The Legend of the Three Companions - 74 

After taking off the beggar's clothes and putting on his own, he returned to Assisi, and began to pray that the Lord would direct his way. He did not share his secret with anyone; nor did he seek counsel from anyone, except from God alone, and, periodically, from the bishop of Assisi. For at that time no one possessed the real poverty that he desired more than anything else in this world, in which he yearned to live and die.

Chapter IV
HOW HE BEGAN TO OVERCOME HIMSELF BY HIS DEALING WITH LEPERS,
AND TO CONSIDER SWEET WHAT WAS PREVIOUSLY BITTER

11One day, while he was praying enthusiastically to the Lord, he received this response: "Francis, everything you loved carnally and desired to have, you must despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. Because once you begin doing this, what before seemed delight- ful and sweet will be unbearable and bitter; and what before made you shudder will offer you great sweetness and enormous delight."

He was overjoyed at this and was comforted by the Lord. One day he was riding his horse near Assisi, when he met a leper. And, even though he usually shuddered at lepers, he made himself dismount, and gave him a coin, kissing his hand as he did so. After he accepted a kiss of peace from him, Francis remounted and continued on his way. He then began to consider himself less and less, until, by God's grace, he came to complete victory over himself.

After a few days, he moved to a hospice of lepers, taking with him a large sum of money. Calling them all together, as he kissed the hand of each, he gave them alms. When he left there, what before had been bitter, that is, to see and touch lepers, was turned into sweetness. For, as he said, the sight of lepers was so bitter to him, that he refused not only to look at them, but even to approach their dwellings. If he happened to come near their houses or to see them, even though he was moved by piety to give them alms through an intermediary, he always turned away his face and held his nose. With the help of God's grace, he became such a servant and friend of the lepers, that, as he testified in his Testament, he stayed among them and served them with humility.

12Changed into good after his visit to the lepers, he would take a companion, whom he loved very much, to secluded places, telling him that he had found a great and precious treasure. The man was not a little overjoyed, and gladly went with him whenever he was summoned. Francis often led him to a cave near Assisi, and, while

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Legenda Trium Sociorum, Fontes Franciscani, p. 1382-1384


7Postea vero, exuens dictos panniculos et proprios resumens, rediit Assisium coepitque orare Dominum ut dirigeret viam i suam. 8Nemini enim suum pandebat secretum, nec ullius in hac parte consilio utebatur nisi solius Dei qui viam eius dirigere coeperat, et aliquando episcopi Assisii, quia tunc temporis apud nullos erat vera paupertas quam desiderabat super omnia huius mundi, volens in ea vivere atque mori.

 Caput IV
Qualiter a leprosis coepit vincere seipsum
et sentire dulcedinem in his quae prius erant sibi amara.

11 1Cum autem quadam die Dominum ferventer oraret, responsum est illi: « Francisce, omnia quae carnaliter dilexisti et habere desiderasti oportet te contemnere ac odire si meam vis agnoscere voluntatem. 2Quod postquam inceperis facere quae tibi prius suavia et dulcia videbantur erunt tibi importabilia et amara, atque in his quae prius horrebas hauries magnam dulcedinem et suavitatem immensam. ».

3Gavisus ergo in his et in Domino confortatus, cum prope Assisium equitaret, leprosum quemdam obvium habuit. 4Et quia consueverat multum horrere leprosos, vim sibimetipsi faciens descendit de equo et obtulit illi denarium osculans sibi manum. 5Et accepto osculo pacis ab ipso reascendit equum et prosequitur iter suum. 6Exinde coepit magis ac magis seipsum contemnere donec ad sui victoriam perfecte Dei gratia perveniret.

7Post paucos autem dies, assumens multam pecuniam ad hospitale leprosorum se transtulit, et congregans omnes simul dedit cuilibet eleemosynam osculans eius manum. 8Recedente autem eo, vere quod prius sibi erat amarum, id est de leprosis videndis et tangendis, in dulcedinem est conversum. 9In tantum enim, ut dixit, amara ei fuerat visio leprosorum, ut non solum nollet eos videre sed nec eo rum habitaculis propinquare, 10et si aliquando contingebat ipsum iuxta domos eorum transire aut eos videre, licet pietate moveretur ad faciendum eis eleemosynam per interpositam personam, vultum tamen semper avertens nares suas propriis manibus obturabat. 11Sed per Dei gratiam ita factus est leprosorum famiharis et amicus, quod, sicut in testamento suo testatur, inter illos manebat et eis humiliter serviebat.

12 1Alteratus autem post leprosorum visitationem in bonum, quemdam socium suum quem multum dilexerat ad loca remota secum ducens, dicebat illi se quemdam magnum et pretiosum thesaurum invenisse. 2Exultat vir ille non modicum et libenter vadit cum illo quotiens advocatur. 3Quem Franciscus ad quamdam cryptam iuxta Assisium saepe ducebat, et ipsam solus intrans sociumque de thesauro habendo sollicitum foris relinquens,

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 74

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