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CHAPTER LIII


HOW, WHILE HE WAS SAYING MASS, BROTHER JOHN OF ALVERNIA
FELL DOWN, AS IF HE HAD BEEN DEAD


A most wonderful thing befell the said Brother John in the above-mentioned Convent of Moliano, as is related by the brethren who were present. The first night after the Octave of St Lawrence, and within the Octave of the Assumption of our Lady, having said Matins in the church with the other brethren, the unction of God’s grace coming upon him, he went into the garden to meditate on the Passion of Christ, and prepare himself most devoutly to celebrate Mass, which it was his turn to sing that morning. As he was meditating on the words of the Consecration of the Body of Christ and contemplating the boundless charity of Jesus, who not only bought us with his precious Blood, but left his Body and his Blood as food for our souls, the love of sweet Jesus so filled his heart that he could not contain himself, and cried out several times, Hoc est Corpus meum. As he said these words Christ, the blessed one, appeared to him, with the Virgin Mary and a multitude of angels, and the Spirit of God made knows to him high mysteries of that great sacrament. When day dawned he entered the church, so absorbed by all he had seen that he repeated aloud the above words, with great fervour of spirit, believing that he was not seen or heard by any one (but there was a brother praying in the choir who saw and heard everything), and he remained in this state till the hour came to say Mass. He approached the altar, and began the sacrifice; as he proceeded his heart so overflowed with love to Christ, and the sensation he experienced was so ineffable that he could not express it in words, and he was in doubt whether he ought to leave off the celebration of Mass or to go on. The same thing having happened to him before, and the Lord having moderated the sensation, so that he was enabled to finish the sacrifice, trusting that he would do so again, he preceeded, with great fear and trembling. When he arrived at the Preface of our Lady, the divine illumination and the sensation of ardent love towards God so increased in his heart, that when he reached the Qui pridie he could scarcely resist any longer. When he came to the Consecration, and had pronounced over the Host half of the words, that is to say, Hoc est, it was quite impossible for him to go on, but he repeated over and over the same words, Hoc est enim; and the reason why he could not proceed was, that he saw before him Christ himself, with a multitude of angels, and he could not endure his Majesty. He saw that Christ would not enter the Host, nor would it be changed into the Body of Christ, unless he pronounced the other words of the Consecration, namely, Corpus meum. Being greatly perplexed and unable to go on, the guardian, with the other brothers, and the people who were in the church to hear Mass, approached the altar and stood amazed, seeing and considering the actions of Brother John; and many were moved to tears by his devotion. At last, after a long time, it pleased God that Brother John should pronounce in a loud voice the words, enim Corpus meum; and immediately the form of bread was changed, and Jesus Christ, the blessed one, appeared in the Host, in his bodily shape, and in great glory, showing thereby the humility and charity which made him to take the flesh of the Virgin Mary, and which now places him daily in the hands of the priest when he consecrates the Host. By this Brother John was raised to a state of contemplation yet sweeter, insomuch that, when he had elevated the Host and the consecrated chalice, he was ravished out of himself, and all corporal sensations being suspended, his body fell back. If he had not been supported by the guardian, who was behind him, he would have fallen to the ground; and all the friars with the men and women who were in the church gathering round him, he was carried to the sacristy as if dead, for his body was quite cold, and his fingers so stiffened that they could neither be opened nor moved; and in this state he remained till the third hour, as it was summer. When he came back to himself, I, who was present, feeling a great desire to know what he had experienced, went to him, and begged him, for the love of God, to tell me everything. As he greatly trusted me, he related all that had happened to him; and amongst other things he told me that, as he was consecrating the Body and Blood of Christ, his soul seemed to melt within him like wax, and his body to be without bones, so that he could not lift his arms or his hands, or make the sign of the cross on the Host or on the chalice. He told me likewise that, before he became a priest, it had been revealed to him by God that he should faint away when saying Mass; but having said many Masses, and no such thing having yet happened to him, he thought that the revelation did not come from God. Nevertheless, about fifty days before the Assumption of our Lady, when this thing befell him, it had been again revealed to him by God that it should so happen to him about the time of the Feast of the Assumption: but this vision or revelation from our Lord he did not call to mind at the moment.


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