Chapters XLI




About the beginning of the Order, and during the lifetime of St Francis, a young man from Assisi took the habit, whose name was Simon; and the Lord adorned him with such graces and such elevation of mind, that all his life long he was a mirror of sanctity, as I have heard from those who lived with him for a long time. He very seldom left his cell, and whenever he was in company with the brothers he spoke always of God. He had never learned grammar, yet he talked of divine things and of the love of Christ in so elevated a way and with such profound wisdom, that his words seemed to be supernatural. One evening he went into the wood with Brother James of Massa to speak of God, and they spent the whole night conversing sweetly on divine love.

When morning dawned they seemed to have been together but a few minutes, as the said Brother James told me himself. Brother Simon was so completely absorbed by the joy of these divine communications with God, and his spirit was so overflowing with love, that he was often obliged to lie down, as the tranquil sweetness which came over him with the Holy Spirit required not only the repose of the soul, but likewise that of the body; and during these divine visitations he was often rapt in God, and quite insensible to all bodily things. On one occasion, as he was thus rapt in God, and insensible to the world, his heart was so burning with divine love that his bodily senses were dead to all things external. A brother wishing to convince himself if this really was the case, as it appeared to be, took a piece of burning coal out of the fire, and put it on his foot; and Brother Simon, neither felt it, nor did it leave any mark, though it was left there some time, until it went out of itself. The said Brother Simon, when he sat down to his meals, before nourishing his body took and gave to those around him the nourishment of the soul, by speaking of God. A young man of San Severino, who had been excessively vain and worldly, and who was of noble blood and of delicate habits, was converted by means of the holy conversation of Brother Simon, and entered the Order.

When he received him into the convent he took from him his secular dress, and the young man remained with Brother Simon, to be instructed in the Rule. The devil, who is ever on the watch to do evil, tempted him so strongly in the flesh, that he felt it impossible to resist; and going to Brother Simon, he said to him: "Give me back my clothes which I wore in the world, as I cannot resist this temptation of the flesh." Brother Simon, feeling for him great compassion, said to him: "Sit down here awhile with me, my son"; and he spoke to him of God so earnestly, that the temptation left him. Shortly after, however, it returned, and he went again and asked for his clothes, and Brother Simon delivered him from it by speaking to him of God, and he did the same thing several times. At last, one night the temptation assailed him again with such force, that he felt it was quite impossible to resist; and he went to Brother Simon, and implored him to give him back his scholar's dress, as he could no longer remain in the convent. Then Brother Simon, as usual, made him sit down by his side, and talked to him of God; the young man listened, and bowing his head sorrowfully, laid it on Brother Simon's breast. The latter, filled with compassion, raised his eyes to heaven, and prayed that the Lord would have pity on him. As he prayed he was rapt in ecstasy, and his prayer was granted. When he came back to himself, he found the young man quite freed from the temptation, and as calm as if he had never been assaulted; the evil spirit which had raged in his heart was, as it were, converted into the Spirit of God, for he had approached the burning coal of divine love - that is to say, Brother Simon - and his heart henceforth was inflamed with the love of God and of his neighbours.

Finding himself on one occasion with a malefactor who had been condemned to have both eyes torn out, this young man felt such compassion for him that he went bodily to the governor, and in full council implored him with tears and prayers to allow him to give one of his eyes, so that the malefactor might not lose both. The governor and all those who composed his council were so touched by the charity of the monk, that they pardoned the culprit. Brother Simon being one day in prayer in the forest, and being greatly annoyed by a flock of crows who disturbed him in his meditations by their cries, he ordered them in the name of Christ, to go away, and never to return again; and the birds flew away at his command, and were never again seen or heard in all the country round about. And all the custody of Fermo, where the convent was situated, bore testimony to this miracle.