HOW ST FRANCIS WAS ACQUAINTED WITH THE SECRETS OF THE CONSCIENCES OF ALL HIS BRETHREN
As our Lord Jesus Christ says in his Gospel, I know my sheep and mine know me, so the holy St Francis, like a good shepherd, knew, through divine revelation, all the merits and virtues of his companions, and also their defects and faults, and was enabled to deal with them according to their needs - humbling the proud and exalting the humble, rebuking vice and praising virtue - as we read in the wonderful revelations which were made to him by God with regard to his first children. Amongst others, we are told that once St Francis was with his companions in a convent talking of God, when Brother Ruffino was absent, being in contemplation in the forest; and, as the saint was conversing with them, Brother Ruffino passed by at some distance, whereon St Francis asked them whom they believed to be the holiest soul in the world. They answered immediately, that they believed it to be St Francis. The saint reproved them, saying: "Beloved brothers, I am the most unworthy and the vilest of all men in the world; but see there Brother Ruffino, who is now coming out of the forest; the Lord has revealed to me that his soul is one of the three most holy on earth; and I tell you candidly, I should not hesitate to call him St Ruffino even during his lifetime, his soul being full of grace, and sanctified and canonised in heaven by our Lord Jesus Christ." This opinion St Francis never expressed in the presence of Brother Ruffino. That he was equally acquainted with the defects of his brethren, we learn in the case of Brother Elias, whom he often reproved for his pride; and of Brother John della Cappella, to whom he foretold that he would hang himself; and of that brother who was seized by the devil as a punishment for his disobedience; and of many others whose defects and virtues were clearly revealed to him by Christ.
HOW BROTHER MASSEO OBTAINED FROM CHRIST THE VIRTUE OF HUMILITY
The first companions of St Francis set themselves with all their might to follow holy poverty with regard to earthly things, and to acquire every other virtue, as the sure means of obtaining celestial and eternal riches. It happened, therefore, that one day, as they were assembled together to speak of things divine, one of them related the following example: "There was a man, a great friend of God, to whom had been given the grace of a life contemplative as well as active. He was at the same time so humble, that he looked upon himself as a very great sinner; and his humility was to him a means of sanctification, and confirmed him in the grace of God; for it caused him to increase in virtue, and saved him from falling into sin." And Brother Masseo, hearing such wonderful things of humility, and knowing it to be one of the greatest treasures of life eternal, was so inflamed with a love and desire of this virtue of humility, that he lifted his eyes to heaven with much fervour, and made a vow and firm resolution never again to rejoice until he should feel the said virtue to be firmly established in his soul. From that moment he was constantly shut up in his cell, maserating his body with fasts and vigils and prayers, weeping before the Lord, and earnestly imploring him to grant him this virtue, without which he felt that he was only worthy of hell, and with which the friend of God of whom he had heard was so richly endowed. Brother Masseo having passed several days in this state of mind, as he was entering the forest and asking the Lord, who willingly listens to the prayers of the humble, with cries and tears to grant him this divine virtue, he heard a voice from heaven, which called him twice: "Brother Masseo! Brother Masseo!" And he, knowing in his spirit that it was the voice of Christ, answered: "My Lord." Then Christ answered: "What wilt thou give in exchange for this virtue which thou askest for?" And Brother Masseo answered: "Lord, I will willingly give the eyes out of my head." Christ answered: "I grant thee the virtue, and command at the same time that thou keep thine eyes." And having said these words, the voice was silent; and Brother Masseo was so filled with the grace of humility, that from thenceforward he was constantly rejoicing. And often when he was in prayer he was heard to utter a joyful sound, like the song of a bird, resembling "U-u-u", and his face bore a most holy and happy expression. With this he grew so humble that he esteemed himself less than all other men in the world. And Brother James of Fallerone having asked him why in his joy he used always the same sound, he replied gaily, that when in one way he found all good he saw no reason to change it.