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Saint Bernadine of Siena (1380-1444)

Sermon About Saint Francis

1. Hast then never heard that which blessed Peter the Comb-Merchant said? If' thou knowest it not, I would tell it thee, and go thou to see, there at his tomb. He was used at that time to go to matins at the Duomo, and he used to go there to listen, and this was here at Siena. He saw two angels with two torches in their hands, and entering inside he saw no other than Christ at the altar, and in the open space he saw tracks as if in ashes. Waiting a little he saw people come on foot, barefoot, who were placing their feet there where the footprints of Christ were. Then after these came saints of old, and they likewise endeavoured to put their feet into these footprints; and by reason of the many footprints of those who passed there, the first footprints were well nigh effaced. Then behind them all he saw little poor Francis, who placed his feet precisely where Christ had placed his, so that hardly could the prints of his be seen. And this was solely because he showed himself to be so close a follower of God that there could be found no one who had followed in the footprints of Christ so much as he. 2. Saint Francis was so possessed of purity that they say and maintain that to him was granted the first innocence, as Adam was before he sinned. And wherefore this is to be believed, let us see the reason. How may it be known? It is said that if Adam had not sinned, every beast, every bird, would have obeyed him, and all the elements, water, air, fire, earth, the fruits, the plants, the fishes, and in like manner every created thing. Likewise he would have received such grace from God that never would he have been subject to headache, nor to the gravel, nor to a stitch into the side, nor to fevers, nor to any of those maladies which we suffer every day. And because he sinned, every thing rebelled against him and he became subject to all these ills. As thou seest, now if a stone doth fall upon a man it doth injure him, which then it would not have hurt him. In like manner, going upon water, he may drown, and then he could not have drowned. So if anyone then had entered fire, it could not have roasted him, and now it would burn him utterly. In like manner if a mountain had fallen atop of him, it would not have hurt him, whereas now it would smother him. The air could not have hurt him, being either hot or cold; and if Adam had returned to that former state, the same graces would have been granted again to him; all the elements would have been obedient to him, all the fishes, all the birds, all the animals, all the beasts; wine, water, grass, and all things. He, Saint Francis, had these graces, hence we may suppose that he had that same innocence which Adam had before he sinned. He had power over air, over land, over fire, and over water. Freezing cold water was put around him, and it did not seem to him freezing. Likewise, to speak further of water, at one time having a very great thirst upon him, he threw himself to the ground off from the little ass on which he was riding, and it was revealed to him, he being in prayer, that he should go to a stone which there was near by, and he had water in abundance. Also we have it, he had such power over water that he made it become wine: Vinum non lidbent; and this miracle was done openly before many of his friars, while he was in Fermo. Moreover we have it that in Apulia he went up into a boat, and went to preach in another place, and the little boat returned wholly of itself. Herein mayest thou see how great power he had over the water. We have it that at one time in Lombardy passing by along the road the air being very dark like night, he had so great power that he caused a very great brightness beyond belief, by means of the power given him by God. Likewise had he power over fire, for its heat could not harm him. At another time we have it that his sight being weak, there was laid on his brow redhot iron, and it pained him not. Further, concerning the fishes, we have it that when he spoke they stayed to listen, and so likewise the birds. We have it that down there towards Some, at Todi, while he was preaching, the noise of the swallows was troublesome to him, and he ordered that they be quiet, and so they obeyed and stayed to listen to him. Moreover we have it that once a hare fleeing before the dogs, sought safety in the bosom of Saint Francis, and after that they had passed on he let it go away. And hereby thou seest that the elements and the beasts and the birds obeyed him. + Saint Bernardine of Siena: Sermons, Selected and edited by Don NAZARENO ORLANDI, Translated by HELEN JOSEPHINE ROBINS, SIENA, TIPOGRAJ-IA SOOIALB, 1920 Saint John Fisher (1469-1535) He made this world by the only commandment of his mouth, and gave to the herbs and all other creatures their virtue, and might that they have… If you doubt of his wisdom behold all this world, and consider how every creature is set with another, and every of them by himself, how the heavens are appareled with stars, the air with birds, the water with fishes, the earth with herbs, trees and animals, how the stars be clad with light, the birds with feathers, the fish with scales, the animals with hair, herbs and trees with leaves, and flowers with scent, wherein does well appear a great and marvelous wisdom of him that made them. + Saint John Fisher, Sixth Consideration, “The English Works of John Fisher”, collected by John E. B. Mayor, 1876 Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria (1502-1539) When I reflect on the cause of our scant progress and meager gains in the spiritual life, I cannot bring myself to think of God as being responsible for so bad a result except - as they say - permissive, by tolerating it. In fact, He is the true and living Being. He created so many creatures, both spiritual and material, out of nothing. He brought the sun to a stand still at the time of Joshua... He set the bush afire without letting it burn... Countless times He tamed wild animals on behalf of our saints... He has been able to make the earth so stable that it is a miracle indeed... He knew how to arrange creatures in that admirable order that you see. Notice that, in his Providence, God leads man, created free, in such a way as to force and compel him to enter that order; yet without forcing or compelling him to do so. O Wisdom above all wisdom! O inaccessible Light! You turn the learned into ignorant, and those who see into blind; and, on the contrary, you turn the ignorant into learned, and the peasants and the fishermen into scholars and teachers. Therefore, my friends, how can you believe that God, the very apex of wisdom, may have been wanting in resourcefulness and unable to accomplish His work? Don't believe that. In fact, God's wisdom “reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other and orders all things well.” And above all, how can you imagine (if you have some common sense) that the infinite Goodness would undertake on his own initiative to create the heavens and the elements of nature, animals and plants, mines and rocks, for the good of man; and again, to create man himself in His own image and likeness, as the temple of His grace and the ark of His blessedness; and again, to provide him with so many aids - such as His law, the holy patriarchs and the prophets, the continuous inspirations and services of the angels, and countless other favors; and - a thing that is far greater and more wonderful than all the other graces - to give man His own Son in service, in ransom, and in death; in short, to give man everything He could (as He Himself said, “what more was there to do for my vineyard than I have not done in it?”, yes, I say, to give man everything He could, and then forsake him altogether? ...God can keep working in you, and He knows how to use all the ways, all the paths, all the means for His purpose. + Sermon I
Stigmate di San Francesco, by Giotto
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