CHAPTER XXXI:'LITTLE FLOWERS' CONTINUED . . .
HOW ST FRANCIS WAS ACQUAINTED WITH THE SECRETS OF THE CONSCIENCES OF ALL HIS BRETHREN
As our Lord Jesus Christ says in his Gospel, I know my sheep and mine know me, so the holy St Francis, like a good shepherd, knew, through divine revelation, all the merits and virtues of his companions, and also their defects and faults, and was enabled to deal with them according to their needs - humbling the proud and exalting the humble, rebuking vice and praising virtue - as we read in the wonderful revelations which were made to him by God with regard to his first children. Amongst others, we are told that once St Francis was with his companions in a convent talking of God, when Brother Ruffino was absent, being in contemplation in the forest; and, as the saint was conversing with them, Brother Ruffino passed by at some distance, whereon St Francis asked them whom they believed to be the holiest soul in the world. They answered immediately, that they believed it to be St Francis. The saint reproved them, saying: “Beloved brothers, I am the most unworthy and the vilest of all men in the world; but see there Brother Ruffino, who is now coming out of the forest; the Lord has revealed to me that his soul is one of the three most holy on earth; and I tell you candidly, I should not hesitate to call him St Ruffino even during his lifetime, his soul being full of grace, and sanctified and canonised in heaven by our Lord Jesus Christ.” This opinion St Francis never expressed in the presence of Brother Ruffino. That he was equally acquainted with the defects of his brethren, we learn in the case of Brother Elias, whom he often reproved for his pride; and of Brother John della Cappella, to whom he foretold that he would hang himself; and of that brother who was seized by the devil as a punishment for his disobedience; and of many others whose defects and virtues were clearly revealed to him by Christ.