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CHAPTER XXXVIII


HOW IT WAS REVEALED TO ST FRANCIS THAT BROTHER ELIAS WAS DAMNED AND WAS TO DIE OUT OF THE ORDER; AND HOW AT THE DESIRE OF THE SAID BROTHER, HE PRAYED TO CHRIST FOR HIM, AND HOW HIS PRAYER WAS GRANTED


As St Francis and Brother Elias were living together in a convent, it was revealed by God to St Francis that Brother Elias was damned, seeing he was about to apostatise, and that he would die out of the Order. In consequence of this revelation, the saint took such a dislike to him that he neither spoke to him nor conversed with him; and when Brother Elias went towards him, he turned away and took another direction, in order not to meet him. Now Brother Elias perceiving, and seeing that St Francis disliked him, was anxious to know the reason. He therefore accosted him one day in order to speak with him, the saint endeavouring, as usual, to avoid him; but Brother Elias retained him courteously, and begged him to say why he avoided his company, and refused to speak to him. St Francis answered: “This is the reason: it has been revealed to me by God that thou wilt apostatise, and die out of the Order; also that, because of thy sins, thou art damned.” On hearing this Brother Elias said: “My reverend father, I implore thee, by the love of Christ Jesus, not to despise me for this reason, nor send me from thee; but like a good shepherd, following the example of thy Master, to seek and save the lamb which will perish without thy help. Pray to God for me, that, if possible, he may revoke the sentence of my damnation; for it is written, that the Lord will forgive the sinner if he repent of his sin; and I have such faith in thy prayers that were I even in hell and thou wert to pray for me, I should find refreshment, I implore thee, then, that thou recommend me, a sinner, to God, who came into the world to save sinners, that he may have mercy on me.” This request Brother Elias made with so much fervour and so many tears, that St Francis had compassion on him, and promised to pray for him, which he did; and as he prayed most devoutly, the Lord revealed to him that his prayer was granted; that the sentence of damnation pronounced on Brother Elias had been revoked; that his soul would be finally saved; but that he would leave the Order and die out of it; and so it happened. For Frederick, King of Sicily, having rebelled against the Church, was excommunicated by the Pope, with all those who gave him aid or counsel. Brother Elias being looked upon as one of the most learned men in the world, King Frederick sent for him, wishing to see him. He obeyed the summons, and thus rebelled against the Church; for which reason he was excommunicated by the Pope, and deprived of the habit of St Francis. Soon after the excommunication he fell dangerously ill; and a lay brother who belonged to the Order, a man of holy life, having heard of his illness, went to visit him, and amongst other things said to him: “My dear Brother, I grieve to see thee thus excommunicated and out of the Order, and that probably thou wilt die in this state. If there is any way by which I can deliver thee from this danger, most willingly would I undergo any trouble and fatigue to help thee.” Brother Elias answered: “My Brother, I see no other way but that thou go to the Pope and entreat him, for the love of God and of St Francis his servant, upon whose teaching I gave up the world, to absolve me from this excommunication, and restore to me my religious habit.” And the lay brother said he would most willingly undertake the journey for his salvation; and taking leave of him, he went to the Pope, and humbly kneeling before him implored him to take pity on Brother Elias, for the love of Christ and of St Francis his servant. And it pleased God that the holy Father granted his request, telling him to return to him, and if he found him alive to tell him in his name that he was absolved from the excommunication, and that the habit of his Order was restored to him. He hastened back to Brother Elias with this joyful news, and, finding him on the point of death, gave him the message of the Pope, telling him that he was absolved from the excommunication, and that his habit was restored to him. On this Brother Elias departed from this world, his soul being saved by the merits and prayers of St Francis, in which he had placed such great faith.


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