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CHAPTER I


HOW BROTHER JUNIPER CUT OFF THE FOOT OF A  PIG TO GIVE IT TO A SICK BROTHER


One of the most chosen disciples and first companions of St Francis was Brother Juniper, a man of profound humility and of great fervour and charity, of whom St Francis once said, when speaking of him to some of his companions: “He would be a good Friar Minor who had overcome the world as perfectly as Brother Juniper.” Once when he was visiting a sick brother at St Mary of the Angels, he said to him, as if all on fire with the charity of God: “Can I do thee any service?” And the sick man answered: “Thou wouldst give me great consolation if thou couldst get me a pig’s foot to eat.” Brother Juniper answered immediately: “Leave it to me; thou shalt have one at once.” So he went and took a knife from the kitchen, and in fervour of spirit went into the forest, where many swine were feeding, and having caught one, he cut off one of its feet and ran off with it, leaving the swine with its foot cut off; and coming back to the convent, he carefully washed the foot, and diligently prepared and cooked it. Then he brought it with great charity to the sick man, who ate it with avidity; and Brother Juniper was filled with joy and consolation, and related the history of his assault upon the swine for his diversion. Meanwhile, the swineherd who had seen the brother cut off the foot, went and told the tale in order, and with great bitterness, to his lord, who, being informed of the fact, came to the convent and abused the friars, calling them hypocrites, deceiver, robbers, and evil men. “Why,” said he, “have you cut off the foot of my swine?” At the noise which he made, St Francis and all the friars came together, and with all humility made excuses for their brother, and, as ignorant of the fact, promised, in order to appease the angry man, to make amends for the wrong which had been done to him. But he was not to be appeased, and left St Francis with many threats and reproaches, repeating over and over again that they had maliciously cut the foot off his swine, refusing to accept any excuse or promise of repayment; and so departed in great wrath. And as all the other friars wondered: “Can Brother Juniper indeed have done this through indiscreet zeal?” So he sent for him, and asked him privately: “Hast thou cut off the foot of a swine in the forest?” To which Father Juniper answered quite joyfully, not as one who has committed a fault, but believing he had done a great act of charity: “It is true, sweet Father, that I did cut off that swine’s foot; and if thou wilt listen compassionately, I will tell thee the reason. I went out of charity to visit the brother who is sick.” And so he related the matter in order, adding: “I tell thee, dear father, that this foot did the sick brother so much good, that if I had cut off the feet of a hundred swine instead of one, I verily believe that God would have been pleased therewith.” To whom St Francis, in great zeal for justice, and in much bitterness of heart, made answer: “O Brother Juniper, wherefore hast thou given this great scandal? Not without reason doth this man complain, and thus rage against us; perhaps even now he is going about the city spreading this evil report of us, and with good cause. Therefore I command thee by holy obedience, that thou go after him until thou find him, and cast thyself prostrate before him, confessing thy fault, and promising to make such full satisfaction that he shall have no more reason to complain of us, for this is indeed a most grievous offence.” At these words Brother Juniper was much amazed, wondering that any one should have been angered at so charitable an action, for all temporal things appeared to him of no value, save in so far as they could be charitably applied to the service of our neighbour. So he made answer: “Doubt not, Father, but that I shall soon content and satisfy him. And why should there be all this disturbance, seeing that the swine was rather God’s than his, and that it furnished the means for an act of charity?” And so he went his way, and coming to the man, who was still chafing and past all patience, he told him for what reason he had cut off the pig’s foot, and all with such fervour, exultation and joy, as if he were telling him of some great benefit he had done him which deserved to be highly rewarded. The man grew more and more furious at his discourse, and loaded him with much abuse, calling him a fantastical fool and a wicked thief. Brother Juniper, who delighted in insults, cared nothing for all this abuse, but marvelling that any one should be wrath at what seemed to him only a matter of rejoicing, he thought he had not made himself well understood, and so repeated the story all over again, and then flung himself on the man’s neck and embraced him, telling him that all had been done out of charity, and inciting and begging him for the same motive to give the rest of the swine also; and all this with so much charity, simplicity, and humility, that the man’s heart was changed within him, and he threw himself at Brothers Juniper’s feet, acknowledging with many tears the injuries which by word and deed he had done to him and his brethren. Then he went and killed the swine, and having cut it up, he brought it, with many tears and great devotion, to St Mary of the Angels, and gave it to those holy friars in compensation for the injury he had done them. Then St Francis, considering the simplicity and patience under adversity of this good Brother Juniper, said to his companions and those who stood by: “Would to God, my brethren, that I had a forest of such Junipers!”


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