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CHAPTER XV

Of his compassion toward the poor, the sick, and the friendless

(1)

AMONGST other works of piety the virtue of compassion did especially grow and flourish in the heart of the good Father, a virtue which he showed and exercised by the frequent distribution of alms to the poor and to strangers; wherefore in justice one ought to say of him as is said of the righteous 113man in the Psalm: “He hath distributed, he hath given to the poor, his justice remaineth for ever,” for indeed he was a most loving father to the poor, a most kindly comforter to those in distress, and a most compassionate visitor of the sick. Being filled with the Spirit of God, he had the milk of compassion, and the wine of zeal and fervour, and did nurture the weak with the oil of Mercy; while he hated their evil passions and sins, yet he did display his detestation thereof and his mercy each in due season and with great discretion.

(2) He often sent meats that were for his own table to the sick and needy, and the herbs which were sent to him in charity, he with a charity still greater would share with others that did lack. He kept the names of the poor written down, and committed the care of them to one or two of the Brothers, bidding them provide for their honourable entertainment and the expenses of their maintenance. There were at that time certain honourable persons in the town of Deventer who feared God, men of good conversation who followed the counsels of Florentius, and certain Matrons wealthy and devout who were given up to charitable deeds, attending the Church of God regularly and honouring His priests. These ministered to God’s poor clerks with much kindness, and at the request and instance of Florentius did most willingly serve them. So good and beloved was the humble vicar of Christ in the eyes of all that if he made a petition on behalf of any poor man, he soon obtained his request. He showed himself affable to the friendless and to strangers as if they were his friends and kinsmen, asking whence they came, and how they were called, begging them to come sometimes to visit him.

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(3) This notable lover of Chastity hid not the light of his benevolence from the little ones, and the young who were striving after innocence of life and purity, but with pious words taught them to love Jesus and Mary, exhorting them to preserve their innocence, that being made like to the angels of God they might sing the Song of the Virgins in Heaven. To the sad and tempted he was cheerful and comfortable, so that if any were troubled or offended, the sight of Florentius, and a few words from him, would give such an one peace and consolation and he would return joyfully to his own business. This I have often tried in mine own person, as have my comrades in devotion, for we were instructed by his counsel and taught in the School of Christ by his excellent discourses. He did not shrink from lepers or others who were marred by any bodily deformity, but rather took care to show himself more kindly than usual to such outcasts, knowing that this was more pleasing to the Creator, and would gain greater glory for himself, because he thought upon the bond of Nature, and the image of God in man rather than the vileness of the person.

(4) I have seen one blind of an eye, and another lame of one foot, who were converted by him, and afterward became men of approved life. I knew also a leper who abode outside the city walls who in the grace of devotion came near to God’s priest, and spoke with him as a friend; and many saw this and wondered at the humility of the Master in sitting by a leper. He also commanded that a draught of wine and a special dole should be given to the man, and after speaking many words of holy comfort to him he let him go away to his own abode with his companion.

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