LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, CHAPTER 4
HOW THE ANGEL OF GOD PUT A QUESTION TO BROTHER ELIAS, GUARDIAN OF VAL
DI SPOLETO, AND HOW, WHEN BROTHER ELIAS ANSWERED PROUDLY, THE ANGEL
DEPARTED FROM HIM, AND TOOK THE ROAD TO SAN GIACOMO, WHERE HE MET
BROTHER BERNARD AND TOLD HIM WHAT FOLLOWS
Entertaining angels unawares is an interesting idea. There are Bible stories about it happening, to Abraham, for example. I think there's a Bible passage where Jesus tells us about being kind to strangers because we might be entertaining angels unawares. I haven't read far enough ahead in Little Flowers to know, but I suspect we're seeing a foreshadowing of Brother elias getting into some kind of trouble.
Why did the angel say he was in great haste? One way or another, there's a point here. If we want to say this is the narration of an actual event, then this was a real angel, who wouldn't do anything without a purpose. If this is allegory, there's no reason the angel would have to say he was in great haste just to keep the story going . . .
The angel's response on being asked his name is similar to the angel's response to Manoah, the father of Samson, who asked the same question on the occasion of the angel's coming to announce the birth of Samson. There are many points in the Samson stories, and in the story of Jonah, thast strike me as satire. The whale, for instance, seems to me to be precicely to inform readers this isn't to be taken as a real event. And these Little Flowers stories seem to have that same tongue in cheek aura about them. I don't say that's how it is, just that it seems so to me. I'd be interested to read postings here to help us decide how to take these stories. I think this is something we can only have opinions about, there's no point in getting dogmatic about it. We have no way of saying for sure how these stories were meant to be taken by their original audience.
These parallels with Bible stories are interesting for another reason, also. We could think Bible stories were used as a model in writing them. Even saying so doesn't have to imply they weren't at least in response to real events. Moreover, Bible stories were learned by heart in that era, so it could just be a case of words coming readily to mind because of familiarity with a well known Bible passage describing a similar event.