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CHAPTER XIV

How he laboured with his hands for the common good

(1)

FLORENTIUS, who excelled all others in his character, and is worthy to be remembered as being- among these devout men the most devout of all, never wished to be found in idleness, but strove to expend his precious time in some fruitful work, being careful above all things—although he was the holder of a benefice—not to eat his bread for naught and without working therefor. And what he learned and received from Master Gerard, this he carefully observed; for it was the Master’s opinion that none should be admitted to the Community save he who was willing—according to the saying of St. Paul—to labour with his hands. For this is an holy occupation and one most profitable to all spiritual progress; hereby are the lusts of the flesh tamed, and the mind is the more readily bridled, being distracted from idle wanderings. By such work is hurtful indolence taken away, and thus we more easily avoid those foolish babblings which through such indolence do arise. And when the opportunity for chattering is taken from us, the work doth go forward under our hand, and he will ever be more fruitful in good who shall have been a faithful labourer. By this also is a wise provision made for the necessities of the Brothers, and the miseries of the poor are more freely relieved, for Almsgiving from those gains that are won in the sweat of the face are 111the more pleasing in the sight of God and more spotless, and the profit of honest labour doth relieve the indigent. For this reason the art of copying books was eagerly taken up by the brethren of his house in the earlier days, for this is more convenient for clerks than other work, and can be pursued more quietly, and it was introduced as their customary occupation for the common good. The venerable Father Florentius himself set a bright example before the copyists that his title as their superior might not seem an empty one, and that he might enhance his priestly office by being a pattern of industry; wherefore he busied himself with smoothing the parchment and ruling and arranging the pages. For though he was less skilful as a copyist, yet with his own hand—though consecrated with the holy oil—he gave great help to the other writers by preparing all things necessary for their use.

(2) Occasionally, as opportunity arose and time .permitted, he with a chosen companion would read and correct the books already written, or compile Sacred extracts from Holy Scripture for the consolation of the Brothers, or as exercises for others of the household; for he delighted and greatly rejoiced when he could spend his day in doing some good for the Community, knowing that this would be most pleasing to God. But owing to the multitude of clerks who came together to him when the fame of his goodness was noised further abroad his help was demanded by many persons outside the Brotherhood, both religious and learned men. Wherefore in the interest of the salvation of souls, it was fitting for him to engage himself upon higher matters, and often to abstain from his own personal affairs or from 112private study, and to prefer Spiritual gain before temporal advantages.

(3) Sometimes so many stood before his cell desiring to speak with and consult him, or to confess their secrets to a man so holy, that there was scarcely room for him to come forth, and he had barely time to spare for reciting the Hours and attending duly to the needs of the body; yet he left none uncomforted, but either settled the matter out of hand, or, if his petitioner desired it left him free to return to him on a future occasion. It happened sometimes that he began to recite the Hours, but could not finish the Psalm which he had begun because so many came to him one after the other; and that he might not yield to weariness and refuse to open the door to him that knocked, he said to himself, “Once more for the sake of God,” and this “once more” he did often repeat till “once” became “often,” for in his brotherly love he did patiently overcome the hardships and unrestfulness of these interruptions.

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