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Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi
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CHAPTER XXIX


HOW THE DEVIL OFTEN APPEARED TO BROTHER RUFFINO IN THE FORM OF A CRUCIFIX, TELLING HIM THAT ALL THE GOOD HE DID WAS OF NO AVAIL, SEEING HE WAS NOT OF THE NUMBER OF THE ELECT OF GOD; WHICH BEING REVEALED TO ST FRANCIS, HE MADE KNOWN TO BROTHER RUFFINO THE ERROR INTO WHICH HE HAD FALLEN

 


BROTHER RUFFINO, one of the most noble men of the city of Assisi, a companion of St Francis and a man of great sanctity, was one day violently tempted in mind on the subject of predestination, so that he grew quite melancholy and sorrowful; for the devil put it into his heart that he was damned, and not of the number of those predestined to life eternal, making him believe that all he did in the Order was of no avail. And this temptation increasing more and more, he had not the courage to reveal it to St Francis, though he never ceased to pray and to fast: for the enemy of his soul added sorrow to sorrow, not only fighting inwardly but likewise outwardly, taking various forms in order better to deceive him. One day he appeared to him under that of a crucifix, and said to him: “O Brother Ruffino, why dost thou inflict on thyself penance and prayer, as thou art not of the number of the predestinate to life eternal? Believe me - for I know whom I have chosen and predestined - and believe not the son of Peter Bernardoni if he tell thee the contrary; and do not take his advice in this matter, since neither he nor any man knows the truth but I, who am the Son of God. Know of a certainty that thou art of the number of the damned; and the son of Peter Bernardoni, thy father, and his father likewise, are damned, and whosoever followeth them is damned also.” On hearing these words, Brother Ruffino was so blinded by the spirit of darkness, that he lost all the faith and love he had felt for St Francis hitherto, and would not even communicate to him what was passing within him. But that which Brother Ruffino did not reveal to his saintly father was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. When, therefore, the saint learned to what dangers his son was exposed, he sent to him Brother Masseo; but Brother Ruffino refused to listen to him, saying: “What have I to do with Brother Francis?” And Brother Masseo, enlightened by the Spirit of God and knowing the deceits of the devil, answered: “O Brother Ruffino, thou knowest that St Francis may be compared to an angel of God, who has made known the truth to many souls in the world, and through whom we have received the grace of God; wherefore I will at all events that thou come with us to him, for I clearly see that thou art deceived by the devil.” On hearing these words, Brother Ruffino arose and went to St Francis; and the saint, perceiving him at a distance, cried out: “O Brother Ruffino, thou foolish one, whom hast thou believed?” Then coming up to him, he related to him one by one all the temptations, both internal and external, to which he had been exposed, showing him clearly that he who had appeared to him was the devil and not Christ, and that he was by no means to listen to his suggestions; but if he appeared to him again and said unto him “Thou art damned”, he was to say to him these words: “Open thy mouth!” and by this sign he would clearly know that he was the devil and not Christ; for no sooner should the words be uttered than he would immediately disappear. “Thou shouldst have known,” added the saint, “with whom thou wast dealing, when he hardened thy heart against all that was good, for such is his especial office; but Christ, the blessed one, never hardens the heart of the faithful; for on the contrary his office is to soften the heart of man, according to the words of the prophet: I will take away from thee the heart of stone, and will give thee a heart of flesh.” Then Brother Ruffino, seeing that St Francis was acquainted with all his temptations in the order they had come to him, was deeply touched by his exhortations, and beginning to weep bitterly, he humbly confessed his guilt in concealing from him his trouble. He was greatly consoled and comforted by the admonitions of his saintly father, which St Francis ended by saying: “My son, go to confession, and give not up the practice of thine accustomed prayers; know of a certainty that this temptation will be to thee a source of great consolation and humility, as thou shalt shortly see.” Then Brother Ruffino returned to his cell in the wood; and as he was praying and weeping bitterly the enemy approached, bearing in his exterior the semblance of Christ himself. He thus addressed him: “O Brother Ruffino, did I not tell thee not to listen to the son of Peter Bernardoni, nor to weary thyself with prayer and fasting, inasmuch as thou art damned? What is the use of inflicting on thyself privations in this world, seeing thou hast no hope of salvation after death?” And immediately Brother Ruffino said, “Open thy mouth!” upon which the devil left him in so great rage and fury, that all Monte Subasio, which was close by, was shaken to the very foundation, and large stones rolled down the sides, knocking against each other as they fell, and producing a great fire in all the valley; and the noise they made was so terrible that St Francis and all his companions went out to see what had taken place: and even to this day those large stones are to be seen lying in great confusion. Then Brother Ruffino saw plainly that it was the devil who had deceived him, and returning to St Francis he threw himself at his feet, acknowledging his fault. St Francis comforted him with kind words, and sent him back to his cell full of consolation. As he was praying there most devoutly, Christ, the blessed one, appeared to him, and filling his soul with the fire of divine love, he thus addressed him: “Thou didst well, my son, to believe in St Francis; for he who made thee so unhappy was the devil. But I am Christ, thy Master; and in order to prove to thee that I am he, I promise thee that thou shalt never again be troubled in this way.” Having said these words. he departed, leaving the brother so happy, and enjoying such peace and sweetness of spirit, with his mind so raised above the things of this world, that for a whole day and night he was rapt in God, and from that moment he had no doubts as to his salvation, and became quite a new man. Most willingly would he have remained day and night in prayer and in the contemplation of divine things, had he been permitted to do so. Wherefore St Francis said of him that he had been canonised during his lifetime by Christ, and that, save in his presence, he would not hesitate to call him St Ruffino, even though he were still on earth.


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