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CHAPTER XXXVII


HOW JESUS CHRIST, THE BLESSED ONE, AT THE PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS, CONVERTED A RICH NOBLEMAN WHO HAD MADE GREAT OFFERS TO ST FRANCIS, AND INSPIRED HIM WITH A WISH TO BECOME A RELIGIOUS


St Francis, the servant of Christ, arriving late one evening with one of his brothers at the house of a rich and powerful nobleman, the two were received by him as if they had been angels of God, with so much courtesy and respect that the saint felt himself drawn to love him greatly; for he considered how on entering his house he had embraced him with much affection; how he had washed his feet, and humbly wiped and kissed them; how he had lighted a great fire, and prepared a supper composed of the choicest meats, serving him himself with a joyful countenance. When the supper was ended, the nobleman thus addressed St Francis: “Behold, my father, I offer thee myself and all I possess. If ever thou art in want of a tunic, or a mantle, or any other thing, purchase them, and I will pay thee. And see, I am ready to provide for all thy wants, as, though the grace of God, it is in my power to do so; for I abound in all temporal riches, and out of love to God, who gave them to me, most willingly do I bestow my goods on his poor.” St Francis, seeing so much courtesy and generosity, felt great affection towards him; and having taken leave of him, he said to his companion: “Truly this nobleman would be a great gain to our Order, seeing he is so grateful to God, and so kind and courteous to his neighbour and to the poor. For know, dear brother, that courtesy is one of the attributes of God, who sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust; for courtesy is the sister of charity, it extinguisheth hatred and kindleth love. I have discovered in this good man such divine virtues, that I would most willingly have him as a companion. On some future day we will pay him another visit, for possibly the Lord may touch his heart, and induce him to follow us in his service; in the meantime we will pray God to put this desire into his heart, and give him grace to execute it.” Now a few days after St Francis had made this prayer, the Lord touched the heart of the nobleman; and the saint said to his companion; “Let us go, my brother, to the dwelling of that courteous nobleman, as I hope in God that, amongst his temporal gifts, he will offer himself and join our Order”; and they set out accordingly. As they arrived near the house, St Francis said to his companion: “Wait for me a little, that I may first ask the Lord to prosper our journey, and pray that it may please our Saviour Jesus Christ, through his holy Passion, to take from the world this virtuous nobleman, and confide him to us, his poor weak servants.” Having said this, he knelt down in a spot where he could be seen by the nobleman, who was walking to and fro in his rooms; and it pleased God that he should perceive St Francis as he prayed in the presence of Christ, who appeared in great glory and stood before him; he saw, too, that for a long space of time the saint was raised above the earth. On seeing this he felt in his heart so great a desire to leave the world, that he hastened out of his palace, and with great fervour of spirit ran to St Francis, and kneeling at his feet implored him earnestly and devoutly to receive him into his Order, and allow him to do penance with him. Then the saint, seeing that his prayer was granted, and that the nobleman asked of him the accomplishment of his wish, arose and embraced him joyfully, devoutly returning thanks to God, who had made such a present to his Order. And the nobleman said to St Francis: “What wilt thou have me to do, my father? I am ready to obey thee, and give all I possess to the poor, in order to follow Christ with thee, without any hindrance from things temporal.” And following the advice of the saint, he distributed all he possessed to the poor, and entered the Order, living a life of holiness and penance, and speaking always of divine things.


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