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Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi
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CHAPTER XXX


OF THE BEAUTIFUL SERMON WHICH ST FRANCIS AND BROTHER RUFFINO PREACHED AT ASSISI


The said Brother Ruffino, through constant contemplation, was so absorbed in God that he became almost insensible to things external, and very seldom spoke; added to which he never had possessed the gift of speech, neither was he eloquent nor self-possessed. Notwithstanding this, St Francis ordered him one day to go to Assisi and preach to the people that which God should dictate to him. On this Brother Ruffino expostulated, saying: “Reverend Father, I pray thee excuse me, and send some other brother in my stead; for thou knowest that I have not the grace of preaching: I am simple and ignorant.” At this St Francis answered: “Inasmuch as thou hast not obeyed immediately, I command thee to take off thy cloak and thy hood and go to Assisi, where thou shalt enter a church and preach to the people; and this shalt thou do out of holy obedience.” Having received this order, Brother Ruffino, taking off his mantle and his hood, proceeded to Assisi, and entering the church, after having bowed before the altar, he mounted into the pulpit and began to preach to the people, who, seeing him in so strange a dress, laughed at him, saying: “These men do such penance that they are quite out of their mind.” In the meantime St Francis, reflecting how promptly Brother Ruffino, who was one of the most noble men of Assisi, had obeyed the harsh command he had given, reproached himself saying: “How couldst thou, who art but the humble son of Peter Bernardoni, send one of the most distinguished men of Assisi to preach to the people as if he were a madman? May God forgive thee! But thou shalt do the same thing which thou hast ordered him to do.” And immediately taking off his clock and his hood with great fervour of spirit, he went to Assisi, taking with him Brother Leo, who carried his mantle and that of Brother Ruffino. The inhabitants of Assisi, seeing him thus accoutred, reviled him, believing that both he and Brother Ruffino were out of their minds through much penance. St Francis entered the church as Brother Ruffino was saying these words: “O beloved, flee from the world, and leave sin; render to all men that which is their due, if thou wilt avoid hell; keep the commandments of God and love the Lord and thy neighbour, if thou wilt possess the kingdom of heaven.” Then St Francis ascended the pulpit, and began to preach in so wonderful a way on holy penance, on the world, on voluntary poverty, on the hope of life eternal, on the nakedness of Christ and on the shame of the Passion of our Blessed Saviour, that all they who heard him, both men and women, began to weep bitterly, being moved to devotion and compunction; and in all Assisi the Passion of Christ was commemorated as it never had been before; so that the people were greatly edified by this action of St Francis and of Brother Ruffino. Then St Francis put on the clock of Brother Ruffino and his own, and returned to the convent of the Portiuncula, praising and glorifying God, who had given them grace to conquer and despise themselves, to the edification of the flock of Christ, and enabled them, by their example, to show how the world ought to be despised. And from that day the people greatly revered them, so that those who could touch but the hem of their garments esteemed themselves blessed.


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