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Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi
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CHAPTER XLVIII


HOW BROTHER JAMES DELLA MASSA SAW IN A VISION ALL THE FRIARS MINOR IN THE WORLD IN THE FORM OF A TREE; AND HOW THE VIRTUES, THE MERITS AND THE VICES OF ALL WERE MADE KNOWN TO HIM


Brother James della Massa, to whom the Lord revealed many secrets, and to whom he gave a perfect knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and of the future, was so holy, that Brother Giles of Assisi, Brother Mark of Montino, Brother Juniper, and Brother Lucido said of him, that they knew no one in the world who was greater in the sight of God than this Brother James. I had a great wish to see him; for having asked Brother John, the companion of Brother Giles, to explain to me certain spiritual things, he said to me: “If thou wilt be well directed in things spiritual, try to speak with Brother James della Massa; for his words being the words of the Holy Spirit, one can neither add to nor take away from them anything, and there is not a man on earth whom I have a greater wish to see.” When Brother John of Parma was a minister of the convent, this Brother James was once, in prayer, ravished in God, remaining for three days in ecstasy, quite insensible to all bodily feeling, so that the brethren thought him to be dead; and during this ecstasy many things with regard to the Order were revealed to him. Having learnt this, my wish to speak to him and to hear him greatly increased. When the Lord permitted me to see him, I thus addressed him: “If that which I have heard of thee be true, I pray thee not to conceal it from me. I have heard that when thou wast three days as if thou hadst been dead, the Lord revealed to thee, amongst other things, what was to take place in our Order; and this was told me by Brother Matthew, to whom thou didst reveal it out of obedience.” Brother James confessed most humbly that what Brother Matthew had said was true: now this is what Brother Matthew told me: “I know a brother to whom the Lord has made known that which will take place in our Order; for Brother James della Massa had told me that, after the Lord had revealed to him many things concerning the Church militant, he saw in a vision a large and beautiful tree, the root of which was of gold, and all the branches were men, and these men were all Friars Minor; and there were as many large branches as there were provinces in the Order, and each branch was composed of as many brethren as there were friars in each province; and he was informed of the number of friars in the Order, and in each province - with their names, their ages, their rank, and the different offices they filled - also their various merits and defects. And he saw Brother John of Parma at the summit of the highest branch of the tree, and round him were the ministers of each province; and he saw Christ, the blessed one, sitting on a throne, who, calling St Francis to him, gave him a chalice full of the spirit of life, saying, ‘Go to thy brothers, and give them to drink of this spirit of life, as Satan will rise up against them, and many will fall and not rise again.’ And Christ, the blessed one, gave to St Francis two angels to accompany him; and St Francis took the chalice to his brothers, and offered it first to Brother John of Parma, who taking it drank all its contents in haste, but with great reverence, and having done so he became luminous, like the sun. After him St Francis offered it to all the others; and very few there were who took it, and drank with devotion: those who did so, were filled with light, like the sun; but those who took the chalice, and threw away its contents most irreverently, became black and deformed, and horrible to look at; those who drank a part of the contents and threw away the rest, were partly bright and partly dark, in proportion to the quantity they drank or threw away. The brightest of all was the said Brother John, who, having drained to the dregs the cup of life, had seen by the aid of a celestial light the tempests and troubles which were about to rise against the tree, shaking and tearing its branches; for which reason the said Brother John left the top of the tree where he was, and placing himself under its branches hid himself close to the roots. A brother who had drunk some and thrown away some of the contents of the chalice, took possession of the place on the branch he had left; no sooner was he there, than the nails of his fingers became like points of iron; on seeing this, he hastened to leave the place he had taken, and in his fury he sought to vent his rage on Brother John; and Brother John perceiving his intention, cried out to Christ, the blessed one, who was seated on his throne, to help him; and Christ, hearing his cry, called St Francis, and giving him a sharp stone, said: ‘Take this stone, and going cut the nails of the brother who seeks to tear Brother John, so that he may not be able to do him any harm.’ And St Francis did as he was ordered. In the meantime a great tempest arose and the wind shook the tree in such a way that all the brethren fell to the ground. First fell those who had thrown away the contents of the chalice of the spirit of life: these were carried by devils to dark regions, full of pain and anguish; but Brother John, and others who had drunk of the chalice, were carried by angels to the regions of life eternal, full of light and splendour. And Brother James, who witnessed the vision, saw clearly the names, the condition and the fate of each brother. And the tempest did not cease till the tree was blown down, and carried away by the wind; and immediately another tree arose out of the golden roots of the old one, and it was entirely composed of gold, with its leaves and fruits; but for the present we will not describe the beauty, the virtues, and the delicious fragrance of this wonderful tree.”


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