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CHAPTER XVII

Of his abstinence and the infirmities which came upon him by reason of his austerity

(1)

THIS fervent and devout servant of God did chastise his body too rigorously with fast and watching when first he was converted; in the endeavour to restrain the concupiscence of the flesh, he did not consider with due care the weakness of his nature, but in the fervour of his spirit did so persecute the enemy within him, that by the weight of his austerity he did also overthrow one that had heretofore dwelt within him in friendship and loyalty. For he not only abstained from what was unlawful and superfluous, but also denied himself things necessary, so that he lost all appetite for food, and had no taste for the discerning of meats. Wherefore it once happened that in the absence of the cook he went into the buttery and drank oil out of a 119jar mistaking it for beer; nor did he know the difference until the cook asked him from which of the jars he had drunk, and then he knew of his mistake. At another time, at a certain Monastery, a draught of wine was brought him to drink by reason of his weakness and because of the loving care which the Brothers had for him, and when he had tasted thereof he said to one that stood by, “How sharp and bitter ye make your beer”; and the Brothers marvelled that he knew not the taste of wine from that of any other liquor. Therefore he took his victual for the more part as if he did not taste it, and rather because Nature compelled him to eat than because appetite or the flavour of any meat attracted him.

(2) Sometimes I went to visit him in his cell, where he sat upon his couch in bodily weakness, and I spoke to him with sympathy, being much grieved for his sickness. And once Brother James of Viana, who at that time ministered to him, brought him a strengthening decoction of herbs, saying, “These are good herbs; I pray thee take thereof, are they not pleasant to the taste?” Then I heard Florentius answer, “A crust of bread would be more savoury to you than this is to me.” But although he was very weak and was compassed about by many infirmities of the body, yet did he not cease from the work of God and from gathering an holy harvest of souls. When he was strong enough to admit them to come to him he gave to those that sought him the counsels of salvation with renewed fervour. And these became the sweeter to his hearers as they were more and more assured that Florentius was beloved of God and was being tried by various bodily infirmities, as the precious gold is tried in the fire.

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