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CHAPTER XXVII


HOW AT BOLOGNA ST FRANCIS CONVERTED TWO SCHOLARS WHO BECAME FRIARS, AND HOW HE DELIVERED ONE OF THEM FROM GREAT TEMPTATION


St Francis coming one day to the city of Bologna, all the inhabitants went out to meet him, and the crowd was so great that it was with much difficulty he made his way to the market-place, which was filled with men, women, and scholars. And St Francis, on arriving there, stood upon an elevated spot, and began to preach that which the Holy Spirit put into his mind to say; and he preached so wonderfully that he appeared to be an angel, not a man; and his words were like sharp arrows, which pierced through the hearts of those who listened to them. And many men and women were brought to repentance through that sermon; of this number were two noble students of the March of Ancona - one named Pellegrino and the other Rinieri. These two being touched in their hearts by divine inspiration, through the said sermon, went to St Francis, saying that they wished to leave the world and become friars in his Order. And it having been revealed to St Francis that they had been sent by God to be examples of virtue in the Order, he received them joyfully, on account of the great fervour they showed, saying to them: “Thou, Pellegrino, shalt follow in the Order the ways of humility; and thou, Rinieri, shalt serve the brethren” - and so it fell out; for Brother Pellegrino would never be treated as a cleric but as a layman, though he was a learned man and deeply versed in the Sacred Canons; and through his humility he reached a high degree of perfection in virtue; so that Brother Bernard, the first son of St Francis, said of him that he was one of the most perfect friars in the world; and finally Brother Pellegrino passed from this world full of virtue, having wrought many miracles both before his death and after. And Brother Rinieri served the brothers most devoutly and most faithfully, living in great sanctity and great humility, and becoming very intimate with St Francis. And having been named Minister of the province of the March of Ancona, he governed it for a long time with much discretion and most peaceably; and St Francis revealed to him many secrets. Now after some time the Lord allowed a great temptation to take possession of his soul, which greatly grieved and troubled him; he observed severe penance, subjected himself to much rigorous discipline, and endeavoured day and night, with prayers and tears, to drive away the temptation, but not succeeding he believed that God had abandoned him. Being in a state of great despair he determined as a last remedy to go to St Francis, thinking thus within himself: “If the saint receives me kindly and is familiar with me, as he is wont, I may hope that God will have pity on me; but if not, this will be the sign that I am abandoned by the Lord.” And setting out, he went to St Francis, who at that time was lying grievously ill, in the palace of the Bishop of Assisi; and God revealed to him the whole temptation which had assailed Brother Rinieri, and his intention of coming to him. Then St Francis, calling immediately Brother Leo and Brother Masseo, said to them: “Go forth to meet my beloved Brother Rinieri, and having embraced him salute him from me, and tell him that of all the brothers scattered abroad in the world I love him most particularly.” And they set out, and meeting Brother Rinieri in the way, they embraced him, telling him what St Francis had ordered them to say. The message brought such sweetness and such consolation to him, that he was quite beside himself with joy; and thanking God with all his heart, he reached the place where St Francis was lying ill. Now though St Francis was grievously ill, yet when he heard that Brother Rinieri was approaching, he arose and went to meet him; and embracing him with much affection he said to him: “My very dear Brother Rinieri, of all the brothers in the world I love thee most especially”; and making the sign of the holy cross on his forehead, he kissed him, adding: “My beloved son, the Lord hath permitted this temptation that thou mayest gain a great increase of merit; but if thou dost not wish this gain, the temptation shall be removed”; and, O miracle! no sooner had St Francis pronounced these words than immediately the temptation left him, and it seemed to him as if in all his life he had never been tempted, and he was greatly comforted.


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