CHAPTER IX:'LITTLE FLOWERS' CONTINUED . . .
HOW ST FRANCIS WOULD TEACH BROTHER LEO WHAT TO ANSWER, AND HOW THE LATTER COULD NEVER SAY AUGHT BUT THE CONTRARY TO WHAT ST FRANCIS WISHED
Once, as the beginning of the Order, St Francis was with Brother Leo in a convent where they had no books wherewith to say divine office. So, when the hour of Matins arrived, St Francis said to Brother Leo: “My beloved brother, we have no Breviary wherewith to say Matins, but in order to employ the time in praising God, I will speak, and thou shalt answer me as I shall teach thee; and beware thou change not the words I shall bid thee say. Thus will I begin: ‘O Brother Francis, thou hast done so much evil, and hast committed so many sins in the world, that thou art only worthy of hell’; and thou, Brother Leo, shalt answer: ‘It is very true thou art worthy of the nethermost hell.’” And Brother Leo said, with the simplicity of a dove, “Right willingly, Father; begin, then, in the name of God.” St Francis therefore began thus: O Brother Francis, thou hast done so much evil, and hast committed so many sins in the world, that thou art worthy of hell.” And Brother Leo made answer: “God will work so much good through thee, that thou wilt certainly go to heaven”. Do not speak thus, “Brother Leo,” said St Francis; “but when I say, ‘Brother Francis, thou hast committed so many iniquities against God, that thou art worthy to be cursed by him,’ thou shalt make answer: ‘Yes, indeed, thou art worthy to be numbered among the cursed.’” And Brother Leo answered: “Most willingly, O my Father.” Then St Francis, with many tears and sighs, striking his breast, cried with a loud voice: “O Lord of heaven and earth, I have committed against thee so many sins and so great iniquities, that I deserve to be cursed by thee.” And Brother Leo answered: “O Brother Francis, among all the blessed the Lord will cause thee to be singularly blessed.” And St Francis, much surprised that Brother Leo answered quite the contrary to what he had ordered him, reproved him for it, saying: “Why answereth thou not as I taught thee? I command thee, under holy obedience, so to do. When I say, ‘O wicked Brother Francis, dost thou think God will have mercy on thee, when thou hast so sinned against the Father of mercies that thou art not worthy of finding mercy,’ then thou, Brother Leo, my little lamb, shalt answer: ‘Thou art not worthy of finding mercy.’” But when St Francis began to repeat, “O wicked Brother Francis,” and so on, Brother Leo answered: “God the Father, whose mercy in infinitely greater than thy sin, will show great mercy upon thee, and will grant thee likewise many graces.” At this answer St Francis, being meekly angry, and patiently impatient, said to Brother Leo: “How canst thou presume to act against obedience? Why hast thou so often answered the contrary to what I ordered thee?” With great humility and respect Brother Leo answered: “God knows, my Father, that I had resolved in my heart each time to answer as thou didst command me, but the Lord made me to speak as it pleased him, and not as it pleased me.” Then St Francis, being greatly astonished, said to Brother Leo: “I entreat thee, beloved, this time to answer as I command thee.” And Brother Leo said: “Speak, in the name of God; for this time most certainly I will answer thee as thou desirest.” And St Francis, weeping, said: “O wicked Brother Francis, dost thou think that God will have mercy on thee?” And Brother Leo answered: “Not only will he have mercy on thee, but thou shalt receive from him especial graces: he will exalt thee and glorify thee to all eternity, for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted; and I cannot speak otherwise, because it is God that speaketh by my lips.” After this in humble contest, they watched till morning in many tears and much spiritual consolation.