CHAPTER XIII:'LITTLE FLOWERS' CONTINUED . . .
HOW ST FRANCIS AND BROTHER MASSEO PLACED THE BREAD THEY HAD BEGGED UPON A STONE NEAR A FOUNTAIN, AND HOW ST FRANCIS PRAISED THE VIRTUE OF HOLY POVERTY, PRAYING ST PETER AND ST PAUL TO MAKE HIM LOVE HOLY POVERTY GREATLY, AND HOW ST PETER AND ST PAUL APPEARED TO HIM
The wonderful servant and follower of Christ, St Francis, wishing to be in all things conformed to his Master - who, as the Gospel tells, sent his disciples two by two into all the cities and lands whither he intended to go to prepare the way for him - after he had assembled his twelve companions, sent them forth two by two into the world to preach. In order to set them an example of holy obedience, he first began to act himself like the Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore, having sent his companions to divers parts of the world, he took with him Brother Masseo, and set out towards the province of France. On arriving in a certain town, being very hungry, they went, according to the Rule, begging their bread for the love of God. St Francis took one street, and Brother Masseo the other. St Francis, being a little man, with a mean exterior, did not attract much attention, and gathered only a few bits of dry bread, whereas Brother Masseo, being tall and good-looking, received many large pieces of bread, with several whole loaves. When they had ended their task of begging, they met on a spot outside the city where there was a beautiful fountain and a large stone, on which each placed what he had collected. St Francis, seeing that the pieces of bread which Brother Messeo had collected were much larger and better than those he had received, rejoiced greatly, and said: “O Brother Masseo, we are not worthy of this great treasure”; and he repeated these words several times. At this Brother Masseo answered: “Father, how canst thou talk of a treasure where there is so much poverty, and indeed a lack of all things? for we have neither cloth, nor knife, nor dish, nor table, nor house to eat in, nor servant or maid to wait upon us.” St Francis answered: “This is indeed the reason why I account it a great treasure, because man has had on hand in it, but all has been given to us by divine Providence, as we clearly see in this bread of charity, this beautiful table of stone, and this so clear fountain. Wherefore let us beg of God to make us love with all our hearts the treasure of holy poverty.” Having spoken thus, they returned thanks; and when they had refreshed themselves with the bread and water, they rose and went on their way to France. And meeting with a church on the road, St Francis said to his companion, “Let us enter this church and pray.” And entering in, St Francis cast himself down in prayer before the altar, and during his prayer the Lord visited him with a great increase of fervour, which so inflamed his soul with affection for holy poverty, that it seemed as if flames played around his head, and preceeded from his mouth; and going thus, all shining and burning with divine love, to his companion, he said to him, “Ah! ah! ah! Brother Masseo, give thyself to me”; and these words he repeated three times. At the third time he breathed on Brother Masseo, who, to his great surprise, was raised above the earth, and fell at some distance before the saint. He told his companion afterwards that, while thus raised in the air, he had felt such a sweet sensation in his soul, and had received such consolations from the Holy Spirit, as he had never before experienced. After this St Francis said to his companion: “Let us go to St Peter and St Paul, and let us pray them together that they may teach us and help us to possess the unbounded treasure of holy poverty, for it is a treasure so great and so divine, that we are not worthy to possess it in these vile bodies of ours. It is this celestial virtue which teaches us to despise all earthly and transitory things, and through it every hindrance is removed from the soul, so that it can freely commune with God. Through this virtue it is that the soul, while still on earth, is able to converse with the angels in heaven. This virtue it is which remained with Christ upon the Cross, was buried with Christ, rose again with Christ, and with Christ went up into heaven. This virtue it is which even in this world enables the souls who are inflamed with love of him to fly up to heaven; it is also the guardian of true charity and humility. Let us then pray the holy Apostles of Christ, who were perfect lovers of this evangelical pearl, to obtain for us from the Saviour Jesus the grace, through his great mercy, to become true lovers, strict observers, and humble disciples of this most precious, most beloved, and most evangelical grace of poverty.” And thus conversing they arrived at Rome, and entered the church of St Peter, where St Francis knelt in prayer in one corner and Brother Masseo in another. After praying for some time with great devotion and many tears, the most holy Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to St Francis in much splendour, and thus addressed him: “As thy prayer and thy wish is to observe that which Christ and his holy Apostles observed, the Lord Jesus sends us to thee, to tell thee that thy prayer has been heard, and that it is granted to thee and to all thy followers to possess the treasure of holy poverty. We tell thee also from him, that whosoever, after thy example, shall embrace this holy virtue, shall most certainly enjoy perfect happiness in heaven; for thou and all thy followers shall be blessed by God.” Having said these words they disappeared, leaving St Francis full of consolation. Then rising from prayer, and returning to Brother Masseo, he asked him if God had revealed anything to him in prayer. He answered, “No.” Then St Francis told him how the holy Apostles had appeared to him, and what they had said. And both being filled with joy, they resolved to return to the Valley of Spoleto, giving up the journey into France.