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CHAPTER XX


OF A BEAUTIFUL VISION WHICH APPEARED TO A YOUNG MAN WHO HATED THE HABIT OF ST FRANCIS SO GREATLY, THAT HE WAS ON THE POINT OF LEAVING THE ORDER


A young man, of noble birth, and of delicate habits, who had entered the Order of St Francis, was seized after a few days, through the devil's suggestions, with a violent dislike of the habit that he wore: he hated the shape of the sleeves; he felt a horror for the hood, for the length of the dress, and the coarseness of the material; so that it seemed to him as if he carried about him an insupportable weight; and, disliking the Order more and more, he determined to leave it and return to the world. It was the custom of this young man, at whatever hour he passed before the altar in the convent at which the Blessed Sacrament was reserved, to kneel down with great respect and, covering his head with his hood and crossing his arms on his breast, to prostrate himself, as he had been taught to do by the master of novices. It so happened, that the night when he had made up his mind to leave the convent, he passed before the altar, and, kneeling down as he was wont to do, he prostrated himself to the ground, and, being ravished in spirit, the Lord sent him a most wonderful vision. He saw before him a great multitude of saints ranged in procession, two by two, clothed in vestments made of precious material: their faces and their hands shone like the sun; they sang, as they walked, to the sound of celestial music. Two of them were more nobly and more richly dressed than the rest, and surrounded by such a blaze of light that none could look on them without being dazzled. At the end of the procession was one so gloriously adorned, that he seemed, like a new knight, to be more favoured than the others. Now the young man, seeing such a beautiful procession, was struck with wonder; but although he could not guess the meaning of the vision, he dared not ask, and seemed struck dumb with amazement. When the procession had almost passed away, he took courage, and addressing himself to those who were in the rear, he said: “O beloved, I pray you tell me who are those wonderful beings who form this venerable procession.” They answered: “Know, my son, that we are all Friars Minor, who are come from the glories of Paradise; and those two who shine forth brighter than the rest, are St Francis and St Anthony; and the last one you saw so especially honoured is a holy friar, lately dead, who having fought with courage against temptation and having preserved to the end, we lead in triumph to the glories of Paradise; and these splendid vestments which adorn us have been given to us by God, in exchange for the coarse tunic we wore with so much patience in religion; and the glorious light which shines upon us has been given in reward for the humility, the holy poverty, the obedience, and chastity that we observed to the end of our lives. Now, my son, do not find the robe of religion too rough to wear; for if, clothed in the sackcloth of St Francis, and out of love to Christ, thou dost despise the world, mortifying thy flesh, and fighting valiantly against the devil, thou too shalt receive these splendid vestments, and shine with this glorious light.” On hearing these words the young man came to his senses, and feeling himself much strengthened, he put far from him all temptation to leave the Order, confessed his sin to the guardian and to the brethren, and from that moment dearly loved the course vestment of St Francis and the severity of penance, and at length ended his life in the Order in a state of great sanctity.


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