolution such as the one thou speakest of is so
difficult, and so great an action, that we must take counsel of the
Lord Jesus, and pray Him that He may point out His will, and teach us
to follow it."

So they set off together for the church. While on their way there that
morning they were joined by another brother called Pietro, who said
that he too had been told of God to join Francis. So the three went
together to read the Gospels and pray for light.

Francis was soon convinced that Bernardo and Pietro were led of God,
and joyfully welcomed them as his fellow-laborers. They took up their
abode in a deserted mud hut, close by a river known as the Riva Torto.
And that mean little hut was the cradle which contained the beginning
of a work that spread itself into every quarter of the globe.

[Sidenote: _Egidio._]

"Francis," said Bernardo, a little later, "What wouldst thou do
supposing a great king had given thee possessions for which thou
afterwards hadst no use?"

"Why, give them back to be sure," answered Francis.

"Then," said Bernardo, "I will that I sell all my possessions, and
give the money to the poor."

So he did. Land, houses, all that he possessed he sold, and
distributed the proceeds to the poor in the market-place. One can
easily imagine the sensation this caused in Assisi, and how almost the
entire population thronged to the spot!

The news of this day's doings spread into all the country-side. In a
town not far from Assisi, a certain young man, called Egidio, listened
intently while his father and mother discussed Bernardo and Francis
and went into their history past and present, and speculated on their
future. Little they thought as they talked that their cultured,
refined son was drinking in every word, and that his soul was being
strangely stirred. Before the week was out, Egidio had received the
Divine touch that fitted him to respond to the call--"Follow Me." In
the marvellously colored dawn of an Italian morning, Egidio rose and

Arriving in Assisi at a crossway he was at a standstill. Where should
he look for Francis? Which of those roads should he take? While he
thus alternately debated with himself, and prayed for guidance, who
should he see coming along out of the forest where he had been to
pray, but Francis himself! There was no mistaking that curious
bare-footed figure, with its coarse robe of the color known to the
peasants as "beast" color, girded with a knotted rope! Egidio threw
himself at Francis' feet, and besought him to receive him for the love
of God.

"Dear brother," said Francis, who during the past week had learned not
to be surprised when he received candidates for his work. "Dear
brother, God hath conferred a great grace upon thee! If the Emperor
were to come to Assisi and propose to make one of its citizens his
knight or secret chamberlain, would not such an offer be joyfully
accepted as a great mark of honor and distinction? How much more
shouldst thou rejoice that God hath called thee to be His Knight and
chosen servant, to observe the perfection of His Holy Gospel!
Therefore do thou stand firm in the vocation to which God hath called

[Sidenote: _First Apostolic Tour._]

So bringing him into the hut Francis called the others and said--

"God has sent us a good brother, let us therefore rejoice in the Lord
and eat together in charity."

After they had eaten breakfast Francis took Egidio into Assisi to get
cloth to make him a "beast-colored" uniform robe like the others. On
the way Francis thought he would like to try the young man and see
what kind of a spirit he had. So upon meeting a poor woman, who asked
them for money, Francis said to Egidio--

"I pray you, as we have no money, give this poor woman your cloak."

Immediately and joyfully Egidio pulled off his rich mantle and handed
it to the beggar, whereat Francis rejoiced much in secret.

It was a united household that assembled under the rude roof of the
mud hut by the Riva Torto. Four young men bound together in love, and
resolved to serve God absolutely in whatever way He should show them,
we shall see, ere long, how God used these human instruments which
were so unreservedly placed at His disposal. They were very happy for
a few days, and gave themselves up almost entirely to prayer; then
Francis led them into the seclusion of the woods and explained to them
how the Divine will had manifested itself to his soul.

"We must," he said, "clearly understand our vocation. It is not for
our personal salvation only, but for the salvation of a great many
others that God has mercifully called us. He wishes us to go through
the world, and by example even more than by words, exhort men to
repentance, and the keeping of the commandments." Bernardo, Pietro and
Egidio declared that they were willing for anything, and so the four
separated, two by two, for a preaching tour. Of Bernardo and Pietro
history is silent, but nothing could have been more simple than the
Apostolic wanderings of Francis and Egidio in the Marches of Ancona.
Along the roads they went wherever the Spirit of God led them singing
songs of God and Heaven. Their songs together with their happy
countenances and strange costume, naturally attracted the people, and
when a number would collect to stare at them, Francis would address
them, and Egidio, with charming simplicity accentuated all he said

[Sidenote: _A Sermonette._]

"You must believe what my brother Francis tells you, the advice he
gives you is very good." But don't for a moment imagine that Francis
was capable of giving an address. Far from it; he was, truth to say,
very little in advance of Egidio, the burden of his cry being--

"Love God, fear Him, repent and you shall be forgiven;" then when
Egidio had chorused,

"Do as my brother Francis tells you, the advice he gives you is very
good," the two missionaries passed singing on their way!

But the impression produced was far beyond their simple words. The
religious history of the times tells us that the love of God was
almost dead in men's hearts, that the world had forgotten the meaning
of the word repentance, and was entirely given up to lust and vice and
pleasure. People asked each other what could be the object these men
had in view. Why did they go about roughly-clad, bare-foot, and eating
so little. "They are madmen" some said. Others "Madmen could not talk
so wisely." Others again, more thoughtful, said, "They seem to care so
little for life, they are desperate, and must be either mad, or else
they are aspiring to very great perfection!"

When the four had been through almost all the Province they returned
to Riva Torto, where they found three new candidates clamoring for
admission. Others followed, and when the numbers had increased to
about eight, Francis led them to a spot where four roads met, and sent
them out two and two to the four points of the compass to preach the
Gospel. Everywhere they went they were to urge men to repentance, and
point them to a Saviour who could forgive sins. They were to accept no
food they had not either worked for, or received as alms for the love
of Christ.



    'Then forth they went....
    Content for evermore to follow him. In weariness,
    In painfulness, in perils by the way,
    Through awful vigils in the wilderness,
    Through storms of trouble, hatred and reproach.'

Bernardo di Quintavelle is perhaps the most important of these first
followers, inasmuch as he ultimately took his place as Leader of the
Order of Friars minor, which was the name the Franciscans first gave
themselves. We have already told how Bernardo came to join Francis,
and take upon himself the same vows. From that day his faith and trust
in God and His call to him never wavered. That was the secret of his
tremendous strength of soul. The strength of a man who is sure of his
call and its divinity is as the strength of ten.

It was Bernardo whom Francis deputed in the early days of the work to
go to Bologna, and labor there. Bologna was the centre of the
universe, as far as learning and culture went, to the Italians of that
day. As soon as Bernardo and his followers showed themselves in the
town, the children, seeing them dressed so plainly and poorly, laughed
and scoffed, and threw dirt and stones at them. They accepted these
trials manfully, and made their way to the market-place. The children,
who followed them here continued to pelt them with stones and dust,
and pulled them round by the hoods of their garments. Day after day,
and day after day, Bernardo and his little handful returned, though
they could never get anybody to give them a civil hearing. Poor
fellows, during those first few days, they all but starved.

[Sidenote: _A Great Saint!_]

There was a doctor of the law, who used to pass round by the
market-place every day, and seeing Bernardo patiently put up with such
insult and contempt, wondered much to himself. At last he arrived at a

"This man must be a great saint."

Going up to him, he said--

"Who art thou, and whence dost thou come?"

Bernardo put his hand into his bosom, and gave him what was then the
rules of the Order. This was in other words the Divine commission that
Francis had received through the Gospel for that February day, "Go ye
forth and preach the gospel, &c."

The doctor read it all through and then, turning to some of his
friends who were standing by, said--

"Truly, here is the most perfect state of religion I have ever heard
of; this man and his companions are the holiest men I have ever met
with in this world! Guilty indeed are those who insult him! We ought,
on the contrary, to honor him as a true friend of God!"

Then addressing Bernardo, he said--

"If it is thy wish to found a convent in this town, in which thou
mayst serve God, I will most willingly help thee."

Bernardo thanked him, and said--

"I believe it is our Saviour Jesus Christ who hast I inspired thee
with this good intention, I most willingly accept the offer, to the
honor of Christ."

Then the doctor took them home with him and entertained them, and
presented them with a convenient building, which he furnished at his
own expense.

In a short time, Bernardo was much sought after, on account of the
holiness, together with the brilliancy of his sermons. The whole town
was at his feet, people came from far and near to hear him, and
thousands were converted.

When things were at a height, Bernardo turned up unexpectedly one day
in Assisi, and presented himself before the astonished gaze of

"The convent is founded at Bologna," he said, "send other brothers
there to keep it up, I can no longer be of any use; indeed, I fear me
that the too great honors I receive might make me lose more than I
could gain."

Francis, who had heard a great deal of the honor and praise that had
been lavished upon Bernardo, thanked God that He had revealed to him
the danger his soul was in, and sent someone else to Bologna.

[Sidenote: _Elias._]

In striking contrast to Bernardo was Elias. Elias was quite as clever
and brilliant a man as Bernardo, but he never seems to have become
really sanctified. His pride was a constant stumbling-block, and was
for ever appearing in some new shape or other. Sometimes it would be
in an over-weening desire to rule, and then his rule would go far and
beyond that of Francis', in fastings, and similar austerities. Again,
we have a picture of him arraying himself in a garment of soft cloth,
which could only be said to be "modelled" after that worn by his
brethren. Finally, he lapsed altogether, declared that his health was
too delicate to stand coarse food and plain living, and left the
Order. For some time he was an open backslider, but it is currently
supposed he was converted before he died. The story of his life is a
sad one. Looking back over these lapse of years, one can easily see
what he might have been, and how painfully he fell short. The grace of
humility never adorned his character for long. He could not see that
in God's sight he was less than least, for him it was impossible--

    "To lay his intellectual treasure,
    At the low footstool of the Crucified."

Egidio always remained faithful to his first trust. He also never
wavered, never looked back. In the different glimpses we get of his
life, we see very clearly the mode of living prescribed by Francis.
His intention was never that his disciples were to live on charity,
but that they should work for their bread, money being totally
forbidden. Work brought them down to the level of the common people,
and on the same plane they could more easily reach their hearts and

[Sidenote: _A Question._]

Egidio, refined and educated though he undoubtedly was, seems to have
been able to put his hand to anything. When on a pilgrimage to the
Holy Land, he was detained at Brindisi, he borrowed a water jug, and,
filling it, went round the town selling water, and crying "Fresh
water! Fresh water!" like any of the ordinary water-carriers. On his
way back he procured willows, and made baskets, which he sold to
supply himself with food. He was always very particular not to take
more than he considered was fair for his work.

Obedience was another of Egidio's strong points. He believed in his
call, he believed in Francis, he never questioned an order, even when
it was manifestly not altogether a wise instruction he received, he
still considered that "obedience was better than sacrifice."

Masseo appears to have had very little idea what kind of a life he was
entering upon, when he first joined the band. He was not a spiritual
man by nature, but by degrees he learned to look at the inside of
things instead of the outside, and to know a little of the mind of
God. Masseo was big and handsome, with a decided gift of speech. We
are told that because of his physical attractions the people always
gave to him the nicest and daintiest portions of food. It was a matter
of no little wonderment to him when he discovered that for all a
certain kind of people were attracted by his appearance, yet he had
little or no power to convict them of sin, and make them long to be
good. Francis by this time had lost all his good looks and become pale
and worn and thin with work. Masseo compared himself with Francis
greatly to his superior's disadvantage. At last one day he said to

"Why is it? Why is it?"

"What do you mean?" asked Francis.

"I mean to ask thee," said Masseo, "why all the world goes after thee?
Why all men wish to see thee, to hear thee, and to obey thy word? Thou
art not handsome, nor learned, nor of noble birth. How is it then that
men go after thee?"

The answer which Masseo received, made him see what kind of a
character he had come in contact with, and from that day there was no
more faithful and adoring disciple than handsome Masseo.

"Would you know the reason why all men come after me?" asked Francis.
"It is because the Lord has not found among men, a more wicked, a more
imperfect, or a greater sinner that I am, and to accomplish the
wonderful work He intends doing, He has not found a creature more vile
than I upon earth; for this reason He has chosen me to confound
beauty, greatness, birth, and all the science of the world, that man
may learn that every good gift comes from Him, and not from the
creature, that all may glory in the Lord!"

[Sidenote: _Sylvester's Avarice._]

Sylvester was the first priest who joined Francis. Though a priest, he
was possessed of very little true religion, and was inclined to be
somewhat avaricious. When Francis was rebuilding St. Damian, Sylvester
had sold him some stones, for which he had been well paid. Now, he
happened to be among the crowd in the market-place when Bernardo was
distributing his fortune, and it occurred to him that he would get
some of it for himself. So going up to Francis, he said,

"Brother, you did not pay me very well for the stones which you bought
of me."

Francis, who had not a spark of avarice in his nature, handed him a
handful of coins without stopping to count them, saying,

"Here, are you sufficiently paid now?"

"It is enough, my brother," said Sylvester, taking the money and
moving off.

But from that hour he never knew a moment's peace. His action haunted
him, he could neither sleep by night nor rest by day. The difference
between Francis and Bernardo and himself came vividly before him, he
repented of his sin, and as soon as ever his affairs would
permit--about a year later--he joined Francis.

There are some historians who declare that Ginepro was mad. The
majority, however, dispute this, and say that what looked like madness
was simply zeal--zeal, perhaps untempered with discretion. Ginepro was
devoted, self-sacrificing and faithful. He mourned over his mistakes,
and was always ready to acknowledge himself in the wrong. It was with
the greatest difficulty that he was taught that he mustn't give away
anything, and everything he could lay hands on. When he saw anyone
poor or ill-clothed, he would immediately take off his clothes and
hand them over. He was at last strictly forbidden to do this. A few
days later, he met a poor man who begged from him.

"I have nothing," said Ginepro, in great compassion, "which I could
give thee but my tunic, and I am under orders not to give that away.
But if thou wilt take it off my back I will not resist thee."

No sooner said than done, and Ginepro returned home tunicless. When
questioned he said--

"A good man took it off my back and went away with it."

It was necessary to clear everything portable out of Ginepro's way,
because whatever he could lay his hands on he gave to the poor.

[Sidenote: _Almost a Murder._]

His great humility on one occasion nearly led him to the gallows.
There was a cruel tyrant named Nicolas, a nobleman living near
Viterbo, whom all the town hated. This man had been warned that
someone would come in the guise of a poor beggar and take his life.
Nicolas gave orders that the castle was to be strictly guarded. A few
days later luckless Ginepro appeared in the vicinity of the castle. On
the way thither some young men had seized him, torn his cloak, and
covered him with dust, so that he was a sight to behold for rags and
dirt! As soon as he came near the castle he was taken as a suspicious
character and cruelly beaten. He was asked who he was.

"I am a great sinner," was the answer. He certainly looked like a

When further asked his designs he explained,

"I am a great traitor, and unworthy of any mercy."

Then they asked if he meant to burn the castle and kill Nicolas.

"Worse things than these would I do, only for God," he replied. Such
a hardened, boldfaced criminal never stood before a bar!

He was taken, tied to a horse's tail, and dragged through the town to
the gallows. If it had not been for the intervention of a good man in
the crowd, who knew the friars, he would have been hung.

[Sidenote: _Ginepro's Dinner._]

"Brother Ginepro," said one of the friars one day, "we are all going
out, and by the time we come back will you have got us a little

"Most willingly," said Ginepro, "leave it to me."

Out he went with a sack, and asked food from door to door for his
brethren. Soon he was well laden and returned home.

"What a pity it is," said Ginepro to himself, as he put on two great
pots, "that a brother should be lost in the kitchen! I shall cook
enough dinner to serve us for two weeks to come, and then we'll give
ourselves to prayer."

So saying, he piled in everything, salt meat, fresh meat, eggs in their
shells, chickens with the feathers on, and vegetables. One of the friars
who returned before the others, was amazed to see the two enormous pots
on a roaring fire with Ginepro poking at them alternately, protected
from the heat by a board he had fastened round his neck. At last dinner
was ready, and, pouring it out before the hungry friars, he said

"Eat a good dinner now, and then we'll go to prayer, there'll be no
more cooking for a long time to come, for I have cooked enough for a

Alas! one historian informs us, "there was never a hog in the campagna
of Rome so hungry that he could have eaten it."

But, in spite of all the curious tales we read about the blunderings
of this simple soul, his name has been handed down through the ages as
that of a saint; for the highway of holiness is such that a wayfaring
man, though a fool, shall not err therein.

[Sidenote: _A True Franciscan._]

Leo, whom they called "the little sheep of God," who became Francis'
secretary, was one of the best loved of the disciples. In Leo,
Francis' soul found rest and help and comfort. His nature was simple,
affectionate and refined, and in every respect he was a true

There are others whose names we find among the early Franciscans, but
the foregoing are those who stand out most prominently.



    "God's interpreter art thou,
     To the waiting ones below
     'Twixt them and its light midway
     Heralding the better day."

We have seen Francis as a young man, gay, careless, pleasure loving,
kind-hearted, a leader at every feast and revel, known to his
companions as a thorough good fellow. We have watched the first
strivings of the Holy Spirit in his soul, and marked his earnest
attempts to follow the light that then began to penetrate his hitherto
dark soul. We have followed that glimmering light with him, step by
step, seen him persecuted, mocked, stoned, beaten, watched his lonely
wilderness wrestlings when there was no human eye to pity, no human
arm to succour. We have seen, too, how, little by little, this thorny
pathway led to a closer and more intimate acquaintance with God, for
which acquaintance Francis counted his sufferings as nothing, and the
world well lost.

[Sidenote: _"Saint" Francis._]

Francis was not an extraordinary character in any sense of the word. He
was what he was simply and solely by the grace of God, which is ever
free for all men. He was not a man created for the hour. He was a
vessel, cleansed and emptied, and thus fit for the Master's use, and God
used him, as He always uses such vessels. The whole secret of his
sainthood lay in his simple, loving, implicit obedience. Not the
lifeless obedience that one renders to inexorable law, but the
heart-felt, passionate desire to serve, and to anticipate the lightest
want of the One Object of the affections! That baptism of personal love
for God and union with Christ was poured out upon Francis in the black
hour of what looked to him complete failure; when hunted and pursued, he
sought refuge from his angry friends in the caves of the earth. The gift
that he then received he never ceased to guard and cherish, and other
blessings were added to it, for God has promised, "To him that hath it
shall be given." And God gave liberally, good measure, pressed down, and
running over. But the gifts which were Francis are ours too, by right of
grace Divine--to be had for the faithful seeking, and kept by pure,
faithful, and obedient living--"Called to be saints." The few? One here
and there in every century? Oh, no. "Called to be saints," are the
myriad souls who have received the Divine touch of regeneration. This is
the calling and election of the redeemed; but oh, how few there are that
make them _sure_!

Five years had now elapsed since that spring morning, when, weak and
ill from fever, Francis dragged himself out of doors, to look again on
the glorious landscape that he thought would bring him health and
healing. The story of his disappointment we have already told. During
those five years Francis made gigantic strides in heavenly wisdom and
knowledge, and we feel that we cannot do better than to pause in our
narrative and try to give you some idea of the spiritual personality
of the man, whose name even now the people were beginning to couple
with that of "saint."

In appearance Francis was a thorough Italian. He was rather below than
over the ordinary height, his eyes and hair were dark, and his bearing
free and gracious. He was chiefly remarkable for his happy, joyous
expression. This he never lost: even when illness had robbed him of
his good looks, the light in his eyes, and the smile on his lips were
always the same.

[Sidenote: _Holy Boldness._]

The most striking points of Francis' character are, perhaps, his
humility, his sincerity, and his childlike simplicity. Humble Francis
was not by nature. There was nothing in his training to make him so,
and everything that would tend to the growth of pride and arrogance.
But, with his conversion, humility became one of his strongest
convictions. He truly considered himself less than the least, and he
held it to be an offence against God if he ever let himself, or his
little feelings and prejudices, stand in the way of accomplishing what
he believed to be for the extension of the Kingdom. It seemed as
though he had no feelings to be hurt. What most people would call
justifiable sensitiveness, Francis would call sin. He went straight to
the mark, and if he did not accomplish all he wanted to at first, he
simply tried again, and generally succeeded sooner or later.

In places where the Friars were not known, Francis often found it a
little difficult to get permission to preach in the churches. At a
place called Imola, for instance, where he went to ask the bishop for
the use of the church, the bishop replied, coldly and distantly:--

"My brother, I preach in my own parish; I am not in need of anyone to
aid me in my task."

Francis bowed, and went out. An hour later, he presented himself

"What have you come for again?" asked the bishop, angrily. "What do
you want?"

"My lord," answered Francis, in his simple way, "when a father turns
his son out of one door, the son has but one thing to do--to return by

This holy boldness won the bishop's heart.

"You are right," he said. "You and your brothers may preach in my
diocese. I give you a general permission to do so. Your humility
deserves nothing less!"

Francis never considered himself at liberty to "shake the dust" of a
city off his feet unless he had tried and tried again and again, to
get a hearing there; indeed, nothing convinced him of the uselessness
of his quest unless he were thrown out neck and crop, then it was more
than likely he would gather himself up, and try another entrance! He
entirely forgot himself in his love for his Master.

His love of truth was with him almost a passion. Between his thoughts,
and his words, and his actions there was a perfect agreement, neither
one contradicted the other; he saw to it that it was so, knowing that
nothing hurt the Gospel of Christ like insincerity or double dealing.
Distractions in prayer he looked upon as secret lies, and saying with
the lips what the heart did not go with.

"How shameful," he used to say, "to allow oneself to fall into vain
distractions when one is addressing the great King! We should not
speak in that manner even to a respectable man!"

On one occasion he had carved a little olive-wood vase, probably
meaning to sell it for food. But, while at prayer one day, some
thought connected with this work came into his mind, distracting his
soul for the moment. Instantly he was full of contrition, and, as soon
as he left his prayer, hastened to put his vase into the fire, where
never again it could come between his soul and God!

One day, on meeting a friend on the road, they stopped to converse. On
parting, the friend said, "You will pray for me?" To which Francis
replied, "Willingly." Hardly was the other out of sight, when Francis
said to his companion,--

"Wait a little for me; I am going to kneel down and discharge the
obligation I have just contracted." This was always his habit. Instead
of promising and forgetting as so many do, he never rested till he had
fulfilled the promise he had made.

[Sidenote: _A Fox-skin._]

During the last two years of his life he was often very weak and
ailing. One cold winter, his companion, seeing that the clothes he was
wearing were very thin and patched, was filled with compassion on his
account. He secretly got a piece of fox-skin.

"My father," he said, showing him the skin, "you suffer very much from
your liver and stomach; I beg of you let me sew this fur under your
tunic. If, you will not have it all, let it at least cover your

"I will do what you wish," said Francis; "but you must sew as large a
piece _outside_ as in."

His companion couldn't see any sense in this arrangement, and objected
very strongly.

"The reason is quite plain," said Francis: "The outside piece will
show everybody that I allow myself this comfort." They had to give in
at last, and Francis had his way.

"Oh, admirable man," writes a friend after his death; "thou hast
always been the same within and without, in words and in deeds, below
and above!"

[Sidenote: _A Temptation._]

On another occasion, he tore off his tunic, because, for a brief
moment of weakness, he harbored the thought that he might have led an
easier life, and still serve God. Like other men, he might have had a
settled home, and lived a tranquil existence. It was a passing
temptation, but Francis, tearing off his coarse garment, emblem of the
Cross that he strove to follow, cried--

"It is a religious habit--a man given up to such thoughts would be a
robber if he wore it." Nor did he put it on again till he felt he
could do so with a pure heart and clean conscience.

With the crystal transparency of his inner and outer life went a
simplicity that was akin to that of a little child. His sermons and
addresses were of the very simplest and plainest. Though Francis was
undoubtedly one of the orators of the age, his fiery words and burning
language were such that even the most unlearned could easily follow.
His theme was simply Christ, and Christ crucified for our sins, and an
exhortation to repentance and holy living. Learned ones pondered his
words and marvelled wherein lay his power, little dreaming that his
very plainness of speech was his strength.

His delight in the beauties of nature never left him. Sunset and
sunrise, mountain and plain, river and sea alike, filled him with joy,
and all spoke to him of the glory of God. Flowers always gave him
especial pleasure. He insisted that his disciples should always
reserve some portion of their gardens for the growth of flowers as
well as vegetables, "to give them a foretaste of the eternal sweetness
of Heaven." When the brethren went to the fields to chop wood, Francis
always warned them to take care of the roots, so that the trunk might
sprout again and live. To take life of any kind was intolerable to
him. For this reason he always lifted the worms out of his path and
laid them at the side of the road, lest an incautious traveller might
crush them.

His love and power over animals are almost too well known to need
mention. He always spoke of them as his brothers and sisters. He
disdained nothing. All were to him alike beautiful, because the work
of his God. For a long time, he had a tame sheep, that followed him
about wherever it could get a chance. This sheep always seemed to know
exactly how to behave under all circumstances. When the brethren knelt
at prayers, it knelt too; when they sang, it joined in with a
not-too-loud little bleat!

Near his room, at the Portiuncula, there lived a grasshopper in a
fig-vine. This little insect would hop on his finger at his bidding,
and when told to "sing and praise the Lord," used to chirp with all
its might! Birds, insects, and even fishes and wild animals, we are
told, all recognized in Francis a friend, and readily did his bidding.

[Sidenote: _Two Small Mites._]

Francis' love for God was supreme, and his belief that God loved him
never wavered. To make people love and know God was his one burning
desire. It was not so much God's service he delighted in as God
Himself. He never lost sight of the Master in the Work, and to a large
extent this was the key to all his success. His work was the outcome
of his love. After we have received, the first natural impulse is to
give. Francis possessed "two small mites," an ancient historian
writes--"they were his body and his soul. He gave them both, bravely
and freely, according to his custom."

Whatever came--joy, sorrow, success, failure, pain, weariness,
sickness, insult, or favor--Francis took as direct from the hand of
God, and blessed Him for all. Why shouldn't he? His heart was right,
he had the assurance that his ways pleased God, and his faith was not
dependent upon knowledge. He was content, nay, glad to trust where he
could not see, confident in the belief that "nothing could hurt a
sanctified soul." His disciples could not always follow him so far.
Some of them, when they saw their master suffering--as he did suffer
severely in his last days--thought that God might have led His beloved
Home by a less painful road. One of them once gave expression to his
feelings thus:--

"Ah, my brother, pray to the Lord that He may treat you more gently.
Truly, He ought to let His hand weigh less heavily upon you."

Hurt to the quick, as well as indignant, Francis cried:--

"What is that you are saying? If I did not know your simplicity I
should henceforth hold you in horror! What! you have the audacity to
blame God's dealings with me!" Then, throwing himself on his knees, he

"Oh, my Lord God! I give Thee thanks for all these pains I endure. I
pray Thee to send me a hundredfold more if such be Thy good pleasure!
I willingly accept all afflictions. Thy holy name is my superabundant

Nothing could ever make Francis say that anything in his lot was "very
hard." His love was too loyal, his trust too complete.

[Sidenote: _Rejoice Always._]

Joy was one of his cardinal articles of faith. "Rejoice always!" was a
divine command, and one not to be overlooked. As a young man, he had
been of a bright, joyous nature, but easily plunged into depths of
sadness and melancholy. God taught him upon what to base his joy, and,
when he had torn down all earthly external devices, led him to derive
his all from the true source. He held joy to be the normal state of
those whom God loves--the fruit of Christian life, without which
everything languishes and dies.

"The devil," Francis always said, "carries dust with him, and whenever
he can, he throws it into the openings of the soul in order to cloud
the clearness of its thoughts and the purity of its actions. If joy
knows how to defend itself and subsist, then he has had his spite for
nothing; but if the servant of Christ becomes sad, bitter or unhappy,
he is sure to triumph. Sooner or later, that soul will be overwhelmed
by its sadness, or will seek for false joys or consolations. The
servant of God who is troubled for any reason" (Francis always allowed
that causes for trouble in this world are innumerable) "must
immediately have recourse to prayer, and remain in the presence of his
Heavenly Father till the joy of salvation has been restored to him,
otherwise, his sadness will increase and engender a rust in the soul."

[Sidenote: _The Duty of Cheerfulness._]

This duty of cheerfulness Francis impressed upon all with whom he had
to do.

"My brother," he said to a friar, of doleful countenance, one day, "if
thou hast some fault to mourn, do it in secret, groan and weep before
God, but here, with thy brethren, be as they are in tone and

His conviction of this duty was so strong that, during one large
gathering of the friars, he had this advice written in large letters
and posted up.

"Let the brethren avoid ever appearing sombre, sad and clouded, like
the hypocrites, but let them always be found joyful in the Lord, gay,
amiable, gracious--as is fitting."

Amiability and graciousness he also considered amongst the
virtues--courtesy, he called it. And courtesy he always said was akin
to charity, her younger sister, who was to go with the elder one and
help to open all hearts to her! An historian writes thus of Francis:
"He was very courteous and gracious in all things, and possessed a
peace and serenity that nothing could disturb. This sympathy and
benevolence was expressed on his countenance; his face had in it
something angelic."

His songs and hymns were the outcome of his perpetual joy in the Lord.
In those days there were no popular religious hymns or songs. People
praised God in Latin, with psalms and chants. Francis never found that
these gave vent to his feelings, and so, with the help of one of the
brothers--Pacificus, a trained musician--he began to write his own;
and soon, wherever the friars passed, they left a train of simple
melody in their wake. It was Francis, and his brethren, who first
turned the Italian language into poetry, and gave it that impetus
which has since rendered it the typical language for song.



    "Thou whose bright faith makes feeble hearts grow stronger,
       And sends fresh warriors to the great campaign,
     Bids the lone convert feel estranged no longer,
       And wins the sundered to be one again."

Little did Francis think, as he piled up stone after stone upon the
walls of St. Damian, that the day was not far distant when he should
begin the building of a spiritual temple, built up of "lively stones,"
with Christ Himself as the "chief corner-stone." Yet it was even so.
That day when, in obedience to the heavenly command, he stripped off
his shoes and mantle, he laid the first stone. From that hour his
spiritual building proceeded, and he who had fancied his work
completed, found that it was but barely begun! Dead souls, in whom the
Story of the Cross could no longer arouse even the most transient
emotion, were awakened and convicted when they saw it lived out before
them--a living epistle. We have seen how souls quickened by Divine
power, and led only by God, came and joined themselves to Francis,
choosing him as their leader, and accepting as their rule of life the
revelation made to him, through the gospel, for that memorable
February day. To those that followed Francis, God made no more
definite manifestation of His will other than that they were to join
themselves to him and lead his life. Manifestly, he was their
God-appointed leader, and as simply and obediently as he had pulled
off his mantle and shoes, he accepted the human trust bestowed upon
him. And well he fulfilled that trust!

To the very last hour of his life, Francis was true to his first
principles. Never for one moment did he wander out of the narrow path
in which God had set his feet at the beginning of his career as a
leader and teacher of men. As literally as it was possible he modelled
his life on that of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the most noted
Atheist writers of the present century says that in no age has there
been so close a copy of the life of Christ as that portrayed by
Francis and his followers.

[Sidenote: _Alms._]

The most well-known of all the Franciscan characteristics is their
poverty. Though at times they asked alms for Christ's sake from their
neighbours, that was not the ideal Francis had before him as their
regular mode of life. It was that all should work with their hands at
whatever they could best do, and in return receive an equivalent for
their labour in food or clothes. "All the brothers who have learnt a
trade," Francis said, "will exercise it, those who have not must learn
one, and keep to the exercise of it without changing. All will receive
everything necessary for the support of life, except money, in
remuneration of their work." "When the brothers are in want of the
necessaries of life, they shall go and ask for alms like any other
poor man," was another of his directions. This was a great trial to
some who would have gladly learned the most menial of trades. But
there were times when there was no demand for labor, and there was
nothing for it but to beg or starve. This latter Francis would not
allow, and, repugnant though the former might be, it had to be done.
Not that he ever forced anyone. He began by doing this ignominious
duty himself, saying as he did so--

"My beloved brethren, the Son of God was far more noble than the
noblest of us, and yet He became poor upon earth. It is for love of
Him that we have embraced poverty, therefore, we must not be ashamed
to resort to the table of our Lord (thus he always spoke of alms).
Rejoice then to give good examples to those brethren whose firstfruits
ye are, that they in future may have nothing to do but follow you."

[Sidenote: _Holy Poverty._]

But there were other reasons why Francis was so devoted to poverty.
In all his doings he is remarkable for clear common-sense. Money and
possessions of any kind were in those days a fruitful source of
dispute and quarrels of all kinds; therefore, as Francis reasoned, it
were better that the Knights of Christ should possess nothing. Then
again in the priesthood, though the individuals themselves possessed
nothing, yet large sums of money and great possessions had been
amassed by convent and monastery, until, at the period of which we are
writing, the luxury and gluttony of priest and monk was a favourite
joke, and the splendour of their buildings well-known. As to
buildings, Francis would very much have preferred to have none. Since
this was impossible, he had everything built at the least possible
expense. Just rough beams put together, and the joinings filled with
sand. Even then this uncouth mass had to be property of someone
outside the community!

"Only on this condition," Francis said, "can we be considered as
strangers here below in accordance with the apostolic recommendation."
Certainly, no one could accuse them of luxury. The furniture of the
houses was of the poorest. Beds, often of straw, cups and plates of
wood or clay, a few rough tables, and a small number of books in
common to the brothers, were all the rooms contained. Carefully and
jealously did Francis guard against the first appearance of relaxation
on the part of himself or his followers. He would have thought God's
commands to him broken if any new-comer found in his community
anything that he had given up upon leaving the world.

As to clothing, we have already seen what were Francis' views in this
respect. The rough robe of "beast color," tied in with a knotted rope,
is still to be seen to-day in many parts of the world. But Francis
very well knew that a certain kind of vanity can easily lurk in even
the coarsest of garments. He was, therefore, constantly on the watch,
and was always severe if he saw the least deviation from the rule. "It
is an infallible sign," he always said, "that fervour is cooling in
the soul." He never allowed his disciples to have more than two

"It may be that one suffers a little," he said, "but what sort of
virtue is that that cannot suffer anything! To try and avoid all
mortifications under plea of necessity is a cowardly way of losing
occasions of merit. It is what the Hebrews would have done had they
gone back to Egypt."

[Sidenote: _Fatherly Care._]

It was more by personal example than anything else that Francis led
his followers in the Divine steps that he was so confident had been
also marked out for him. And his people believed in him and loved him.
They were convinced that through him spoke the Divine voice, and that
his way was God's way. And he was worthy of their belief and their
love and their esteem. He loved them with a devoted, generous love. By
his entire forgetfulness of self and his constant devotion to their
needs, he was theirs, always to "serve." Many stories are told of his
gentle, delicate kindliness and fatherly care. Once, one of his flock
had gone a little too far in depriving himself of natural food. That
night, in the silence, came a voice from his room which groaned
softly, "I am starving, I am starving of hunger!" Francis, who was
awake, rose quietly, and, getting together some food, went to the
starving brother and invited him to eat with him, so as not to hurt
his feelings or let it appear that he had been overheard. After he had
eaten, he explained to him the evil of not giving the body what was
necessary for it.

Another brother, who was ill, had a great longing for grapes, but
feared to indulge himself in case he should be breaking his vows.
Francis found out, some way or other, how he felt, and, going to him,
led him out into a vineyard, and, gathering some rich clusters, seated
himself on the ground, and, beginning to eat, invited his companion to
join him. If any were weak and ailing, it was always Francis who was
first to take a vessel and go out and beg for more nourishing food for
his ailing comrades. A mother could not have been more tender than he

In a very great measure Francis possessed the discernment of spirits.
He seemed to know intuitively what people were thinking about. One
day, during the last years of his life, when he had been obliged
through bodily weakness to ride on an ass, he surprised the brother
who was trudging alongside him, by getting off and saying--

[Sidenote: _Francis' Tact._]

"Here, brother, get on, it is more fitting that you, who are of noble
birth, should ride, rather than I, who am of humble origin."

The brother immediately fell on his knees and, asking forgiveness,
confessed that he had been grumbling to himself that he, whose family
would never have had anything to do with that of Pietro Bernardone's,
had been obliged to follow the ass of Francis Bernardone!

Another brother was greatly troubled because he thought Francis did
not love him. He told himself that Francis hardly ever noticed or
spoke to him, and then he began to argue that probably God, too, paid
no attention to him. He determined to see his leader about it. As soon
as ever he appeared before Francis, and before he could get out a
word, Francis said--

"It is a temptation, my brother, believe me, it is a temptation. I
have the truest affection for you, and you deserve this affection.
Come to me whenever you want, and we will talk things over."

One can easily imagine the joy of the once forlorn brother!

Not only could Francis move the crowds and hold them spell-bound with
his fiery words, but he had also the power to reach and touch men's
hearts in private. He was always accessible to that individual, be he
saint or sinner, who was in need. In times of darkness and depression,
he was the support of the brothers. He knew well the stages that a
soul passes through after it has taken the final step of separateness
from the world. In critical moments he was theirs to soothe and
comfort with prayer and advice. It was not only the faltering saint
that he lavished his tenderness upon; he was just as careful of the
faulty and ungrateful, and nothing could exceed the love with which he
strove to lure them back when he saw they were inclined to go ever so
little astray. "A superior," he used to say, "is more of a tyrant than
a father if he waits to interfere until a fault has been committed or
a fall has occurred!"

[Sidenote: _No Alternative._]

However, in spite of his tenderness, Francis could be iron strong when
there was any question of right and wrong. Those who were not of his
mind were obliged to get out from among the brothers. There was no
alternative, no easier way made for anyone. "Little Brothers" or
"Friars Minor" they called themselves, a name which then meant
"servant of all" or "least of all," and woe betide anyone who departed
from the spirit of this name!



    "Would you know, oh world, these Warriors; Go where the poor, the old,
    Ask for pardon and for heaven, and you offer food and gold;
    With healing and with comfort, with words of peace and prayer,
    Bearing His greatest gift to men--Christ's chosen priests are there."

It was not long before the little hut by the Riva Torto was full to
overflowing. The number of brethren had increased so, that there was
only just space for them to lie down at night, each under the beam
upon which his name had been chalked. It was a poor abode enough, but
poor though it was, they were not destined to have its shelter long.
One day when they were all engaged in prayer, a peasant noisily threw
open the door, and driving his ass right on top of the kneeling
occupants cried--

"Go in, go in, Bruno, we shall be better off here."

There was nothing to do but get out. The hut was not theirs, and
neither was there room for an extra man and a beast! They next betook
themselves to the Portiuncula, where they built themselves huts or
cells. The Portiuncula was the last church that Francis restored, and
one always especially dear to him. A little later it was given to the
friars for their own use.

From the Portiuncula the brothers travelled all round the
country-side, two by two, in true apostolic fashion. Some followed the
peasants into the fields, and as they shared their labors, sang and
talked of the love of Christ. For days, perhaps, they would live and
eat and sleep with the field hands, and then pass, always singing, on
their way, leaving hearts that had been touched, behind them. Others
sought the lazar-house, and spent their time in helping the brothers
tend the sick. They were always welcome here, and very often difficult
cases were reserved for their care. In the towns they met with a very
different reception. There they were considered "fair game" for
anybody who wished to tease or persecute or mock them. Some people
called them mad and lazy, others who believed in their good intent
said that if they wanted to be religious, there were plenty of Orders
they could join which would not be so austere. Even the Bishop of
Assisi, who always called Francis his son, said to him once,

"Your way of living, without owning anything, seems to me very harsh
and difficult."

[Sidenote: _On the Right Lines._]

Francis, sure that he was on the right lines, replied,

"If we possessed property we should have need of arms for its defence,
for it is the source of quarrels and lawsuits, and the love of God and
one's neighbor usually finds many obstacles therein! This is why we do
not desire temporal goods."

As the months went on, Francis and his doings attracted more and more
attention. They were the talk of the country. The families of those
brothers who had given away their possessions could not forgive them
for so doing, and attacks from these quarters were bitter and severe.
Disappointed heirs could find nothing too evil to say against the
foolishness and madness of their friar relatives. From this point of
view, many families found the brotherhood very alarming, and parents
trembled when their sons took any interest in it, lest they too should
join it. The clergy naturally felt somewhat distrustful of the doings
of these strange lay-workers. So, taking it altogether, whether he
liked it or not, Francis was the most talked of man in Assisi. The
more people flocked to him and got converted, the more his enemies
slandered him.

It was this state of things that led him to take his entire
force--numbering twelve--to Rome, and there beg the Pope to sanction
their mode of work. It was a bold undertaking, and when it was first
presented to the twelve they shrank back in horror at the presumption
of such a thing! But Francis had made up his mind and nothing could
move him.

How was he, Francis, young, without any interest, and a stranger to
all churchly usages, to get to see the Pope? the brethren asked him.

Francis didn't know. Probably he cared less. Anyway, God had told him
to go.

Then the brethren pleaded their simplicity. How they should
look--travel-stained, bare-footed, and coarse-robed, at the court of
Rome! This argument carried no weight whatever with their leader, and
his faith prevailing, they set out. Just as they were about to start,
Francis said "Let us choose one of us to be our Chief. We will go
whither he wills to go, we will sojourn where he wills us to sojourn."
The rest agreeing, Bernardo di Quintavelle was chosen as leader.

[Sidenote: _Bishop Guido._]

As soon as they arrived in Rome they discovered that unexpected help
was right at hand. Guido, the good Bishop of Assisi, was in the city,
and he met them accidentally just as they arrived. He was a little
discomposed at first--seeing the entire brotherhood he immediately
jumped to the conclusion that they were about to settle in Rome.
However, Francis soon told him the object of their journey, and he
promised to do the very best he could for them. Guido had a friend in
Rome, Cardinal John, of Sabina. This man was godly and devoted, one
who had never been carried away by the grandeur of his position, and
he was always a friend of anybody who tried to work for God. Guido had
already told him the story of Francis, and said that it was his belief
that God meant to do great things through that simple man and his
followers. Now that they had turned up so unexpectedly, he hastened to
introduce them to John and let him judge them for himself. The
Cardinal saw them, and talked to them, and was convinced in his own
mind that they were divinely led. Still, he thought he would like to
try Francis a little further. Taking him to one side, he asked him a
number of questions about his work and its difficulties.

"It is beyond your strength," he said, when he had heard him, and went
on to advise him to join some already existing Order, or else, if he
liked, lead the life of a hermit. Francis listened politely, but still
kept to his purpose.

"You are mistaken," persisted the Cardinal. "It is much better to
follow the beaten tracks."

Francis, equally persistent, kept to his point, and then the Cardinal,
who would have been sorry had his advice been taken, entered heartily
into his plans, and promised to support him with the Pope.

As these interviews occupied several days, Francis became impatient at
the delay. Nobody knows how he did it, but he succeeded unaided in
getting into the Palace, and presenting himself and his brethren
before the astonished eyes of the Pope! The Pope was walking in a
secluded gallery, meditating mournfully on the declension of the
Church of God, and trying to think what would remedy the growing
evils, when his meditations were abruptly cut short by what looked to
him like a troop of beggars. He was annoyed, and sent them off about
their business before they could explain what they wanted.

[Sidenote: _A Dream._]

That night the Pope dreamed a strange dream. He thought he saw a tiny
palm tree spring up at his feet, which immediately grew and grew till
it became a splendid tree. When he awoke, the conviction was strong in
his mind that the poor man he had turned away the day before was none
other than this little tree. And as he was thinking over his dream,
Cardinal John came in, and said--

"I have found a man whom I look upon as very perfect. He is resolved
to follow literally the teachings of Christ, and I have no doubt that
God intends to make use of him to reanimate faith on the earth."

The Pope was struck with what he said, for he was convinced in his own
mind that this was none other than the man he had driven away. He
concealed his feelings from the Cardinal, and merely said he should
like to see him. The Cardinal sent for Francis and his twelve, who
speedily appeared, and the Pope saw at once they were the beggars of
yesterday. He welcomed Francis warmly, and went into the rule he had
drawn up for his life, and that of his brotherhood. This rule has not
come down to us, but from various sources we learn that it was merely
a string of Bible verses, Christ's directions to His apostles,
including those that had been Francis' own commission. The Pope
listened to all that Francis had to say, then he said--

[Sidenote: _Hesitation._]

"My children, the life to which you aspire seems hard and difficult.
Doubtless your fervor is great, and we have no anxiety on your
account, but it is our duty to consider those who will come after you.
We must not impose upon them a burden they cannot bear. All this
requires serious reflection." Then he dismissed them, saying he would
lay the matter before the Cardinals.

Well, the question was put to the Cardinals, and they talked and
talked and talked. One said one thing, another said another, and most
of them had some objection to raise. They said he went beyond due
limits, that human nature could not long endure such a life, and
altogether they showed by their conversation, how very, very far they,
the leaders of a Church who claimed to follow the steps of the lowly
Nazarene, had departed from the initial simplicity of the Gospel.
Probably some idea of this sort was in Cardinal John's mind when he
rose to address the Assembly. He did not say very much, but what he
said went straight to the point.

"If we refuse the petition of this poor man on the plea that his rule
is difficult, let us beware lest we reject the Gospel itself, for the
rule which he desires us to approve of is in conformity with the
teachings of the Gospel. For us to say that Gospel perfection contains
anything unreasonable or impossible is to rise up against the author
of the Gospel and blaspheme Jesus Christ."

The force of his words went home, more especially as the rule was
entirely composed of Scripture verses!

Still the Pope hesitated. He could not come to any immediate decision.

"Go my son," he said to Francis, "and pray to God that He may let you
know that what you ask is from Him, and if it is we will grant your

For several days Francis gave himself up to prayer, and his next
interview with the Pope convinced him that these poor beggars had a
mission from God. He withheld his approval no longer. Embracing
Francis, he said to the little band--

"Go with God's blessing and preach repentance to all, in the way that
He is pleased to inspire you with."

A few days later the little party were on their way home again,
overflowing with joy. For a fortnight they lingered in a little town
called Orte. Some historians say they rested awhile from their
labours, others that they were attacked with fever in crossing the
Campagna. Be that as it may, it was here that Francis endured one of
the severest temptations of his life. The beauty of the scenery, the
delicious quiet, after the anxious time he had just gone through in
Rome, all conspired to make him think that after all perhaps a life
hidden from the world and devoted to prayer and meditation would be
just as acceptable to God as the more laborious one of preaching and
teaching. But he did not remain long under this spell, and in a little
time they were all back in Assisi.

[Sidenote: _The Order Established._]

It was at this point that Francis began first to shine as an orator.
Of course the news of his visit to Rome spread all around, and more
than ever he was an object of interest. The priests of St. George, who
had educated him, asked him to preach in their church. This service
must have been a success, because when the Bishop Guido returned to
Assisi, he asked Francis to preach in the cathedral. Here Francis
surpassed anything he had ever done before, and the large cathedral
was too small to hold the crowds that flocked to hear the young man.
Men and women came in from all the country-side, monks came down from
their mountain monasteries, and learned and simple all agreed that
"never man spake like this man!"

Yet, as we have said before, his words were of the simplest. He
preached repentance, not merely a lip repentance, but kind that worked
itself out in daily life. "If you have defrauded any man," he said,
"restore unto him that which is his." This sort of plain, practical
teaching was rapidly dying out. It came fresh to the people, and they
were stirred mightily."

[Sidenote: _Less than the Least._]

After their return from Rome, they began to be known as the Friars
Minor. This was the way in which they got their name. One day a
brother was reading aloud the Rule of the Order, and when he came to
this passage, "and let the brothers be less than all others," it
struck Francis very forcibly. He stopped the reader, and said--

"My brothers, I wish from henceforth that this fraternity should be
called the Order of Minors." Minor being the word in the original that
expresses the idea of "less than the least." And this was the name
they bore for many a year. It was an expressive and suitable one. Less
than the least of all the brethren--that was what they desired to be.
They were essentially of the people, they wore the garb of the
poorest, and shared their life with its toils and privations.

There was also another reason for this name, some historians say. Just
before Francis formed his Order, there was an Order of Friars
established in Italy, who spent their time in working among the poor.
"Little Brothers of the Poor," they called themselves, and it was in
contradistinction to them that Francis called himself "Minor," or less
than the "Little Brothers."



    "So faith grew.... The acknowledgment of God in Christ,
          Accepted by thy reason solves for thee,
          All questions in the world and out of it."

One of the most interested listeners in the Cathedral, the day that
Francis preached his first sermon there, was a little girl of sixteen.
Her name was Clara Scifi, and she was of noble family. From her
childhood she had been accustomed to hear discussed among the elders
the follies and madness of Francis Bernardone. Clara had always been a
good child, and from babyhood delighted to distribute food and alms of
all kinds to the poor. When she was old enough to understand all
Francis' principles, she was greatly drawn to them, though she kept
her feelings to herself. A cousin of hers became a friar, and this
naturally intensified her interest in the Friars Minor. But when she
went to the Cathedral, and, for the first time saw and heard Francis
for herself, it was like a revelation straight from God.

It seemed to Clara that he spoke directly to her, and that he knew all
her secret sorrows, and personal anxieties! Oh how she longed to have
some part in his great work! In those days such a thing as a girl
leaving her home for any reason except to be married or immured in a
convent, and never seen, was unheard of, and when Clara made up her
mind that she would break away from her idle luxurious life and become
a servant of the poor, she knew that she was going to do an unheard of
thing, and that never while the world stood, would she get permission
from her father, Favorina, for any such undertaking! Clare's mother,
Ortolana, was a pious woman, but even if she were to give her
consent, it was quite certain her husband would not. Therefore Clara
determined not to tell her mother what she was thinking about doing.

[Sidenote: _Clara's Decision._]

During the year that ensued after that preaching in the Cathedral,
Clara saw a great deal of Francis, and the more she saw of him, and
heard him talk, the surer she became that God was calling her to leave
home and friends. So one March night, accompanied by two servants,
Clara left her beautiful home, and set off for the Portiuncula, where
Francis and the brothers were waiting to receive her, and welcome her
as a sister in the Lord. Singing hymns, they led her into the little
church, and after a short service, during which they read her the
Rules, her beautiful long hair was cut off, and she robed herself in a
garment of coarse, ash-colored stuff, tied in at the waist with a
rope. After this she was conducted to a convent, some two miles away,
where the Benedictine nuns gave her a temporary shelter.

Francis was too simple and unworldly to think of the possible
consequences of this step of Clara's. He was sure that God had called
her, and he was equally sure that her friends would never give their
consent to her leaving home and becoming an apostle of poverty;
therefore, as God had revealed His will, it must be done at once. It
also never occurred to him that this was likely to develop into a
second Order of his Brotherhood, and an extension of his work. He only
saw a soul anxious to leave the world and all that pertained to it,
for Christ's sake, and his only thought was to provide it a way of
escape, just as he would have cared for a sparrow escaping from the
hawk, or a rabbit from the snare.

Next day Clara's irate parents arrived at the convent. They saw Clara,
and begged and entreated, and threatened, but all to no purpose. She
would not come away. She was absolutely unmovable. At last, seeing
that she was so determined, they gave up any idea of carrying her away
by main force, and listened to her while she talked to them, and
explained her position that she was consecrated to the living God,
and that nothing should come between Him and her. Her parents struck
by her words consented to leave her, and went away promising not to
trouble her again.

[Sidenote: _Agnes._]

But the troubles of the house of Scifi were not yet over. A fortnight
later, Agnes, a child of fourteen, ran away to join her sister. Agnes
had always been intensely devoted to Clara, and besides, she too had
been longing for some more satisfactory mode of life. It cannot be
said that Clara was surprised when Agnes knocked at the door, for ever
since her consecration she had prayed that Agnes' heart might be
touched too, and that she might be led to follow her out of the world.
Therefore she received Agnes with open arms.

"Ah, sweet sister," she cried, "how I bless God that He has so quickly
heard my earnest prayer for thee!" Agnes kissed her and declared that
she had come never to leave her, and together they braced themselves
for the storm that they felt was coming. And a terrible storm it was!
Favorina enraged at losing another daughter, took twelve men relatives
and proceeded without delay to fetch her home by main force if
necessary. However, they smothered their rage at first, as best they
could, and said quietly to Agnes--

"Why have you come here? Get ready and come home."

Then, when she refused to leave Clara, one of them fell on her with
kicks and blows, and taking her by the hair tried to drag her away.

"Ah, my sister," she cried to Clara, "come and help me; let me not be
torn away from my Lord."

Poor Clara could do nothing but follow her weeping. At last, worn out
with her struggles--or, as the legend says, she became so abnormally
heavy--they were obliged to drop her. Clara, reproaching them for
their cruel treatment, begged of them to give the child back to her.
Not knowing what else to do they returned, much disappointed at their

[Sidenote: _The "Poor Ladies."_]

This action of Clara and Agnes opened the way for many who were
hovering on the brink. As soon as they were established at St.
Damian's, which the Bishop of Assisi placed at their disposal--they
were joined by one woman after another, many their own personal
friends, and thus the second Order of what was then called "Poor
Ladies," was founded. The rule that they followed was very much like
that of the brothers, except in regard to the missionary life. Women
in those days never preached! The "Poor Ladies" supplied the passive
side of the organisation, and by their prayers and supplications,
supported the active workers. Their daily needs were met by what we
should call lay-sisters, women for whom a life apart from the world
was impossible. At first the people of Assisi brought the ladies the
food they needed, but when a little later this first ardour cooled
down, the lay-sisters took it upon themselves to provide regularly for
their necessities.

However, the Sisters themselves were by no means idle. They spun
thread, and made linen altar-cloths, and all that was needed for
churches round about. Then Francis was always sending the sick and
ailing to St. Damian's to be nursed, and for some time it was quite a
hospital. Clara, who was eventually put in charge of St. Damian's was
as rigid as Francis in her conviction as to the advisability of
possessing nothing. When her father died, she was his heir. It was a
very rich inheritance she came in for, but she commanded that
everything should be sold, and the proceeds given to the poor, and not
a penny of it went to enrich the convent. After her father's death
Clara had the joy of welcoming her mother and younger sister Beatrice
into her family!

Clara was always a true Franciscan. All through her life which was a
long one, she kept faithful to the principles of the Order, and never
would she yield to any dispensation that deviated from the narrow path
that Francis trod. When offered certain properties by a Church
dignitary, on the plea that the state of the times made it impossible
for women to possess nothing, she gazed upon him with speechless

[Sidenote: _"I want no Release."_]

"If it is your vows that prevent you," the worthy man went on, "you
will be released from them."

"No," she cried, "I want no release from following Christ."

She was a staunch defender of Francis. She also defended him from
himself! Many a time in hours of dark discouragement, when he was
sorely tempted to fly away, and shut himself up to a life of prayer
and contemplation, she pointed out to him the sheep who, without a
shepherd, were wandering to their own destruction, and drew him back
again into his God-marked path. Her teaching, and her mode of caring
for her sisters was very similar to that of Francis with his



    "No rushing sound we heard,
       We saw no fiery token,
    Only our hearts were stirred,
       For God had spoken."

The temptation to seek a life of quiet and retirement followed Francis
all his days. Invariably, after any new departure or special victory
he was attacked in that quarter. Why he should have been so troubled
when his call to follow Christ was so clear, we are not qualified to
say definitely. In all probability this temptation of his was akin to
Paul's "messenger of Satan" and thorn in the flesh that buffeted him,
lest he should be unduly exalted. The most interesting point to us
nineteenth-century Christians is, that by the grace of God Francis
never yielded to this temptation--that having once put his hand the
plough, he never turned back, but remained faithful to the end.

We must take into consideration that the Order of which Francis was
the founder was in itself unique. It stood alone in the annals of
Church history. It was a novelty in the Church. All other existing
orders followed a totally different line of action, or rather
inaction. Their disciples were shut up in solitude, and devoted
themselves to their own sanctification. When they worked for sinners
it was by praying for them, by example, and by a little preaching.
They never came face to face with the outside world. Their lives were
remote, apart. These facts may have had something to do with Francis'
periods of darkness and indecision. A pioneer's life has its own
peculiar temptations.

[Sidenote: _Darkness._]

Perhaps the worst season of darkness that Francis had was after the
establishment of the second Order. An internal agony seized him. Was
he, he asked himself, not trying to do something superhuman in uniting
a contemplative with an active life. So often he had been told by
people much wiser and cleverer than himself that the life he had
marked out was humanly impossible! He wrestled and prayed, but nothing
could dissipate the heavy blackness that spread itself over his
pathway. He determined to appeal to his brethren and follow their
advice. His appeal for help gives us a striking instance of how subtly
Satan can take the form of an Angel of Light.

"My brethren what do you advise me?" he asked. "Which do you consider
best--that I should attend to prayer, or that I should go and preach?
I am a simple man, that speaks without art. I have received the gift
of prayer more than of speaking. Besides, there is more profit in
prayer. It is the source of grace. In preaching, we only distribute to
others the gifts we have received. Prayer purifies the heart and
affections. It is the union with the one true and solid Good.
Preaching makes the feet of even the spiritual man dusty. It is a work
that distracts and dissipates, and leads to relaxation of discipline.
In short, in prayer we speak to God, and listen to Him. In preaching
we must use much condescension towards men, and living among them it
is often necessary to see, hear, think, and speak like them in too
human fashion. These are very serious objections. And yet there is a
reason that seems to give it most weight with God. It is that His only
Son left the bosom of the Father to save souls, and to instruct men by
His example and word. He gave all He had for our salvation. He kept
nothing for Himself. Therefore it seems to me more in conformity with
the Divine Will that I renounce a tranquil life and that I go to work
abroad. But what is your advice? Speak! What do you think I ought to

The respective merits of the question had been so equally weighed that
it is not surprising that the brethren, one and all, declared
themselves unable to give any advice. For several days they conferred,
but no clear light shone upon their conferences. It was an important
matter to decide, because the whole future conduct of the Order hung
upon the decision. As Francis would walk, so also would tread his
disciples. This fact, together with the general uncertainty, pressed
heavily upon his soul. One of the most spiritual of Francis'
historians says that God permitted him to pass through this darkness,
because He wanted His servant whom He had already made a prophet, to
learn by a striking example, that no inspiration comes to us from
ourselves. And more than this. He wished the merit and glory of
preaching to be consecrated by a species of oracle that could only be
attributed to Him.

[Sidenote: _How the Answer Came._]

This is how the answer came.

Francis, always little in his own eyes, was never ashamed of inquiring
of anyone, the simple as well as the learned, the imperfect as well
as the perfect, if he thought that by so doing he would be the better
able to extend the Kingdom. In the present instance, getting no light
from the brethren, he sent a message to Brother Sylvester, who was now
a very old man, and lived by himself on a mountain, and another to
Clara, asking them to pray that God would reveal to them his will. The
old priest, and the young girl and her companions, gave themselves up
to prayer, and God who declares that He will be inquired of, revealed
to them His will.

When the messages came, as they did together, Francis was on his knees
praying. Both messengers carried the same message. It was God's will,
they said, that he should leave his solitude, and preach the Gospel.

Immediately, without losing a moment, Francis got up, put on his
mantle, and set of. All his doubt had vanished at once.

"Let us go, my brethren," he said. "Let us go in the name of the

It seemed as if he were possessed by a new spirit. Never had he been
so fervent. Never had his ardor been so intense. To all that he did
God set His seal in a truly marvellous manner! The inhabitants of the
various villages flocked to hear him, and they almost stood upon one
another to find places in the churches and cathedrals. In those days
the cathedrals and great churches were not seated. The people stood
all the time. The men to the front, and the women very often far
behind. When there was a large crowd, the crush was fearful.

In Ascoli some thirty men from the Church joined the Minors, and were
given the habit. After this event, Francis could not show himself in
the street without being surrounded by a crowd. When once he came into
a town the population had no thought for anyone but him. The churches
were filled as soon as ever it was known he was going to speak. Even
in the streets they eagerly gathered up his words. Thus it was
everywhere he went through Central Italy. His name was in everyone's

[Sidenote: _A Great Tree._]

It was some time now since the building at the Portiuncula had become
far too small to accommodate all who wished to join the Friars. There
had been nothing for it but to overflow into the neighbouring
provinces. It is a matter of some regret that but little of the
history of this extension has been preserved. We shall see how
Bernardo of Quintavelle, and Guido of Cortona, established branches of
the Order, and no doubt the story of other new ventures would have
been equally interesting, but all that history has handed down to us
is a list of names. The tiny seed that Francis had sown in weakness
was rapidly becoming a great tree. Though this progress was gratifying
to him, it also caused him some suffering. By nature he was intensely
affectionate, and when one by one he had to send out from him his old
companions to take charge of distant branches, his heart was sad

One day while he was thinking, as he often did, about his absent
friends, the thought occurred to him that something might be done to
alleviate this separation. Something, too, that would benefit the
entire Order. Twice a year it was arranged that all the brethren, new
and old, should meet at the Portiuncula. This idea proved to be so
good that it became one of the fundamental rules of the Order.

[Sidenote: _A Curious Scene._]

The first of these "Chapters," as they were called, was held after
Francis had completed his tour in Central Italy. The brethren came
from far and near. They came pouring in from all quarters, up from the
valleys, and down from the mountains, and from the shining sea-coast,
streams of brown-robed, bare-footed men of all classes and conditions
of life. And what were they coming to? A little church and convent as
poor as themselves, where there were not even provisions enough on
hand to supply one-hundredth part of the hundreds that were flocking
there with one meal! But in perfect faith and trust they came,
plodding along under the blazing sun, some rapt in meditation, others
saluting all they met with their gentle salutation, "the peace of

Such a sight was never seen in Italy before, and from castle and city
poured glittering vividly-colored groups to see the wonderful sight.
The richly-colored garments of the crowd, and the gaily-decked
cavalcade from the country and castle formed a brilliant foil to the
brown-robed stream of friars. The Portiuncula is situated on one of
the lowest slopes of the Apennine hills, below it stretches the wide
plain. This was the guest-chamber. There were no other beds than the
bare ground, with here and there a little straw. But we need not pity
them as far as sleeping out of doors goes, because the Umbrian nights
are of all things most beautiful. The air was soft and warm, and the
brilliant blue-starred heavens above did away with any need of
artificial light.

Francis met this crowd with great pleasure and cheerfulness, though he
had not a crust to offer them. When they were all assembled he told
them with sublime faith to give no thought as to what they were to eat
or drink, but only to praise God. And his faith was rewarded. The
people came from Perugia, Spoleto, Foligno, and Assisi, and from all
the neighboring country to carry meat and drink to that strange
congregation. They came with horses and asses, and carts laden with
bread and cheese and beans and other good things, and besides this
they brought plates, and jugs, and knives; and knights, and barons,
and other noblemen, who had come to look on, waited on the brothers
with much devotion. It was such sight as once seen could never be

[Sidenote: _Three Grades._]

In these chapters Francis was at his best, and happily the historians
of the time have preserved for us details of his mode of work. He was
there to spend and be spent. His one desire was that the brethren
should gain a renewal of spiritual strength in the days passed
together, and at the same time that the Order in general should be
benefited. To attain the first end, he employed what we have pointed
out before as being one of his strongest points--private and
individual dealing. As we have also already intimated, we feel sure
that the greater part of his phenomenal success resulted from this. In
his own mind he had the brethren carefully graded. There were three
divisions. First, the fervent; second, the troubled in spirit; and
thirdly, the tepid. The correctness with which he assigned everyone to
his proper place was well-nigh divine. At the time of writing the
fervent were numerous, but they were likely to be carried away by an
exaggerated zeal. Some of them wore chains, and were ruining their
health with over-watchings and fastings. Francis boldly forbade this.
He would have none of it. He spoke to such kindly and tenderly, but he
also spoke forcibly in commending that reason which must regulate
piety, as it regulates human life. By precise and detailed rules he
delivered the fervent from exhausting their strength before its time,
and thus preserved them for their work. But it was not an easy task
that of controlling the fervent, especially when there was a spice of
self-will in addition to the fervency.

In a large community, such as Francis now had on his hands, there is
always sure to be a large percentage of troubled ones. Francis well
knew this, he knew that the devil was always on the alert, that trials
without and within are the lot of every mortal. These troubled ones
found in their leader a tower of strength. To him they poured out
their most secret confidences. The difficulties they had with
uncongenial brethren, their interior doubts and fears, and awful dread
that such might one day cause them to fall away. Francis showed all
such the sincerest compassion. They knew and felt or that he loved
them. His sympathy was a remedy in itself. They left him cheered and
refreshed and strengthened.

Human weakness is never slow in showing itself, and the tepid were
easily recognized. They were generally those who had made a very good
beginning, but had allowed their zeal to cool and were becoming
unfaithful to the grace God had given them, and to the rules of the
Order. Francis was always gentle to these as he was gentle to all, but
he knew how to maintain his authority--to reprove, blame, and correct.
He followed the Divine recommendation, "If thy brother shall offend
thee, go and rebuke him between thee and him alone." His happiness was
complete if he could gain the tepid brother.

[Sidenote: _Duty of Humility._]

In the general meetings where all the brethren were assembled he dealt
with the interests of the whole work. He was very strong at these
times on the duty of humility.

"Make yourselves small and humble to everyone," he would say, "but
above all, be humble to the priests. The care of souls has been
entrusted to them. We are only auxiliaries, to do what they cannot
do." They were never to enter any field of labor without the
invitation, or at least the consent, of the local clergy. And then,
when they had received this permission they must never act as though
they were masters. This policy acted well. The local clergy had no
misgivings in seeking their assistance. They knew that these men would
not try to make the people discontented with their own pastors, but
rather sow content.

Another spirit Francis strove to get into his followers--that was the
spirit of tolerance. He warned them against carrying their attitude,
in regard to riches, to excess, and to say that all men must see as
they did or remain unsaved. Other reformers had done this and were
extinguished. The rule of poverty was God's leading for Francis. All
men he recognized were not called to follow this track, though some of
his disciples, in their enthusiasm, would have it that they were. To
them Francis said--

"Do not use the sacrifices you impose upon yourselves as a weapon.
Beware of haughty reproofs. We must show the same mercy that has been
shown to us. The God Who has called us may also call them by-and-bye.
I wish all that are here never to call the rich anything but brothers
and lords. They are our brothers, since they have the same Creator as
we, and they are our lords also because without them we could not
persevere in the poverty that we have made our law."

This spirit of tolerance was to extend to the sinners. He did not like
to hear them berated.

"Many who are the children of the devil to-day," he said, "will become
true disciples. Perhaps they will go before us. This thought alone
ought to keep us from all violence of language. We have been sent to
bring back to the truth those who are ignorant and in error. That is
our office, and one that is not accomplished by the use of cutting
words and sharp reproaches.... It is not enough that our compassion be
in words only. The important thing is that it should be in our deeds,
that all who see us may, by occasion of us, praise our common Father,
Who is in Heaven."

[Sidenote: _Holiness._]

He was also strong on holiness. He taught that there must be a true
light within that shines only from a clean heart, before it can shine on
the outer world, and without this no good work could be accomplished.
Francis was full of the grace and wisdom of Jesus Christ. Of the
spiritual effect of the first chapter a historian writes--

"The brethren valued the gift they had received. Not one of them cared
to talk of profane matters. They talked about the holy examples given
by some amongst them, and sought together ways of growing in grace and
in the knowledge of Jesus Christ."



    "Ah, the people needed helping--
      Needed love--(for love and Heaven
    Are the only gifts not bartered,
      They alone are freely given)."

It is rather a pity that there have not been more detailed accounts
handed down to us of the converts who could point to Francis as their
spiritual father. It would have given us yet another side of that life
which was the most glorious spiritual light of the dark age in which
he lived! From the few that we meet incidentally, here and there, we
have no doubt that such documents, were they forthcoming, would be of
immense value. But, alas, the age in which Francis lived was not an
essentially literary one, and writing was one of the accomplishments
left to the few! So we must therefore make the best of such scanty
material as we have at our disposal, and try to give you an idea of
the different species of humanity that were attracted by the kindly,
gracious, Christ-like personality of Francis.

We have seen how at first, he had no idea of his call extending any
further than himself and his own life and conduct. Then one by one, at
first, and more quickly afterwards, men ranged themselves under his
standard, and claimed him as their leader. Naturally, and simply, he
took up his new position, and the duties attached thereto. He seemed
to know by intuition those whom God had singled out to be his
followers, and one after another heard Francis, as the voice of God
calling them to leave all and follow the lowly despised Christ.

[Sidenote: _Soldiers in the Christian Army._]

One of the first of these was a laborer named John.

It was always a great grief to Francis when he saw a church left dirty
and neglected. It gave him positive pain to think that anyone could
neglect the House of God, and give it less care than they would their
own homes. When he went on different preaching tours he used to call
the priests of the locality together, and beg of them to look after
the decency of the churches. He was not content merely to preach, but
often he bound stalks of heather together and made himself a broom,
and set to work and showed them an example.

One day he was busily engaged in sweeping out a church when a peasant
appeared. He had left his cart and come to see what was going on.
After he had stared for a time, he went over to Francis and said--

"Brother, let me have the broom and I will help you." He took the
broom, and finished the church.

When his task was ended, he said--

"Brother, for a long time, ever since I heard men speak of you, I have
decided to serve God. I never knew where to find you. Now it has
pleased God that we should meet, and henceforth I will do whatever you
command me."

Francis was convinced that he would make a good friar, so he accepted
him. This John was renowned afterwards for his piety, the other friars
admired him greatly. He did not live very long, and after his death,
Francis used to love to tell the story of his conversion, always
speaking of him as Brother _Saint_ John.

Angelo Tancredi was a young knight, rich, and of noble family. Francis
met him one day in the neighbourhood of Rieti. He had never seen him
before, he knew nothing whatever of him, but inspired by God, he went
up to him and said--

"My brother, thou hast long worn belt, sword and spurs. Henceforth thy
belt must be a rope, thy sword the Cross of Jesus Christ, and for
spurs thou must have dust and mud. Follow me. I will make thee a
soldier in the Christian Army."

Angelo's heart must have been prepared by God for this call, because
we read that "the brave soldier immediately followed Francis as the
Apostles followed our Lord."

[Sidenote: _New Recruits._]

Those who lived with him say that he was distinguished by a "glorious
simplicity," meaning, no doubt, that while he accepted the humility of
his new life, he retained something of his distinguished manners, and
chivalrous bearing. He was a personal friend of Francis', and one to
whom he could always unburden his soul.

Guido of Cortono is said to have been a born Franciscan. Passing
through Cortono, on a preaching tour, Francis found him ready, and
almost waiting for him. He was a young man of singular purity of
character. He had neither father nor mother, and lived quietly on the
means they had left him. What was over from his income, he gave to the
poor. After he had heard Francis preach, he went up to him and begged
that he would come to his house, and make it his home as long as he
stayed in Cortono. Francis consented, and as he and his companion
followed Guido home, Francis said--

"By the grace of God this young man will be one of us, and will
sanctify himself among his fellow-citizens."

After they had eaten and rested, Guido offered himself to Francis to
be one of his disciples. Francis agreed to receive him upon condition
that he should sell all his goods. This was done, apparently on the
spot, for we read that the three went round the town, distributing the
money. After this Francis conducted Guido into the Church, and there
clothed him with the "beast" colored robe.

Guido retired to a place outside the city, and became the founder of a
branch of the work. A small monastery was built, and such of his
converts in the locality, as were called to be friars, Guido received.

Sometimes the very talk about what Francis was doing, was used of God
to re-kindle the flame of love to Him in hearts where it had nearly
been extinguished. Simply hearing of the crowds that were seeking
forgiveness of sins, roused others to a sense of their eternal needs.
Amongst this number was John Parenti.

Parenti was a magistrate, a clever, thinking man, who lived in the
neighbourhood of Florence. He had long been very careless about his
soul, and what little religion he ever had had was fast slipping out
of his careless hold. He had heard of Francis, and the reformation
that was taking place in Umbria, and meditated long and deeply on all
that he heard, wondering, no doubt, if there was really "anything in
it," or was it not "all mere excitement." Still, he was more than ever
convinced that he himself had very little religion to boast of.

[Sidenote: _The Swine-herd and his Pigs._]

One evening he was taking a walk in the country when he met a
swine-herd. This youth was in great difficulty over his contrary
flock. As is the nature of pigs, mediæval or otherwise, they went in
every direction except that in which they were wanted to go! Parenti
stood looking on amused at the boy's efforts. With much labor at last
he got them towards the stable door, and as they were rushing in he

"Go in, you beasts, go in as the magistrates and judges go into hell!"

It was only the uncouth speech of an equally uncouth swine-herd, but
God used it to the salvation of his soul. He began to think about the
dangers of his profession, and the state in which he was living, and
where he should really go to if he died. The business of salvation
looked to him that evening as the only one worth taking up, and the
straight and narrow road the only safe place.

He went home and confided all his hopes and fears to his son. Together
they decided that they would go and find Francis, and tell him they
wanted to change their life. They saw Francis, and before they left
him, they had made up their minds to become friars. They came back,
sold all their goods, and then put on the garment of the Order.
Parenti was a valuable acquisition to the Order, and rose to
considerable eminence in after days.

[Sidenote: _The Prince of Poets._]

Perhaps one of the most remarkable of Francis' converts was Pacificus,
as he was known in the Order. This man was a noted poet and musician.
He was known throughout Italy as "The King of the Verses," and was
considered to be the very prince of poets. He excelled in songs, and
was greatly appreciated everywhere. His supremacy was so undoubted
that several times he had received the poet's crown from the hands of
the Emperor of Germany, that very same crown that afterwards adorned
the brows of Petrarch and Tasso. He was visiting at San Severino when
he met Francis.

A house of "Poor Ladies" had just been founded in this place, and
Francis was preaching in their chapel. Some friends of Pacificus had
relatives among the "Poor Ladies," and as they were going to visit
them they asked him to come along too. He went, and as Francis was
preaching they stopped to hear him. The tone, and the eloquence of the
preacher, arrested Pacificus, and he could not hide his emotion as one
truth after another struck his conscience. Francis perceiving that one
hearer at least was touched by his words, turned the point of his
discourse straight at him. The longer Pacificus listened, the more he
was convinced not only that the hand of the Lord was upon him, but
that a great work was required of him. As soon as the sermon was over,
he asked to speak with Francis. That conversation completely won
Pacificus. Francis spoke to him of the judgments of God, and the
vanities of the world.

"Enough of words," cried the Poet, "let us have deeds! Withdraw me, I
pray you, from men, and restore me to the supreme Emperor."

Francis was always a lover of decision, and the next day he gave him
the habit, and took him on to Assisi with him. Ever after this the
poet was known as Pacificus, in memory of the peace of Christ that
that day flowed into his soul. His life was beautiful in its
simplicity. His historian writes, "he seemed rather to forget what he
had been, than have to make any violent effort to force himself to a
new life." In other words, his life "was hid with Christ in God."

This conversion of Pacificus attracted a great deal of attention and
did much towards advertising the Franciscans all over Europe.

[Sidenote: _Professor Pepoli._]

Professor Pepoli filled an important chair in the Bologna University.
He was converted through the preaching of Francis in Bologna. Of this
preaching an eye witness writes:--

"I, Thomas, Archdeacon of the Cathedral Church, studying at Bologna,
saw Francis preach in the square, where nearly the whole town was
assembled. He spoke first of angels, and men, and devils. He explained
the spiritual natures with such exactitude and eloquence that his
hearers were astonished that such words could come from the mouth of
so simple a man. Nor did he follow the usual course of preachers. His
discourse resembles rather those harangues that are made by popular
orators. At the conclusion he spake only of the extinction of hatred,
and the urgency of concluding treaties of peace and compacts of union.
His garment was soiled and torn, his person mean, his face pale, but
God gave his words unheard of power. He even converted noblemen, whose
unrestrained fury had bathed the country in blood, and many of them
were reconciled."

Professor Pepoli came under the spell of this preaching. A little
later all Bologna was electrified by hearing that he was about to give
up his professorship and become one of Francis' disciples. His friends
did all in their power to keep him. They pointed out to him how much
he loved his studies and the glory that was his. All in vain.
Professor Pepoli had already been accepted by Francis.

Three years later he died, greatly mourned by an entire monastery of
which he had been the founder.

If there were one class of men that Francis took more interest in than
another, after the lepers, it was the thieves and robbers that
abounded all over Europe. One day a number of them came begging at the
monastery. Angelo Tancredi opened the door to them and, true to his
soldierly instincts, was very wroth at their impudence.

[Sidenote: _The Robbers._]

"What!" he cried, "Robbers, evil-doers, assassins, have you no shame
for stealing the goods of others, but would you devour the goods of
the servants of God? You who are not worthy to live, and respect
neither men or God. Get you hence, and never let me see you here

The robbers departed, full of rage. Francis next appeared close on
their heels, carrying with him some bread and wine that had been given
to him. Angelo told him of the impudence of the robbers, and how he
had served them. To his surprise, Francis was much grieved at his
conduct, and reproved him for his cruelty.

"Go at once," he said, "and take this bread and wine and seek those
robbers till you have found them, and offer them this bread from me,
then ask their pardon, and pray them in my name to no longer do wrong,
but fear God."

Angelo departed, while Francis stayed at home and prayed for the
success of his undertaking. The robbers were found, and Angelo brought
them back to the monastery where they not only sought the pardon of
their sins, but became friars, and lived and died in true holiness.

One day Francis and some of the friars were passing round the foot of
a great castle. It was evident there was some festival going on
inside! The banner of the house floated over the gates, and the sound
of trumpets were heard half over the country-side. The young Count of
Montefeltro was about to be knighted.

"Come," said Francis, suddenly inspired, "let us go to the Castle, and
with God's help perhaps we may make some spiritual knight."

As soon as the ceremony was ended, and the company began to pour out
into the courtyard, Francis stood up on a low wall and began to
preach. He spoke of the worthlessness of all earthly pleasures
compared to the heavenly ones. He showed what the love of God could do
in the human soul, pointing them to the apostles and martyrs as
illustration, and contrasting the chivalry of the Christian heroes
with that which was human glory only. It was an appropriate subject,
and the people listened attentively.

Amongst the audience was a valiant knight, Count Orlando, Lord of
Chiusi. Immediately after the sermon, he went to Francis and said--

"I should like to talk to you about the salvation of my soul."

"Most willingly," replied Francis, always courteous, "but this is not
quite a fitting moment. You must honor those who have invited you.
First go and dine with them, and after the repast we will converse at

Count Orlando did so, and returning to Francis they talked together.
Very soon Orlando was happier than he had ever been in his life
before, because he knew that his sins were all pardoned. Before he
parted with Francis he said--

"I have in my domains a mountain called La Vernia. It is exactly
suited to men who wish to live in solitude. If it please thee I will
give it to thee most willingly."

Francis accepted the offer, and the mountain was used as a place where
the brethren could go to pray, and rest when worn out with the fatigue
of their work. It was really a huge plateau on top of a steep
mountain, covered with trees. Amongst these, some little cells were
constructed, and a quieter, more restful place it would be hard to

[Sidenote: _The Peasant's Advice._]

It was when Francis was climbing this mountain once, that a peasant,
who took him up on his ass, asked him--

"Are you the Francis of Assisi that is so much talked of?"

"Yes," said Francis, "I am."

"Well," responded the man, "You will have hard work to be as good as
they say you are. They have such confidence in you, it is difficult
for you to be equal to it, at least that is _my_ opinion."

Francis was charmed with this opinion, and thanked the man for his
charitable advice, but before that journey was ended, the peasant was
convinced that Francis was as good as "they" said he was.

Our readers must not imagine that Francis' converts were all men. Far
from it. Many women, besides Clara and Agnes, had to thank God that he
ever came their way and taught them how to love and serve God.

[Sidenote: "_Our Brother Jacqueline!_"]

There was Jacqueline. She was of noble family, and though she did not
leave the world like Clara, yet she served the cause right nobly. She
was a most unusual woman for her times. We are told that "she was not
afraid of business!" She went in person and treated with the
Benedictines, and induced them to give up certain buildings in favor
of the Friars Minor. All her riches and influence she put at the
disposal of the Franciscans, who had no more active patron than
Jacqueline. Francis used to call her jokingly "our brother

On one of the last tours Francis was able to make, he suffered much
from pain and depression. To cheer him, says a historian, God gave him
a piece of work to do for Him. He was passing through a place called
Voluisiano, when a young lady, the wife of the baron of the place, ran
after him. When she caught up with him she was very much out of
breath. Francis looked at her with interest, and asked--

"What can I do for you, Madam?"

"I want you to bless me," she said.

"Are you married?" went on Francis.

"Oh, yes," said the girl, "and my husband is very stern. He sets
himself against my serving Jesus Christ. He is my great trouble. I
have received a right will from Heaven, and I cannot follow it on
account of him. Will you pray that God may soften his heart?"

"My daughter," Francis said in great compassion, "Go, I am assured
your husband will become your consolation. Tell him this from God and
me, 'Now is the time of salvation, recompense will surely come.'"

Then he gave her his blessing.

The lady went home, and finding her husband, gave him Francis'
message. The Spirit of God carried it to his inmost soul.

"He is right," he said to his wife, "Let us serve God together, and
save our souls in our own house!"

"The Lord be praised," cried his wife, and together they thanked God
for the gift of His wonderful salvation. They lived for a great many
years in godliness and holiness, and passed away to be with Christ,
the one in the morning and the other in the evening of the same day.

[Sidenote: _A Catalogue of Names._]

Other equally interesting incidents, we have no doubt cluster round
what, unfortunately, the historians present to us in the form of a
catalogue of mere names.

Chapter XIII.


    "God the Father, give us grace
    To walk in the light of Jesu's Face.
    God the Son, give us a part,
    In the hiding place of Jesu's Heart.
    God the Spirit, so hold us up,
    That we may drink of Jesu's Cup."

They were five in number. Their names were Berard, Peter, Otho,
Adjutorius, and Accurtius. When they first started out for Morocco, a
sixth, Vital, was with them, but at an early stage of the journey he
fell sick, and rather than the mission should be delayed on his
account he insisted on their leaving him behind. He never recovered,
but died about the same time as his brothers were martyred.

About these martyrs historians are divided in their minds. Some say
that they were foolish and extreme and courted persecution, others
declare that they were animated by the Holy Ghost, and others that it
was a part of God's great plan for the encouraging of the Franciscan
movement. Certain it is, that in their case, the blood thus spilled
was fruitful, and brought to life rich fruit, and we have no doubt
that to-day they are among that mighty throng who are clothed in white
raiment, and bear palms in their hands, who on earth "counted not
their life dear to them." The memory of such souls is always fragrant,
and supreme love, even though it may appear ill-regulated, is better
than a tepid affection which is unworthy the name.

The five travelled by way of Portugal, where they were well received.
At Seville they stopped in the house of a Christian merchant for eight
days, which time they spent in prayer. At the end of the eight days
they informed the gentleman why they had come, and further said that
they were about to commence a little preaching in Seville. Seville was
at this period in the hands of the Moors. The poor merchant was
utterly horrified at their proposals, he threw every obstacle in their
way, telling them that they would do no good, and only make it hard
for the Christian merchants who were allowed to trade there! Needless
to say, such worldly reasoning had no effect upon the disciples of

[Sidenote: _Preaching in at Mosque._]

Their first attempt was, of all places, in a mosque! While the Moors
were engaged in devotion one day, they were electrified to hear a loud
voice proclaim to them Jesus Crucified. They immediately rose up and
drove the intruders out with blows and curses. The five next repaired
to a larger mosque, and sought to obtain a hearing there. Again they
were thrown out. Then a brilliant idea occurred to the leader, Berard.

"We will go to the King," he said. "If we gain him, the victory over
the others will be easy!"

In spite of all difficulties, they managed to gain admission to the
Court, and present their plea. The King was enraged at their audacity,
and ordered them to be scourged and beheaded, which was the summary
mode in which justice was dealt out in that era. If it had not been
for the intercession of the King's son, this sentence would have been
carried into effect, as it was they were taken away and imprisoned in
a tower.

A few hours later all Seville gathered to see a strange sight! There,
on top of the prison tower, stood the five, brown-robed, bare-footed
strangers, singing with all their might praises to the one true God!
They were then taken and thrust into the darkest and deepest dungeon.
But as solitary confinement was unknown then, they found that they had
a congregation all ready to listen to them, and, as long as they
stayed there, they never ceased to preach repentance to the prisoners.

They were not left in prison very long. The King sent for them again,
and began by coaxing them to leave off preaching. He promised them
riches and honor, if they would only stop talking about Jesus Christ.
They thanked him courteously, and Berard said--

"Would to God, noble prince, you would show mercy to yourself! You
need it more than we do. Treat us as you will, you can, at the utmost,
only deprive us of life, and that is a matter of little moment to us
who hope for eternal joys!"

What to do with these strange men the King did not know! Their courage
and heroism he could not but admire, still they were very dangerous.
After a consultation with his officers, they decided that the best
thing to be done was to get them quietly out of the country.
Accordingly they were placed in a vessel bound to Morocco. This exile
filled the five with joy! At last they were to begin work in an
infidel country!

[Sidenote: _Don Pedro._]

Now, Don Pedro, the brother of King Alphonso of Portugal, a nominal
Christian, had had some kind of a dispute with the King, in consequence
of which he had come to live in Morocco. Notwithstanding his Christianity,
he had been placed at the head of a Mussulman army. To him the
missionaries repaired. By this time their personal appearance was
anything but improved. Suffering and imprisonment had done their work,
their faces were wan and thin, and their garments were all but in rags.
Nevertheless, Don Pedro received them kindly, and promised to befriend
them. He warned them against being too extreme, cautioned them to
moderation, and begged that they would not expose themselves to danger.

But Don Pedro knew nothing about that love, which is as fire in the
bones, and is strong as death; so strong that no barriers can keep it
within bounds. The next morning found the missionaries hard at work.
They had learned that there was going to be some kind of a public
procession through the town as the King was going to visit the tomb of
his ancestors.

[Sidenote: _Prison and Torture._]

A procession to the five meant people, a concourse of sinners and
infidels, a glorious opportunity, and if they did not make the best of
it, they would be unworthy the name they bore. Just as the King was
passing, Berard, who could speak Arabic, mounted a cart and began to
preach. Instead of stopping when the royal train passed, as a
Mussulman would have done, he waxed more vehement. To the King this
seemed either insolence or madness, and having charitably decided on
madness, he ordered the missionaries to be banished. Don Pedro, who by
this time had had enough of his troublesome guests, gave them an
escort to the nearest seaport, and hurried their departure. Again he
reckoned without his host. It was to the Moors the five were sent to
preach, and to the Moors they were bound to go, so they escaped from
their escort, returned to Morocco, and began to preach again in the

This was too much for the King, and he had them thrown into the vilest
of dungeons, where for several weeks they languished in great misery,
with barely enough to eat. One of the nobles of the Court who was
secretly inclined to the Friars, advised the King to let them out, but
place them under proper care. This was done, and they were handed over
to the unfortunate Don Pedro, who was far from cheerful at seeing them
back again. He was about to start off on a military expedition into
the interior, and not daring to leave his awkward charge behind, he
took them with him. Nothing much is known of their doings till they
got back again to Morocco, whereupon they began their preaching again
without any more delay. Yet again the King commanded that they should
be thrown into prison, and this time they were sentenced to torture.
Albozaida was the name of the officer who was to carry out this
sentence. In his heart he pitied and admired the missionaries, and
notwithstanding the order he had received, he merely had them shut up,
and begged of the King to pardon them. But it was no use. The King was
very angry, and demanded that his will be carried out without delay.
So there was nothing for Albozaida to do but to hand them over to the

[Sidenote: _The End._]

Alas for them! this man was a renegade Christian, and no torture was
too great for him to inflict upon them. They were dragged through the
streets with cords round their necks, they were beaten, they were
rolled over pieces of glass and broken tiles, and when evening came,
vinegar was poured into their open wounds, lest the night should bring
too much cessation from pain. But they smiled at pain, and praised God
in the midst of the greatest tortures. This treatment failing to kill
them, the King desired to see them again. He spoke to them at first as
though he had never seen them before.

"Are you the impious men who despise the true faith, the madmen who
blaspheme the Prophet of the Lord?" he said.

"Oh King," they replied, "far from despising the true faith, we are
ready to die for it. It is true that our faith is not your faith."

The King did not appear to be displeased with this bold statement. He
had another argument at hand. He sent for a number of richly-dressed
women, and presenting them to the missionaries he said, "If you will
follow the law of Mahomet, I will give you these women for wives, and
you shall have positions of honor and power in my kingdom. If not, you
shall die by the sword!"

"Prince," they answered, "We want neither your women nor your honors.
Be such things yours, and Jesus Christ ours. Make us suffer all your
tortures, kill us. Pain will be light to us. We look to Heaven!"

Maddened by his own insufficiency the King got up, seized a sword, and
cleft their heads as though he were but a common executioner. Thus
perished the first Franciscan Martyrs.

And did they accomplish nothing? Was their mission an utter failure,
as some historians write it? Let us see for ourselves.

As soon as the missionaries had been killed, the mob took their
bodies, and dragged them in the mire, and horribly mutilated them.
However, Don Pedro, who up till now had been but a very poor
representative of the Church of Christ, was deeply touched by the
death of the five, and his once half-sleeping conscience was awakened
into activity. He got possession of the battered bodies, and
resolving that he would have nothing further to do with the enemies of
Christianity, took them, and went back to his own country. As soon as
he arrived at Coimbra, King Alphonse came out to meet him, and with
great rejoicing the remains of the Missionary Martyrs were carried to
the Church.

[Sidenote: _Fernandez._]

Amongst those who followed in the train of the king was a young man
some twenty-five years old, of noble family, named Fernandez. This
young man was tremendously stirred by the story of the martyred five.
Their life and death spoke to his soul as nothing had ever done
before, he longed to follow in their steps. He had a great deal of
conversation with certain Franciscans who lived in a settlement hut
outside the town. They came sometimes and begged at his door, and he
used to question them.

One day he said--

"If I became one of you, would you send me to the country of the
Saracens, that like your holy martyrs I might shed my blood for the

They replied, saying, it was the wish of Francis that his people
should go and preach to the infidels.

"If that is so," said Fernandez, "bring me the habit of your Order and
let me put it on."

Without any pomp or ceremony Fernandez put on the coarse robe, changed
his name to that of Anthony, and, bidding good-bye to his family,
joined the Franciscans. To go into all the details of his story would
take too much space, but Fernandez became one of the shining lights of
the Franciscan movement, and many rose up to call him blessed!

[Sidenote: _Father of Souls._]

He went to Africa, but it was not God's will that he should labor
there. A violent fever reduced him to such a degree of weakness that
he had to leave the country. He set sail, meaning to return to his
native land and get restored in body, but a storm drove the vessel on
to the coast of Italy. He preached there for a time and then went on
to the Portiuncula, where Francis was presiding over a gathering of
the brethren. There God showed him that Africa and a martyr's crown
were not for him, and cheerfully accepting the work that God meant for
him, he became the father of thousands of souls.

        Oh, what, if we are Christ's,
        Is earthly shame or loss?
    Bright shall the crown of glory be,
        When we have borne the cross.

        Keen was the trial once,
        Bitter the cup of woe,
    When martyred saints, baptized in blood,
        Christ's sufferings shared below.

        Bright is their glory now,
        Boundless their joy above,
    Where, on the bosom of their God,
        They rest in perfect love.

        Lord! may that grace be ours,
        Like them in faith to bear
    All that of sorrow, grief, or pain,
        May be our portion here!



    "They are gone where Love is frozen, and Faith grown calm and cold,
    Where the world is all triumphant, and the sheep have left the fold,
    Where His children scorn His blessings, and His sacred shrine

It was about the time of the first chapter that Francis began to feel
drawn to foreign fields. The Franciscans had now spread all over
Italy, and there was a general desire shown by the brethren to extend
their ministrations outside that country. It would appear that at its
close, a small number of the brethren were sent out to evangelize the
various countries of Europe, Portugal, Hungary, Germany, etc.

For himself Francis had a larger and more daring scheme.

It was the time of the Crusades. All Christian Europe was bending its
energies to wrest the tomb of our Saviour out of the hands of the
Saracens. Band after band of Crusaders had marched into the Sultan's
territory--to suffer defeat and death. Francis was too much of a
soldier and knight not be stirred by the tales of bravery and daring
which were rife everywhere. But he had his own opinions.

"Is there not," he asked himself, "a more beautiful way of gaining the
desired end? Why all this bloodshed? why this wholesale hurrying of
men to perdition? why all this strife between the children of one
Father? Why has no one ever tried to gain these infidels over on
Christ's side? How many lives might be spared, and what an increase
there would be for His Church if they succeeded!"

It was a noble thought, and one worthy of Francis. The more he
pondered these matters the more convinced he became that it was his
duty to put his ideas into practice. He told some of the brethren his
purpose, and they, convinced that God led him, made no objection, and
in a very short time he was ready to begin his difficult and dangerous
undertaking. Peter of Cantani was appointed to take the government of
the Order during his absence.

Francis, and his companion, whose name we are not told, embarked at
Ancona. How they got their passage without any money we do not know,
but it is evident that they managed it somehow. When they were well
out to sea, such a storm arose as caused them to seek refuge on the
coast of Illyria. It was supposed at first that the delay would only
be one of a few weeks, but the stormy weather persistently continuing,
it soon became evident that it would be impossible to cross the Levant
at that season of the year. This was a great disappointment to
Francis, but he was far from being discouraged. He determined to
return to Ancona. A vessel was about to sail, and he presented himself
as a passenger, but as he had no money they refused to take him on

[Sidenote: _A Dilemma!_]

Here was a dilemma! But help was at hand. One of the ship's officers,
a good man, was touched by the harshness with which the missionaries
were treated, so he went to Francis and told him that he would take
them on board. He conducted them down into the hold, and hid them
behind some horses there. Hardly had they been deposited when an
unknown friend brought an enormous basket of provisions, and, giving
it to their benefactor, said--

"Take this, take great care of it, and as the need arises, distribute
it to the poor brethren you have hidden."

The need soon arose. Another fearful storm beat the vessel about to
such an extent that the voyage was prolonged far beyond the usual
limit. Provisions were exhausted and a famine threatened the unhappy
crew. Then Francis, hearing of the distress, crept out from among the
horses, explained his presence, and said that he had food which he
would be glad to share with them. The legend tells us that the food
was miraculously made to last the voyage; the real fact was probably
that the basket contained large supplies of beans, and lentils, and
macaroni, and such Italian foods that swell in the cooking, and go a
long way.

[Sidenote: _In Spain._]

Arriving at Ancona, Francis began to preach. He had a wonderful time,
and a great number of clerics and laymen joined the Order. Part of
them Francis took with him to the Portiuncula, and offered them to God
as the price of his failure! After watching over them for a few weeks,
he left them in good hands, and turned his attention again to foreign
mission work. The east had been closed to him, but that was no reason
why the west should not open. The enemies of the Christians were as
powerful in Spain and North Africa, as in Egypt and the Holy Land. The
infidels had just been defeated in battle, and all Europe was talking
about the victory gained at Las Navas Tolva. The heart of Francis
mourned over these defeated ones. "Supposing they had been defeated,"
he argued, "their natures were still unchanged, their souls were still
unsaved." He began to question if their need was not his call. He
thought he heard them crying, "Pass over and help us!" He offered
himself to God for this work, and, taking with him his well-beloved
Bernardo di Quintavelle, set out for Spain. He had another rough
experience of the sea, but this time he reached his goal without any

It was autumn when they landed in Spain, and without loss of time,
they set off for the interior. At the outset of the journey, a little
incident occurred which, though unpleasant at the time, God over-ruled
for good. They were passing a vineyard, and Bernardo, who was very
thirsty, plucked a bunch of grapes to refresh himself with. This was
quite an allowable action in Italy, but Spain appeared to have a
different code of morals, and one of the servants of the owner seized
Bernardo, called him a rogue and a thief, and insisted upon his paying
for what he had taken. Bernardo explained that he had no idea of
doing wrong, and that he did not possess the smallest piece of money.
The man snatched at his mantle, and said that would have to pay for
it. But Francis, without discussing the matter with the servant,
insisted upon seeing the owner of the vineyard. To him he explained
the state of affairs; the mantle was given back, Bernardo was
apologized to, and the good Spaniard did even more, he offered his
services to Francis, and threw open his house, which became a sort of
hostelry for the Order, and any brother was always welcome, night or
day, to the best that there was.

[Sidenote: _The Will of the Lord._]

Francis' intention was to go straight to the Mussulmans. He even
talked of reaching Morocco. But God led him to stay in Spain longer
than he had expected. People were converted everywhere, and branches
of the work were established. Who took charge of these new ventures we
are not told; doubtless friars from Italy were sent there.

Just as he began to see his way clear to go to the Mussulmans, he was
seized with a violent fever. For some time he lay between life and
death, and when at last he began to get well, it was perfectly evident
that there could be no talk of his going to Morocco. Always submissive,
Francis accepted this as the will of the Lord and returned to Italy. The
reason why he was led back to the Portiuncula at that particular time
seemed to him quite plain afterwards; for, when he got there, he found a
number of learned and noble men waiting to offer themselves to him.

Exactly what Francis did after this is not quite clear. Probably he
preached round about the North of Italy, and visited the various
branches of the work, instructing novices, and establishing fresh
centres. At the beginning of the next year we find him attending a
conference in Rome, respecting the recovery of the Holy Land. While
here, he met Dominic for the first time. Dominic was the founder of
another kind of Friar Order. He conceived a great admiration for
Francis, and tried very hard to get him to consent to amalgamate the
two. This Francis never would consent to do, and the two always
remained distinct.

[Sidenote: _Ugolin's Visit._]

The decision of the conference was that the Pope himself should lead a
crusade into the Holy Land. He left Rome in May, and passed through the
valley of Assisi, where Francis was presiding over a general Chapter. At
Perugia he was taken ill with fever. One of his near relatives, Cardinal
Ugolino, accompanied him. This man had heard a great deal about Francis
from Cardinal Paul, who had just died, and he thought that now would be
a good chance to see for himself. Accordingly, followed by his
magnificent suite, he travelled back to Assisi. All he saw filled him
with wonder; it bore to him the mark of true holiness. What struck him
most was the poverty of it the brethren. He had no idea they carried it
so far. He went through the roughly constructed cells, saw the beds made
of straw, more like the lairs of wild animals, and he could not restrain
his tears.

"Alas!" he cried to those who were with him, "what will become of us
who need so many superfluities in our lives!"

Ugolino did not stop there. He felt impelled to offer himself to fill
the place of Cardinal Paul as Protector of the Order.

"I offer myself to you," he said to Francis; "if you wish it, I will
be your helper, counsellor, and support!"

Francis first of all thanked God, and then he answered, "It is with
all my heart I salute you, the father and Protector of our religion. I
wish all my brothers to you consider you as such!"

There are some historians who declare that this friendship--for a very
real friendship sprang up between Francis and Ugolino--was no
advantage to the Order, but rather harmed it. There is no evidence of
this among the best authorities; they lean rather to a contrary
opinion, and we are inclined to believe ourselves that the Order would
never have developed as it did but for Cardinal Ugolino. He went back
and told the Pope what he had seen, and the old man rejoiced greatly.
It was the last joy he had on earth, for he died a few days later.

[Sidenote: _Growth of the Order._]

Time went on, the Order spread and spread till it was impossible for
one man to do justice to the whole. To meet the growing need for
oversight, Italy was divided into several provinces, these provinces
were to be directed by brothers who were called "Ministers" or
"Provincial Servants." Francis named Peter Catani for Umbria, Elias
for Tuscany, Bennet of Arezzo for the Marches of Ancona, John of
Stracchai for Lombardy, Daniel for Calabria. Then it was also decided
that Bernardo di Quintavelle was to take charge of Spain, and John of
Penna, Germany. Francis himself was to take France, a land he had
always been especially drawn to. It was through the intervention of
Ugolino that he forewent this mission. Francis stopped at Florence on
his way to tell him of his journey. Ugolino saw what Francis could not
see, that in view of all their new ventures he could not afford to
leave the country just then. Francis argued that he could not stay at
home in safety and let the brothers go abroad on dangerous missions,
it would raise talk. Ugolino wanted to know if Italy wasn't big enough
for him. Francis replied that God had raised them up for the good of
the whole world.

"Perhaps so," said Ugolino, "but in any case _you_ cannot go away yet
without imprudence. Your Order is only just started, you know the
opposition it met with at first; its enemies are not yet disarmed, and
your presence is necessary to defend and maintain it."

Francis saw that Ugolino spoke wisely, and he gave in and stayed at
home. For some time he was the guest of the Cardinal, and their mutual
liking for each other was greatly increased. The more Ugolino saw of
Francis the more he loved him, and though he could not see eye to eye
with him in everything at first, he eventually came round to his ways.
As much as possible Francis lived his simple manner of life in the
Cardinals palace. He prayed and meditated, he went out to preach and
to beg, and he even brought back his alms into the palace! One day
there were a great many people at the table, and Francis was eating
the scraps he had begged. Some of the guests began to joke him about
it, but Francis maintained that his food was angels' bread, and if
they liked he would share it with them. All--prelates, knights and
nobles--accepted willingly, some ate their portion, others put it by
to keep as a memento. But Ugolino was a little hurt. He took Francis
aside and said--

[Sidenote: _A Quarrel._]

"Ah, my brother, wherefore all this begging; you hurt me. Do you not
know that my house is yours and your brethren's?"

"My lord," answered Francis, "I have not affronted you; I think I have
honored you by imitating in your house our Lord Jesus Christ who
taught us to love poverty. For, indeed, I mean only to follow the
footsteps of my Master!"

The Cardinal bowed his head.

"Do, my brother, what seems good to you," he said, "the Lord is with

This visit of Francis' to Florence resulted in the establishment of a
large convent on the borders of Tuscany and Umbria. This is how it
came about. The powerful family of the lords of Baschi were divided.
The three sons were in open rebellion on account of questions of
personal interest, and they were doing their best to drag into this
quarrel the numerous friends of their clients and vassals. It was
plain to be seen that bloodshed would be the outcome. Francis was very
much grieved when he heard of this dissension, and felt that he must
do his best to stop it. Accordingly, he visited the three brothers,
Ugolino, Buonconte and Ranicu, in turn, and entreated them in the name
of Christ to desist. He succeeded in accomplishing his end, they laid
down their arms, amicably settled the vexed question, and a charter of
reconciliation was drawn up. Then, wishing to show their gratitude to
Francis, they presented him with a beautiful hill, and, building a
monastery on it, begged of him to send friars to establish a work

A little later, the Cardinal presided over what was known as the
"Chapter of Mats," so called because the brothers lived under little
tents made of matting. He was very much surprised at all he saw, and
said he never expected to find a well-disciplined army! This was a
very important Chapter, and many new Provinces were formed. It was
conducted very much like the preceding ones.

[Sidenote: _Failure of the German Mission._]

It was either in the middle or just before this Chapter, that the
German-Hungarian expedition returned. Their mission had been an utter
failure! When questioned as to the reason of this failure, they
answered, unanimously--

"No one knows us; our dress, our loneliness, excite distrust. The
clergy have united to drive us away, they called us heretics, and left
us without defence or protection. We fell into the hands of wicked men
and thieves, who ill-treated us; we had to come away!"

This sounded very badly, but the explanation of it lay in the fact
that they did not understand the language of the people they went to!
How it happened that they were sent, not knowing the language, we
cannot say. Perhaps Francis thought that French and Italian would be
spoken, or, at least, understood in these countries, or it may be he
expected them to be endowed with the gift of tongues. Those who went
to Germany knew but one word of the language, "ja"--"yes." In the
first town they entered they attracted a great deal of notice, and
people asked them if they would like food and a lodging. They did not
understand a word of what was said, but they smiled and said "ja."
Finding themselves well treated, they determined to use this
expression on all occasions.

Unfortunately, the next one asked them if they were heretics, and had
come to Germany to preach an evil doctrine. When they again smiled and
answered "ja," to their grief and amazement, they were cast into
prison, and after having been ill-treated for some time, were driven
out of the country.

At the close of the "Chapter of Mats," Francis announced that he was
about to proceed to Egypt to preach to the Sultan. Ugolino had decided
that things were now on such a solid foundation that he could with
safety leave the Order while he took this long journey.



          "I must not fail
    Nor be discouraged. In the work of God
    No man may turn or falter."

Francis and his companion Illuminato set out for Egypt with the
intention of making straight for the Sultan. They travelled with one
of the Crusading parties, which, by a curious coincidence, was
commanded by John of Brienne, brother to that Walter of Brienne whom
Francis would have enlisted under, only God sent him back to his
native town! That Francis made a good impression upon the Crusaders we
know, for one of their number writes of him:--

"We saw Brother Francis, Founder of the Order of Minors, arrive; he is
a simple man, but very lovable, and dear to God as well as to men, and
is much respected by all."

The impression the Crusaders made upon Francis was not so favorable!
There was a great deal of discord among them. The Knights looked down on
the men-at-arms, and the men-at-arms called the Knights treacherous.
Francis had grave doubts as to the result of _their_ expedition from the
beginning. Immediately upon landing, the Crusaders had planned to do
battle with the Saracens. This line of action was totally opposed to
Francis' ideas of Christianity.

"I know, by a revelation of the Lord," he said to Illuminato, "that
they will be defeated in this attempt. If I tell them so, they will
treat me as a madman; and, on the other hand, if I do not tell them my
conscience will condemn me. What do you think I ought to do?"

"My brother," said Illuminato, who was a man of virtue and
intelligence, "what does the world's judgment matter to you? If they
say you are mad, it will not be the first time they have said so! Do
not burden your conscience; fear God rather than man!"

So Francis was true to his conscience, and warned the Crusaders, but
they laughed him to scorn! They rushed into a battle, and were utterly
defeated. Six thousand Christians were killed or taken prisoners.
During the battle Francis was very anxious and unhappy, and often he
wept bitterly for those whom he had tried to save!

Now that force had failed, Francis felt that his time had come. He
would go to the Sultan. The Crusaders, what were left of them, in
their turn, tried to dissuade him. They told him that he could not get
from one camp to another without being killed, and that the Sultan had
offered a golden reward to anyone who would bring the head of a
Christian. He replied that he did not fear death, and would make the
attempt. First though, before he set out, he went to one of the
Cardinals who were with the Crusaders, and told him what he proposed
doing. A contemporary writer preserves for us this interview. He
writes, probably in a letter to some friend--

[Sidenote: _Two Clerks._]

"Now I must tell you that two Clerks (Francis and Illuminato) were in
the Army, and they came to the Cardinal. They said that they would go
to the Sultan to preach, and they wished to go with his leave. The
Cardinal said they should not go with his leave, for he knew well if
they went they would not escape. Still they said, would he suffer them
to go, and much they prayed him. Then, when he heard that they had so
great a mind to go, he said thus: 'I do not know your thoughts at all,
but beware if you go that your thoughts are always to God.' They said
they only wished to go for great good, if they could accomplish it.
Then the Cardinal said they could go if they wished, and they departed
from the Christian host into the host of the Saracens."

Francis was full of confidence. As he travelled he sang, "Though I
walk in the midst of shadows of death, I fear no evil." On his way he
met two little sheep. This sight gave him much cheer.

"Be of good comfort," he said to Illuminato, "it is the accomplishment
of the words of the Gospel, 'Behold I send you as sheep in the midst
of wolves.'"

[Sidenote: _The Saracens._]

And the wolves were not very far behind. They appeared in the shape of
some Saracen soldiers, who taking them at first for refugees or envoys
let them go quietly on, but when they found out that the brethren had
no message and that they not only refused to give up the Christian
religion, but had come to preach it, they abused them and loaded them
with chains. Francis never lost his presence of mind. He knew one word
of Arabic, and that was "Soldan"--Sultan. As the soldiers beat him he
cried lustily "Soldan, Soldan," and they understood that he wanted to
be taken to their Chief.

The Sultan was called by the Arabs, Malek-Camel, or the "Perfect
Prince." He was very far from being a perfect character, but for a
Mussulman, he was not ferocious. When Francis and Illuminato came
before him they saluted him. Malek-Camel saluted them, and asked if
they wished to become Saracens, or had they come with a message.

"Saracens we will never be," they said, "but we have come with a
message from God that will save your life. For we say that if you die
under this law you are lost, and for that we have come to you, and if
you will listen to us we will show you that you are lost!"

The Sultan said meekly that he had very good Archbishops and Bishops
of his own.

"Of this we are glad," the missionaries replied, "send and fetch

So the Sultan actually sent and fetched eight. He told them what they
were wanted for, and repeated to them his conversation with Francis.
But there was no mercy in this quarter.

"Sire," they said, "thou art expert in the law and art bound to
maintain and guard it; we command thee by Mahomet, who gave it to us,
that their heads be cut off. We will hear nothing that they say, we
command thee to have their heads cut off." With that final decision
they filed solemnly away, leaving Francis, Illuminato and the Sultan

"Seigneurs," the Sultan said, "they have commanded me by Mahomet and
the law to have your heads cut off. This the law commands. But I will
go against the law, for else I should render thee a very poor reward
for having risked death to save my soul."

In a second interview he had with them he promised them possessions
and lands if they would only stay with him!

"Yes," said Francis, "if you will be converted, with your people I
will gladly remain." Then, a bright idea striking him, he went on--

[Sidenote: _Trial by Fire!_]

"Your priests will not talk with me, perhaps they would be more ready
to act. Have a great fire lighted, I will go into the fire with them,
and you will see by the result which faith is the surest and holiest."

When Francis had begun this speech there were a number of priests
standing round about, but before he had finished they had quietly
taken themselves off! The idea filled them with horror! The Sultan
perceiving their absence, remarked sarcastically--

"I do not think that any of _my_ priests are inclined to face flames
and torture for the defence of their faith."

Francis couldn't understand how anybody with a real faith could refuse
to have it tested! He offered to go into the fire alone, and if he
were burnt it was to be considered due to his sins, but if God
protected him, the Sultan was to own Him as Supreme. But the Sultan
would not hear of any such trial. He was amazed and astonished at the
absolute faith and trust of the man before him.

With this refusal Francis retired. He was followed by rich presents
from the Sultan, all of which were promptly returned. The Sultan
begged of him to take them for his Churches and Order, but Francis
persisted in his refusal, and seeing that there was no germ of real
religion in the Sultan's heart, he returned to the Crusaders' Camp.
He was heavy and sore in soul because he felt his mission to be a

[Sidenote: _Victory._]

But if he had failure in one direction, he had victory in another. The
news of his visit to the Sultan spread, and wherever he was, people
flocked to see and hear him, and recruits such as he had never
expected, began to gather round him. The following fragment of a
letter written by one of the Crusaders to a friend, shows us how they
regarded his work.

"Master Regnier, Prior of St. Michael's, has entered the Order of
Friars Minor. This Order is making rapid progress in the world,
because it exactly reproduces the form of the Primitive Church, and
closely imitates the life of the Apostles. The Superior of these
brethren is Brother Francis, a man of such goodness that we all hold
him in veneration. After he came among us, so great was his zeal that
he did not fear to go into the Army of our enemies, and preach, during
several days, the Word of God to the Saracens. He had not much
success, but on his departure, the Sultan King of Egypt asked him
secretly to pray for him that he might be guided by an inspiration
from above, and attach himself to the religion most approved by God.
Colin, the Englishman, one clerk, and two other of our companions, to
wit, Michel and Master Mathieu, to whom I have entrusted the care of
my Church, have also entered the Order of Minors, and I can hardly
keep back the Cantor and several others! As to myself, with my body
weakened, and my heart oppressed by all these separations, I aspire to
end my life in peace and quiet."

Thus when Francis failed, God caused even that failure to be productive
of good. The whole question of failure is a very subtle one, and it is a
matter of grave doubt as to whether God's errands ever do really
fail--what we call failure according to our preconceived ideas, may
simply be God's way of working. True, the Sultan was not converted
(though there is a legend to the effect that when he was on his
death-bed he sent for a Franciscan friar, and professed conversion), but
to-day, at time of writing, the Franciscans are spread out all over the
Holy Land. They have schools and churches and orphanages in every part
of the country.

Seventeen years later, John of Brienne, the Commander of the Crusade,
after fighting many battles, and rising to great earthly glory, became
converted and entered a branch of the Franciscan brotherhood then
established in the Holy Land. This was no doubt due to the influence
of Francis, who by the power of God alone, subdued the enemies of

[Sidenote: _A Trial._]

Upon returning to Italy, a sad trial awaited Francis. He had
determined to visit Bologna on his way back. The long sea-voyage and
hot climate of Egypt had weakened him very much, so much so that it
nearly happened that he passed on without paying the promised visit.
Several of the brethren round about had met Francis on his way, as
naturally he halted at any monastery on the route. The conversation
that he heard among these brethren troubled him not a little. He heard
that there had been important additions made to the humble house the
lawyer had given to Bernardo when he came first to Bologna. What put
the finishing touch to his sadness was when an inhabitant of the city
alluded to the building as "the Friars' house," then he knew they had
departed from their first principles, for there was no "me" or "mine"
in the Order of the Friars Minor. It was a heavy blow to him, sick and
smarting under a sense of failure as he was, and he declared that he
would not shelter under its roof, but would go elsewhere and beg for
hospitality. He sent a message to the monastery to command every one
of them to turn out at once! This was done instantly, and even those
who were ill were carried into the street! A historian, who was a
friar at the time, writes, "he who writes this history was one of the
number; he was taken out of his bed and laid in the street like the

This summary proceeding naturally caused a tremendous stir in the
city, and what the outcome of it would have been we cannot say if
Ugolino, who seems to have had a knack of turning up at every crisis,
had not appeared just then. He went to Francis, and with great
difficulty succeeded in quieting him. He would never have done this
had he not been able to assure him that the house was his and in no
way belonged to the friars. When Francis saw that the brethren were in
no danger of becoming proprietors, he allowed them to go back and
consented to preach in the city. History tells us that that preaching
was one of the most glorious on record. It was through it that
Professor Pepoli joined the Friars Minor. But Francis felt keenly that
the government of a multitude is difficult and that increase of
followers does not invariably mean increase of joy. For several years
after this he rather discouraged than encouraged people to enter the
First Order.

[Sidenote: _Orphans._]

But the whole Bologna affair made a deep impression upon Francis. For
the first time in his career his brave spirit suffered defeat, the
first declension in principle, together with his own failing strength
was too much for him. At the next Chapter he presided over, which was
soon after his return from Egypt, he publicly resigned from the
position of Minister General. No one seems to have been prepared for
this action beforehand.

"From this moment," he said, "I am dead to you, but here is our
brother, Peter Cantani; he it is whom both you and I will henceforth

The brethren were broken-hearted.

"What!" they said through their tears, "are we to lose our father and
become orphans?"

Then Francis stood up and prayed--

"Oh my Lord, I commend to Thee this day, this family which Thou hast
entrusted to me. My infirmities, Thou knowest, make it impossible for
me to take care of it. I put it into the hands of Ministers. If it
come to pass through their negligence, their scandals, or their too
great severity, one of the brethren perish, they will give account to
Thee at the Day of Judgment."

No entreaty or argument could get Francis to alter this decision. He
was a man in the prime of life, and, humanly speaking, he ought to
have had long years of service before him. Perhaps he felt that
already his days were numbered, and that it was only a question of a
few years at most.

As long as he lived his successors were known as Vicar-Generals. He
would only consent to preserve the title and rights of Minister
General. This arrangement had no serious results as far as Peter
Cantani's government went. He was a good man, and carried out Francis'
idea exactly, so that Francis could leave all to him, and with a clear
conscience, devote himself to visiting the centres and preaching. But,
unfortunately, Peter Cantani's reign was a brief one; he died a very
short time after his promotion to the Vicar Generalship.

[Sidenote: _Storm Clouds._]

From the death of Peter Cantani till his own death, the storm-clouds
of internal struggle gathered round Francis' path. His life was not to
be all one long, if hard worked for, success. No! life is not lived
thus; there is the dark as well as the bright in its mosaic, but it is
sad, we say in our humanity, when the dark work is done at the end.
But God, Who is the chief Workman, knows best how He wants His work
ordered; He has His eyes on the beautiful end, while we fix ours
tearfully at the unfinished, and, therefore, inexplicable pattern.

There was yet, however, one unalloyed joy in store for Francis before
he entered upon his last dark years of service, one of the greatest
social reforms the world has ever known--the establishment of the
Third or Tertiary Order of Brothers Minor.



    "A dream of man and woman,
    Diviner but still human,
    Solving the riddle old,
    Shaping the Age of Gold.

    The love of God and neighbor,
    An equal handed labor;
    The richer life where duty
    Walks hand and hand with beauty."

The idea of this Third Order had been in Francis' mind for a long
time; in fact, as far back as his first journey to Rome, when the
entire brotherhood numbered twelve! On his way home to Assisi he had
preached in every village and town he passed. One day, as he was
preaching in the vicinity of a large feudal castle, the whole
establishment turned out to hear him, and when he had finished, his
listeners, lords and ladies, officers and retainers, threw themselves
at his feet, announcing their intention to follow him wherever he
went, and renounce the world for ever. Never was preacher in such a
plight! There they stood, the tears running down their faces, husbands
and wives and little children, soldiers, bower-maidens and pages, the
entire retinue that ordinarily made up the household of a mediæval
lord. Francis knew that it would not be possible to carry off the lot;
beside, there was no Second Order then, and what could he do with the
women and children? So he calmed them by telling them that he would
endeavor to create an Order into which they could come without shaking
the foundations of the universe!

Little he thought that the Third Order was destined to make even more
stir in the world than the First or Second.

[Sidenote: _What must we do?_]

As the years passed by, Francis was continually met with the question,
"What must we do now we are converted? Teach us how to live!"

It was a very important question, and a very natural one, for the
first instinct of a healthy, newly-converted soul is to spend and be
spent for its Master. Strange as it may seem to us in these days of
Bible readers, district visitors, and lay-workers of all kinds, it was
a very difficult question to answer. The Church, which as yet was the
Church Universal, not having suffered any disruption, knew nothing of
lay help, other than setting its members to pray, and give alms. A
change of life and action had long since ceased to be preached.
Francis and his followers had revived the old Apostolic doctrine of
repentance and conversion and holiness of life and thought. As many as
could join the First and Second Orders were well disposed of, but the
countless multitude who were unable to leave home and friends, were
the, as yet, unsolved problem. Francis soon saw that his work would
be, to a large extent, a failure if something were not done in the way
of organizing his converts. This fact was again pressed home upon him
the year after Peter Cantani was appointed Vicar General.

He was preaching in a little village called Cannara, and his hearers,
who comprised the major portion of the village, were so carried away
with his words, that they besought him with tears to take them into
his brotherhood. This he refused to do, saying--

"You are not able, nor ought you to do anything of the kind. I will
think of you, and I will seek, and with God's blessing I will find a
life more within your compass."

This promise he found he had to renew wherever he went.

"What must we do?" the people asked him.

"We cannot forsake our wives!" said the husbands, and "We cannot leave
our husbands!" said the wives. "How shall we save ourselves?"

[Sidenote: _The Third Order._]

After a little, the active mind of Francis found the way out. He would
form a new Order of converted men and women, who would be linked on to
the First, and so, without leaving the world, they could enjoy the
peace and strength of a truly religious life. Such an idea had never
been heard of before, and the success of the new institution far
surpassed all expectations. It seemed as though men's hearts and minds
had been waiting for it, to judge by the numbers that sought

The rules of the Order were very simple and based almost entirely on
the Sermon on the Mount. The "Tertiaries," as they were called, were
required to put an end to all hatred, and to restore all ill-acquired
gain, not to engage in lawsuits, to practise the commandments of God,
to wear a plain dress, and abstain from all worldly gaieties, such as
theatre-going, dancing, etc. No one might speak of his or her
neighbor's faults. They were to eat the plainest of food and to avoid
a variety of dishes. Then there were various advices given as regards
cleanliness. Mediæval folk seldom reckoned cleanliness among the
virtues to be cultivated. No one was to appear in Church in soiled or
torn clothes, because, in so doing, they showed disrespect to God, and
never should there be stain or spot on their garments, for outside
purity is in some sort a reflection of inward purity. Houses and
furniture also had to be plain and clean. They spent what time they
had in visiting the sick, and helping those who needed help out of the
surplus of their goods.

Before anybody was admitted into the Order, an investigation was made
into his or her life, respecting personal character and relations with
their neighbors. If he were found with goods not belonging to him, or
to be at enmity with anyone, he was not admitted until he had repented
and done his first works.

In every place where a congregation of the Third Order existed, there
was a "Visitor" who was also a Minor of the First Order. It was his
duty to oversee these "Tertiaries," and give them instruction.

Such was the Order in which people of all grades and classes hastened
to enrol themselves. It was first opened in June, and at the end of
that year we find branches of it in Tuscany, Umbria, and the Marches
of Ancona. A wave of blessing seemed to pass all over Italy. It does
not appear that Francis established any other fraternity of the Third
Order except the First, and from that the others spread out into all
the earth.

[Sidenote: _A Strong Order._]

The "Tertiaries," or "The brethren of the Militia of Jesus Christ," as
someone called them, multiplied to such an extent that very soon they
attracted more attention than was altogether pleasant. The different
bishops of Italy opposed them, and wrote to the German Emperor,
Frederick II., who was a man of bad character and openly irreligious.

"The Friars Minor have risen up against us!" they wrote. "They have
publicly reproved our life and conversation. They have destroyed our
rights, and brought us to nothing. And now, as the finishing stroke
against our power, and to deprive us of the devotion of the people,
they have created two new confraternities, which include men and
women. Everyone runs into them!"

Frederick was frightened. He saw a gigantic army ready to fight for
the Church at a word of command, because one of the bye-laws of
Tertian rule forbade the Tertiaries to carry offensive weapons save in
the defence of the faith of Jesus Christ, or in defence of their
country. From this time Frederick, who was always fighting against the
Church, became their bitterest enemy, and persecuted them wherever
they were to be found. If it had not been for the influence of
Cardinal Ugolino, who vigorously protected the Third Order after
Francis' death, Frederick would, probably, have been able to wipe it
out of existence, or what would have been worse, it might have existed
only in name. As it was, it grew and spread and struggled for its
rights, till it became one of the most powerful religious, social and
political influences the world has ever felt. To go into the details
of this would occupy too much space, therefore, we shall turn our
attention to a few of the first Tertiaries.

[Sidenote: _Lucchese._]

The _very_ first was a man called Lucchese. This man was young,
good-looking, and ambitious. He was a tradesman, and his ruling motive
in life was to vie with the nobles. This, after a time, became a
passion with him. He knew the only way to success lay through riches.
Therefore, he determined to be rich. He began to speculate in grain,
and bought up as much as he could, and thus created an artificial
famine in his village. Then, when the want was greatest, he resold his
stores at enormous prices, and his fortune was made.

But God was looking after him, and, one day, when he was sitting
alone, the thought of what he had done came before him in all its
hideousness. He saw that there was something more in life besides
merely pursuing riches, and "what would it profit him," something
asked him, "if he should gain all his heart was set on, and be
eternally lost in the end?" From that hour he was a changed man.

After consultation with his wife, Bonadona, he sold the greater part
of his goods, and distributed their price to the poor. He kept only a
house and a garden of four acres, which he cultivated with his own
hands. This was a hard life for one who had been used to luxury. His
house soon became the "poor man's inn" for the district. Thither came
the poor and needy in troops, and never were they sent empty away.

Such was Lucchese's life when he met Francis, just at the time when
the necessity for the Third Order was pressing most heavily upon him.
Lucchese opened his heart to Francis, and told him how much he longed
to make up for the wrong he had done in the past, and live a life
well-pleasing to God.

"For some time," said Francis, who felt, as Lucchese talked with him,
that the man and the hour had both arrived, "I have been thinking of
founding a Third Order, in which married people will have an
opportunity of serving God faithfully. You can be the first to enrol

[Sidenote: _Lucchese's Work._]

Then he explained the form which he intended to give this Order, and
Lucchese gladly enrolled himself, and Bonadona declared that she would
join her husband. Encouraged by this good beginning, Francis publicly
announced his intentions, and a number of men and women came and
offered themselves to him. So, one day, in the Church, in the sight of
many spectators, he clothed them in a simple, modest dress of
ash-grey, and the first group, or rather the first fraternity, was

Lucchese persevered nobly in his good works. He was no longer content
with merely helping those who came to him, but he travelled great
distances to find the suffering. Sometimes he was to be seen leading
three or four poor creatures, and carrying the weakest of them on his
back! When once they were in his house, he cared for them, body and
soul, and many of them were converted, and some joined the Third
Order. Close to where Lucchese lived, there were large tracts of
swampy, malarial country. Every summer fever was sure to break out
there. Lucchese saw this place now as a beautiful field for Tertiary
labor. He bought an ass, and, loading it with suitable drugs and food,
he went down into the fever swamps, and did his best in the capacity
of doctor and nurse and priest all in one. His wife was always ready
to help him in all his good works.

His death is reported to have been "serene and grand as that of a
patriarch." He and his wife were both taken ill together. She got
worse rapidly, and they came to tell him of it. They carried him to
her side. Kissing her an affectionate farewell, he said--

"Oh, my beloved and devoted companion, we have served God together in
all affection. Wait for me, we shall be permitted to go together to
the unspeakable joys!"

He returned to his room and lay down in great weakness. Those around
saw that his last hour had come.

"My dear brother," said one of the Friars Minor, who stood beside him,
"be strong and prepare thy soul to appear before thy Saviour."

Lucchese raised his head a little and smiled.

"My good father," he said, "If I had waited till now to prepare my
soul I should still have confidence in God's mercy, but to tell the
truth I should leave the world with less security, on account of the
terrors of the passage."

But the passage had no terrors for Lucchese. He raised his arms and

"I feel myself free and ready, not through my merits, but through
those of our Lord Jesus Christ." A few minutes after the death of his
wife, he, too, followed her to Heaven.

[Sidenote: _A Dinner Party._]

Once, when passing through Rome, Francis was asked by the chief of a
powerful house to dinner. As he was going into the palace of the
noble, he descried a number of poor people congregated in the court,
to whom food was being distributed. Unable to resist the opportunity,
he went down and sat among them! Matthew de Rubeis, his host, was
looking out of the window and saw this, so he came out and joined him,

"Brother Francis, since you will not come to me, I must come and sit
with you." And with the most courtly air he announced to the
astonished crowd that he and Francis would eat with them.

After that dinner, during which no doubt Francis expounded his
doctrines, Matthew de Rubeis was enrolled in the "New Militia." He was
the first Tertiary in Rome.

[Sidenote: _Little Rose._]

Little Rose, though not actually a contemporary of Francis, is always
reckoned in as one of the first Tertiaries. She was one of those
children who seem born with deep religious feeling. She always, from
her earliest dawning intelligence, loved God with all her heart and
soul. She was a beautiful child, very lively in disposition, and she
loved to go out into the streets and sing hymns. Before she was ten
years old, she began to preach against those who tried to undermine
the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the chief was the German
Emperor, Frederick II. The Archbishop of the town had written a letter
warning his people against the dangers that beset them, and nowhere
did his appeal take deeper root than in the heart of little Rose.
She, childlike, spoke out boldly what her friends were thinking in
their hearts. Standing in the street, on a large stone, she preached
that the Emperor was an enemy of the true faith, and must be resisted,
and that the standard of the faith must be kept high at all costs.
Those who thought just so encouraged her, but those who were staunch
supporters of the wicked Emperor went to the Prefect of the town, who
belonged to their party, and declared--

"If you do not send away Rose and her parents, we will drive you away

The Prefect was frightened. He sent for Rose and her parents, and when
they appeared he ordered them, on pain of being cast into prison, and
having their goods confiscated, to leave the town. It was then the
middle of winter, snow had been falling for some days, and the roads
were nearly impassable. The parents begged to have the sentence
postponed for a little.

"It is death," they said, "to go now."

"Well, you can die then," answered the Prefect. "I want nothing

So they took their child and set off. They did not die, however. God
took care of them, and they safely reached Soriano, where they lived
in peace and quiet, till the death of the Emperor, a year later,
allowed them to return home again.



    "For gold must be tried by fire,
    As a heart must be tried by pain."

It seems a rather strange turn of events that put Elias in the place
of the gentle, devout, Peter Cantani. No one could doubt Elias'
efficiency. That was beyond all question, but that he had a proud,
self-willed spirit was also indisputable. Francis' mind at first
turned towards Bernardo di Quintavelle as Peter's successor. He always
had a peculiar love for this, his first son. But though Bernardo had
risen to considerable importance in the Order, yet for some time he
had been harassed with interior temptations, and had been subject to
great darkness. Though Francis was not troubled very much by this
experience of Bernardo's, saying "It is a trial, he will come out of
it, and be the greater for it afterwards," yet he did not think it
wise to put him in any new position of authority, as his own trials
would not leave him quite free for his work. So Bernardo was passed
over, and Elias filled the vacant Vicar Generalship.

Elias' Government was active. Splendid order reigned in all the
communities. He was unequalled for clearness of business views, and
his preaching was greatly sought after.

Some historians say that with all Francis' gifts of perception he
never until it was too late saw into Elias' character, and that the
pride and self-will which were so evident to others were hidden to
him. Elias loved show and external greatness rather than interior
goodness and holiness. He loved Francis, but he thought he was far
more capable of filling the Vicar Generalship than he. He regarded
Francis as one to be admired, not imitated. It is quite certain that
if Francis had had the faintest idea that the Order would suffer
through Elias, he never would have elected him.

[Sidenote: _Germany Again._]

Elias entered his new appointment in a blaze of glory. He had come
from the Minister Generalship of Tuscany, the most important post in
the Order, which he had managed in a very skilful manner. Then another
event had just happened which added to the lustre of his reputation. A
celebrated German preacher, Cesar of Spiers, had attended his
preachings and entered the Order. Elias was installed at the next
Chapter before five thousand brethren. It was at this Chapter, that on
the seventh day they had to beg of the people not to bring them any
more food, and even then they had to prolong the Chapter two days, in
order to eat up all the provisions that had been donated! Elias
presided at the last sitting, which was the one when the brethren
received their appointments. We have told you how unfortunate the
first German expedition had been and how the poor brethren returned
more dead than alive with fright. Well, during the course of this last
sitting, Francis felt impressed that they ought to make another
attempt for the salvation of Germany. As he was not very well that
day, and unable to make himself heard, he pulled Elias by the tunic,
and whispered to him aside. Elias stood up and said--

"My brethren, this is what the Brother tells me," they always called
Francis "The Brother." "There is a country, Germany, whose inhabitants
are Christians, and full of devotion. You have often seen them passing
through our country walking in the sunshine with long sticks and great
boots, singing the praises of God. Several of our brethren have
already been amongst them. They did not succeed, and had to come back.
Now I compel none of you to undertake this mission again, but if
anyone is sufficiently filled with zeal for the glory of God and the
salvation of souls to venture upon it they can give in their names."

[Sidenote: _An Unwilling Volunteer._]

A wave of horror ran through the assembly, for no mission was more
dreaded, but very soon they recovered themselves, and about ninety
gave in their names, several of whom were of German origin. Among this
last number was Cesar of Spiers, who was appointed Minister for
Germany. A rather amusing incident occurred in connection with this

The ninety volunteers were all told to come out of the ranks, and
stand together till those who were to go were chosen. As they stood
waiting there a certain brother called Giordano, who was one of those
most scared at the idea of a mission to Germany, and had taken good
care not to volunteer, thought he would go and have a look at them.

Giordano had a spirit of investigation that would have led him into
the ranks of journalism had he lived only a few centuries later!

"They will certainly die," he said to himself, "and it will be as with
the martyrs of Morocco. I shall not even have known them by name."

With that he took himself off on an unauthorized interviewing tour,
and accosting each one he said,

"Who are you? What is your country?" Then, as he told himself, when he
heard of their martyrdom, he could say, "Oh, I knew this one, and the
other one." It was not a very lofty object, but it was an exceeding
natural one.

In time his investigations brought him to a brother who was a bit of a
wag, and who, unluckily for Giordano, knew of his horror of Germany.

"I am called Palmerio, and I come from Gargano," he replied meekly,
when questioned, "but, my brother," he continued, "you are one of us,
you are going too."

"No, no, I am not," cried Giordano. "I only want to know you."

"Oh, but you are," insisted Palmerio, and taking him by the shoulders,
he held him amongst the volunteers. Giordano was still struggling for
liberty when Cesar was appointed Minister, and told to choose those
out of the ninety whom he would like to have with him. Several of the
brethren who had entered into the joke with Palmerio surrounded him,
and begged him not to leave out brother Giordano.

[Sidenote: _To go, or not to go._]

"I'm not going. I'm not going," cried Giordano.

Cesar looked at him, and seeing he was a suitable candidate, was
inclined to have him. He, knowing that his countrymen were neither
savages nor man-eaters, and that there was not the slightest danger to
fear, was rather at a loss to understand the fuss.

"Will you or will you not go to Germany? You must decide," he said to

This threw Giordano into great perplexity. If he did not go to
Germany, he feared his conscience would condemn him, seeing that he
was chosen, and if he went, the Germans were ferocious, and he _knew_
he would not make a good martyr! He consulted a Brother who had been
robbed fifteen times during the last Hungarian mission.

"In your place," advised the man, "I should not choose. I would say I
shall neither go nor stay. I will do as you say."

Giordano followed this advice, and was chosen for Germany! He got the
better of his fears and worked bravely, and his journalistic talents
were used in compiling a valuable chronicle, which tells how the
Minors were established in Germany.

The next most important event in the history of the Order was the
establishment of a school for theology and training. This was begun by
Anthony, whom you will remember best under the name of Fernandez, and
who was led into the Order by the death of the five Morocco martyrs.
He was not only deeply religious, but very learned. Upon hearing him
preach one Easter, some of the brethren who were present got the idea
that a school was needed in the Order, and that Anthony would make a
splendid head. They laid this plan before Elias, who highly approved
of it, and undertook to present it to Francis. To convince Francis was
quite another matter, and for some time he would not hear of it. But
Elias was a clever reasoner, and he got Francis at last to listen to
the plans. Still he hesitated. His ideal had always been Apostolic
preaching, and he dreaded any change in his beloved Order. At last he
gave in, and wrote his consent to Anthony thus--

[Sidenote: _A Definite Rule._]

"I consent to your teaching holy theology to our brethren, on
condition that such teaching does not stifle the spirit of prayer,
either in yourself or others. I hold firmly to this point, for it is
our rule."

Whether this step was a good or bad one, we cannot say. We only know
that under Anthony no harm came of it, but rather good. With all his
brilliancy and keenness of intellect, and in spite of the way men ran
after him and honoured him, he still kept his simple faith and humble

After the Chapter we have already described, Francis took a tour with
Elias into his late province, Tuscany, and then, on his return, he set
himself down to compile a definite and comprehensive rule for the
benefit of posterity, and to which future generations would be able to
refer. Probably the laxities of Elias, which were beginning to make
themselves manifest, strengthened Francis in his determination to
leave his articles of faith behind him in such tangible form that
there could be no questioning the principle and line of action. Elias'
influence was being felt all round. The devotion to poverty was not
what it once was, and the love of authority and office was doing its
deadly poisonous work in the hearts of some. Francis' decision to draw
up a definite rule was far from agreeable to Elias and his set.

Nevertheless, it was done. Taking with him Leo and Bonizio, Francis
went off to a hermitage, and there he dictated the new rule. On his
return to Assisi he gave it to Elias to read, telling him to take care
of it. When Elias read it, he found that it entirely did away with
many of his most cherished plans, so a few days later, when Francis
asked him for the rule again, he said that he had lost it. Francis
answered never a word. He returned to the same solitude with the same
companions, and dictated the Rule a second time. This Rule has been
handed down to us intact. It is very largely an application of those
first verses of the Gospel which were to Francis his call to his
life-work. It is remarkable for its clearness. If any Brother
transgressed this Rule, he did it with his eyes open, and knew what he
was doing too. There is no sign of any laxity in it. As Francis
advanced in years, he became more and more strongly attached to that
simplicity of faith and work which was the light of all his life.

At the next Chapter a copy of the Rule was given to all the Brethren.
They were told to carry it about with them always, and learn it by
heart, and repeat it often to themselves.

[Sidenote: _Keeping Christmas._]

It was drawing near Christmas time when this Rule was finally passed
by the Church, and as Francis was in Rome just then he determined to
put in practice an idea which long had been simmering in his brain. It
was an innovation, but then he was convinced that it would make men
think more deeply of the Holy Baby that was born to bring peace and
goodwill to earth. Accordingly, he sent the following message to a
nobleman named John, who was devotedly attached to Francis:--

"I wish to keep Christmas night with you, and, if you agree, this is
how we will celebrate it. You will choose a place in your woods, a
grotto if there is one, you will put in it a manger and hay: there
must be an ox and an ass also. It must as much as possible be like the
manger at Bethlehem."

All was prepared, and when Christmas night came an immense multitude,
carrying torches and lighted tapers, poured through the dark, midnight
woods to the grotto. The Brethren sang carols as they came, and these
were caught up by the people till the forest resounded again and
again. Francis himself led this mighty procession to the manger, and
there, standing at its head, the oxen and asses pressing close beside
him, and the flaring torches lighting up the whole with an unearthly
lurid light, he preached to them about the meek and lowly Jesus, Who
came to earth to be despised, persecuted, and put to death. It was a
time of much blessing, and that night saw a dawning of "peace and
goodwill" in souls once darkened and lifeless.

[Sidenote: _A Great Task._]

But all this time, ever since he returned from Egypt, Francis' health
was slowly but surely failing. Weak and ill, and with the lurking fear
that the principles of the Order were being undermined, his last two
years of life were anything but peaceful ones. Not that there was
anything done openly--that was the misery of it; an open, bold
innovation could have been taken hold of and dealt with, but Elias was
far too politic and clever to do anything that might lead to his being
put out of office. Any question of departure from the rules that came
up, he always blamed on the Provincial Ministers, and professed to be
as grieved over their failure as Francis himself though secretly he
supported them. He carefully gave all the truest Franciscans
appointments far away from Assisi and Francis, and kept those of his
own mind near home. This was not a bad thing for the ultimate success
of the Order, because it preserved the real spirit abroad, and when
Bernardo di Quintavelle stepped into Elias' place, ultimately, he had
all his foes close to hand round home, where the Franciscan principles
had taken deepest root.

It was hard for Francis when one after another of his faithful
followers came to him, and with tears reproached him for having given
them into the hands of another. When they at last took in the fact
that though the spirit might be willing, the flesh was too weak to do
what it had once been able to do, their sorrow knew no bounds. Some of
them were almost a little selfish in their grief.

"You will pass away," said one. "Your family will remain in the valley
of tears. Who can take charge and direct it after you? If you know of
one on whom your mind can rest, I conjure you to tell me."

"My son," said Francis, with tears, "I see no one around me equal to
this task of being shepherd to so great a flock."

[Sidenote: _Foes._]

Thus, tortured by bodily pain and weakness, and tormented by unseen
foes and enemies of all that he counted dearest and most sacred, he
entered upon the two last dark years, which were his Valley of the
Shadow before the Eternal Sun rose, never to set again.

    God of my life, through all my days
    My grateful powers shall sound Thy praise,
    My song shall wake with opening light,
    And cheer the dark and silent night.

    When anxious cares would break my rest,
    And griefs would tear my throbbing breast,
    Thy tuneful praises, raised on high,
    Shall check the murmur and the sigh.

    When death o'er nature shall prevail,
    And all the powers of language fail,
    Joy through my swimming eyes shall break
    And mean the thanks I cannot speak.

    But oh, when that last conflict's o'er,
    And I am chained to earth no more,
    With what glad accents shall I rise
    To join the music of the skies!

    The cheerful tribute will I give
    Long as a deathless soul shall live;
    A work so sweet, a theme so high,
    Demands and crowns eternity!



    "Sin can never taint thee now,
      Nor doubt thy faith assail,
    Nor thy meek trust in Jesus Christ
      And the Holy Spirit fail;
    And there thou'rt sure to meet the good,
      Whom on earth thou lovedst best,
    Where the wicked cease from troubling,
      And the weary are at rest."

Slowly, but surely, the time came when Francis was compelled to drop
all attempt at work. We do not read that he suffered or grieved over
this--not even when the blindness which had been gradually creeping
upon him suddenly climaxed, and he was plunged into almost total
darkness. In the midst of all, his faith shone brighter and brighter,
and his love for God grew in intensity. His confidence in God was
such, that when he found himself, in what ought to have been the prime
of life, a broken-down, pain-tortured wreck, not the faintest shadow
of a regret for the golden years that "might have been," had his path
been a less stormy one, ruffled the interior calm of his soul. His
life had been lived, and was being lived in the will of God, and
nothing outside that will could possibly happen to him. So, in the
serene confidence that _all_ things--no matter how disastrous they
might appear to human understanding--would surely work together for
good, he lay down in his narrow cell at the Portiuncula, to _suffer_
the Divine will with the same glad, ready obedience with which he had
heretofore hastened to perform it. In no instance do we read of his
faith failing him. Not for the smallest fraction of a second. The
story of his last days is one of the most vivid pictures of the
triumph of a soul over every earthly hindrance. It has its parallel in
the story of Gethsemane and Calvary.

[Sidenote: "_Thy Will be Done._"]

Before we continue our narrative, let us for a moment take a realizing
view of Francis, his condition and circumstances. As we have said
before, his health was utterly undermined. We are told that "the
stomach could ill bear food, the internal organs were the seat of
constant sufferings, and all the members were weakened and painful."
Add to this almost total blindness, and we have a state of body that
would in itself be sufficient excuse for any phase of soul-difficulty,
darkness, or depression, had such assailed him. But how much worse
than his bodily pains must have been the heart-agony he suffered
through the insidious, elusive disease that was sapping the vitality
of the vast organization of which he was the tender Father. To the
very dregs Francis drained that cup of failure and defeat, which all
who are called to lead the vanguard of Christ's conquering host, have
at some time or another to drink more or less deeply. That is the time
when the cry, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," is wrung
from the tortured soul, and thrice happy are those who, out of an
intimate knowledge of God, can add, "Not my will, but Thine be done,"
assured that it is best simply because it is His. But it is only those
who know God and enjoy Him, who have confidence enough in Him not to
demand His reasons--those whose lives have not been mere service
alone--who can triumphantly and victoriously cry, "Thy will be done."
Such was Francis. Such were those of the whitest of God's saints, and
a like eternal, triumphant victory is ours, if we, too, are willing to
pay the full price--a life of utter self-renunciation.

[Sidenote: _An Operation._]

But to return. Up to the time when Francis became blind, he had
steadily refused to see any doctor or take any medicine; but after
much persuasion, on the part of the brethren and Ugolino, who firmly
believed that the Order would suffer collapse if Francis died, he gave
in to their request, and tried every remedy the Assisian doctors
presented. But he became no better, and from Assisi he was taken to
Rieti, to consult an oculist there. He suffered everything from the
rude, barbarous surgical treatment of the times, which knew little
beyond cauterization, bleeding, and drawing-plasters. But, as he
became rather worse than better, the Rieti oculist, who had learned to
love him, took him on to Siena, to see an old, celebrated oculist who
lived in that town. This man said that there was nothing for it but an
operation--a very painful one, too, for he would have to cauterize his
patient from the eyebrows to the ears. Francis said he was ready to
undergo it. He thought to himself that this was a glorious chance to
show that Christ's soldiers could be as brave as any others. One
moment only he shuddered. This was when the doctors were heating their
instruments in the fire, and he knew that soon he would have to endure
them. In those days only the very stoutest-hearted submitted to
operations, the majority preferring to die untortured. One can hardly
blame them, as there were no means known by which the faculties could
be deadened.

Before the hot irons touched him, Francis prayed, and then addressed
the fire thus:

"My brother fire: among all beautiful things the Lord has created
thee, beautiful, strong, useful. Be gentle to me this hour. May God,
who created thee, temper thine ardour, that I may be able to bear it."
With that he gave himself into the surgeon's hands, and without a
groan he underwent the operation. The brethren who were with him, ran
away the moment it began. Francis called them back.

"Oh, faint-hearted cowards!" he said, "Why did you run away! I tell
you in truth the iron did not hurt me! I felt no pain."

Then, turning to the doctor he said, "If it be not well burnt, thrust
it in again."

The doctor, who knew the terror most people felt at such operations,
exclaimed in amazement--

"My friends, this day I have seen wonders!"

[Sidenote: _Failing Health._]

For a little time the operation seems to have succeeded, and the
winter passed away with alternations of good and bad health. Francis
spent the largest portion of his time in prayer and meditation, and
after that he was able to see the number who daily begged for the
privilege of visiting him for consultation and help. His memory,
writes a historian, served him for a book, and furnished him with the
principles and facts he needed on every subject. "The important
thing," Francis used to say to himself, "is not to have understood a
great number of truths, but sincerely to love each truth--to let each
one penetrate the heart by degrees, to let it rest there, to have the
same object in view for a long time, to unite one's self to it more by
the sentiment of the heart than by subtle reflections."

In the early days of spring Francis was seized with such a violent
hemorrhage that everyone thought his end had come. Elias was hastily
sent for, but before he could arrive all immediate danger was past.
However, as soon as he was able, Francis determined to travel back to
Assisi. His was the true Italian nature, whose heart always turns
towards home, as a sunflower to the sun! He must have had a revival of
strength just here, because we read of his standing on a stone in the
cemetery at Cortona, preaching to the people. But he was not deluded
into thinking that this meant recovery. Oh, no, he told the people
plainly that he was on his way to Assisi to die.

For two months he stayed in Cortona, detained there by the people, who
refused to part with him, and then he was seized with dropsy and
fever. He begged to be taken back to his native land. It was his last
wish, and they at once carried out his desire. For fear the
Perugians--through whose town they had to pass--would also try to
detain him, Elias sent a messenger to the magistrates of Assisi asking
them for an escort back. The magistrates immediately sent a party of
armed men on horseback, chosen partly from the nobles, and partly from
the principal men of the town. They surrounded the litter in which
Francis was laid, and the journey commenced. It was a curious
procession, the worn invalid, lying on his hard couch, and borne by
his brown-robed, bare-footed brethren, and round them the brilliant
costumes and gay trappings of the nobles and their prancing horses.
Did Francis, we wonder, compare his present position with that day
some twenty years back, when hunted and hounded through his native
town, he was glad to take refuge in a cave! If he did, we may be sure
that to God he gave all the glory.

[Sidenote: "_For the Love of God._"]

Francis took a keen delight when as it happened he was able to prove
to his gay escort by ocular demonstration the power of his beloved
poverty. They were stopping at a tiny mountain village in order to let
him rest, and as they had no food, the men set out to buy some. They
came back a little later, very discomfited and not a little cross. The
people had refused to sell them any, saying loftily, "We are not

"We are reduced to living upon your alms," the men said to Francis,
"we cannot find anything to buy."

Francis enjoyed their dilemma hugely.

"You have found nothing," he explained, "because you have trusted in
your money more than God. But return where you have been, and instead
of offering money ask food for the love of God. Do not be ashamed;
since sin came into the world all we have is alms, it is of the
charity of the Great Almoner that we receive what we call our

The knights took courage, and became for the time beggars, and, asking
food "for the love of God," received all they wanted!

After this halt they reached Assisi in another stage. The old Bishop
Guido came to see his "son" as soon as he arrived. The moment he
looked at him he knew that his days were numbered, and he entreated
him to let himself be moved to his house, where he could have more
comfort. This was done, but nothing could really ease Francis'
sufferings. The swelling that had begun at Cortona disappeared, and he
rapidly became terribly thin. He could not make the slightest effort
without terrible suffering, and his eyes were so bad that he could
barely distinguish light from darkness--feeling alone remained, and we
are told that every part of his body was the seat of sharp pains! The
doctors declared they could not tell what kept him alive!

[Sidenote: _Farewell to Assisi._]

"My father," said one who was tending him once, "Do you not think you
would suffer less under the hands of an executioner?"

"My brother," answered Francis, "my dearest and sweetest wish has
always been, and still is, to do what God demands of me; with all my
soul I desire to conform myself in all things to His pleasure and
will, but martyrdom would be less difficult to bear than three days of
this illness. I mean speaking of the suffering it brings, not of the
recompense it merits."

As the suffering days lengthened into months, Francis seemed to rise
above himself. He lay there smiling and calm, and every hour his soul
became more strong and vigorous. Not that he was by any means free
from temptation. We read that "his soul bore the most violent assaults
without flinching."

In October he was taken back to Portiuncula. His one desire now was to
die near the spot where God had first revealed Himself to him. He was
placed on a litter, and slowly the bearers descended the mountain.

"Turn me towards the town," he said when they reached the valley, and
sitting up with a painful effort, he gazed for the last time in the
direction of Assisi.

"Be blessed of the Lord," he said solemnly, "O town faithful to God.
Many souls shall be saved in you and by you."

His first duty when he arrived at home was to make what he called his
will! This is a recapitulation of the fundamental principles of his
life, and a short account of the first early days of the brotherhood.
He charges all to be true to the one rule of the Order.

"I absolutely forbid," he writes at the close, "all my brethren,
whether clerks or laymen, to put glosses on the Rule, or on this
writing, saying, 'thus it ought to be understood,' but as the Lord has
given me grace to dictate purely and simply, understand them simply
and without gloss, and put them in practice unto the end."

[Sidenote: _Light at Eventide._]

Wise Francis, his knowledge of human nature was only equalled to his
charity and long-suffering!

After this piece of work was accomplished he quietly resigned himself
to die, and holding up his hands to Heaven, cried--

"Now, Oh Christ, I have nothing to keep me back! I shall go freely to

The end came rapidly. Each day found him weaker than the preceding
one, and it was with difficulty that he was able to speak to those
around him. Fifty of the brethren, who were then at the Portiuncula,
knelt round his bed.

"My father," said one of them, bending over him, "your sons will have
no father. In you we lose the light of life. And now forgive those
present and those absent for all the sins they have committed. Bless
them once more."

"My son," said Francis, "God is calling me! I forgive my brethren,
those present and those absent, all their sins and faults. I absolve
them as much as I can. Tell them so, and bless them in my name."

He then asked them to read him the history of the Passion in St.
John's Gospel, and then a part of the one hundred and forty-second
Psalm. As they were reading the seventh verse:

"Bring my soul out of prison that I may praise Thy name," he closed
his eyes and slept peacefully in Jesus.

His glorious death took place just a few days before he entered his
forty-sixth year, twenty years since he received his call to repair
the Church, and eighteen since he founded the Order of Friars Minor.

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  =Christianity of the Continent.= By JESSE PAGE, F.R.G.S. =1s. 6d.=

  _The Publishing Department, 79 & 81 Fortess Road, London, N.W._

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