LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, Chapter 19

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HOW THE VINE OF THE PRIEST OF RIETI, WHOSE HOUSE ST FRANCIS ENTERED TO PRAY, WAS TRAMPLED UNDER FOOT BY THE GREAT NUMBERS WHO CAME TO SEE HIM, AND HOW IT YET PRODUCED A GREATER QUANTITY OF WINE THAN USUAL, AS ST. FRANCIS HAD PROMISED; AND HOW THE LORD REVEALED TO THE SAINT THAT HEAVEN WOULD BE HIS PORTION WHEN HE LEFT THIS WORLD

I think the facts of the physical world regarding wine in the days before refrigeration and modern water purification methods are often overlooked by modern readers. Of course, just as today, if one drank too much wine, inebreation occured, a type of poisoning. But, moderate quantities of wine were a necessity because water was rare and potable water hardly to be had at all. It's easy enough to see how wine could be thought of to symbolize joy. The ancient mystics used the idea of wine to symbolize the joy of contemplation. Our text provides its own interpretation in its last chapter:

This miracle teaches us that as, in consequence of the merits of St Francis, the vine, though despoiled of its grapes, produced an abundance of wine, so in the same way many Christians, whose sins had made them barren of virtue, through the saint's preaching and merits, have often come to abound in the good fruit of repentance.

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