The Little Flowers of St. Francis

Date: 1898

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Chapter XXXIV St. Francis and the Franciscans



Conversion of Friar Bernard


The first companion of St. Francis was Friar Bernard of Assisi, who was converted in this manner: St. Francis, while yet in the secular habit, although he had already renounced the world and went about being wholly held in scorn of men, mortifying his flesh by penances, so that by many he was thought foolish and was mocked at as a mad fellow and was driven away with stones and foul abuse by his kinsfolk and by strangers, nevertheless bore himself patiently amid all manner of ignominy and reproach, as though he were deaf and dumb. Now Bernard of Assisi, who was one of the noblest and richest and wisest in the city, began to take heed unto St. Francis, how exceeding strong his contempt of the world, how great his patience in the midst of wrongs, so that although for a two years’ space thus hated and despised by all men he ever seemed the more constant. Then Bernard began to ponder and to say within himself, "This brother hath abundant grace from God"; so he invited him one evening to sup and lodge with him; and St. Francis consented thereto and supped with him and lodged.

And thereat Bernard set it in his heart to watch his sanctity; wherefore he had made ready for him a bed in his own proper chamber, in which at night time a lamp ever burned. And St. Francis, to hide his sanctity, when he came into the chamber threw himself immediately upon the bed and made as though he slept; and likewise Bernard after some short space set himself to lie down and fell to snoring loudly, as one wrapped in deepest slumber. Wherefore St. Francis, thinking truly that Bernard was asleep, rose from his bed and set himself to pray, lifting up his hands and eyes unto heaven, and with exceeding great devotion and fervor said, "My God, my God." And thus he abode till morning, always repeating, "My God, my God," and naught beside; and this St. Francis said, while musing on and marveling at the excellence of the Divine Majesty, which deigned to stoop down to a perishing world and through his little poor one, St. Francis, purposed to bring a remedy for the salvation of his soul and the souls of others. . . .

Bernard seeing, by the light of the lamp, the most pious acts of St. Francis, and devoutly pondering in his mind the words that he spoke, was touched and inspired by the Holy Spirit to change his life. In the morning, therefore, he called St. Francis and said to him, "Friar Francis, I am wholly purposed in my heart to leave the world and follow thee in whatsoever thou mayest bid me." Hearing this, St. Francis rejoiced in spirit and said, "Bernard, this that thou sayest is a task so great and difficult that we must seek counsel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and beseech Him that He be pleased to show us His will therein and teach us how we may bring it to pass. Therefore let us go to the bishop’s house, wherein is a good priest, and let us hear the mass said; then let us continue in prayer until tierce,1 beseeching God that in thrice opening of the missal He may reveal to us the path it is His will we should elect." Bernard made answer that this pleased him right well.

So they fared forth and came to the bishop’s house: and after they had heard the mass and continued praying until tierce, the priest at the bidding of St. Francis took the missal, and making the sign of holy cross, opened it thrice in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the first opening appeared the words that Christ spoke in the Gospel to the young man who asked concerning the path of perfection: "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast, and give to the poor and follow me." At the second opening appeared those words that Christ spoke unto the Apostles when He sent them forth to preach: "Take nothing for your journey, neither staves nor scrip, neither shoes nor money." . . . At the third opening of the missal appeared those words that Christ spoke: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."

Then spoke St. Francis unto Bernard, "Behold the counsel that Christ giveth us; come then and fulfill that which thou hast heard; and blessed be our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath deigned to show forth His own life in the holy Gospel." Then Bernard went out and sold all that he had, and he was very rich; and with great joy he gave all his possessions to widows, to orphans, to prisoners, to monasteries, to hospices, and to pilgrims; and in all things St. Francis helped him faithfully and wisely. . . .

Bernard had such divine grace that oftentimes in contemplation he was caught up to God; and St. Francis said of him that he was worthy of all reverence, and that it was he that had founded this Order; inasmuch as he was the first to leave the world, keeping back naught for himself, but giving all unto the poor of Christ, and, when he took on him the Gospel poverty, offering himself naked in the arms of the Crucified, to whom be all praise and glory, world without end. Amen.

1 , translated by T. W. Arnold. London, 1898. J. M. Dent and Sons.

2Fioretti di San Francesca, ch. ii.

1 The third of the canonical hours, or nine A.M.

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Chicago: T. W. Arnold, trans., The Little Flowers of St. Francis in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 360–362. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . The Little Flowers of St. Francis, translted by T. W. Arnold, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 360–362. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: (trans.), The Little Flowers of St. Francis. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.360–362. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from