The Minor Legend - 694 

Chapter III
THE PREROGATIVES OF THE VIRTUES

First Lesson

As a loyal follower of the crucified Jesus, Francis, that man of God, crucified his flesh with its passions Gal 5:24 and desires from the very beginning of his conversion with such rigid discipline, and checked his sensual impulses according to such a strict law of moderation, that he would scarcely take what was necessary to sustain nature. When he was in good health he hardly and rarely allowed cooked food. When he did, however, he made the food bitter by either mixing ashes with it or made it as insipid as possible by pouring water over it. Withdrawing his flesh from wine in order to turn his mind to the light of wisdom, he preserved such strict control over drinking that we can clearly understand that when he was suffering from a burning thirst, he scarcely would dare to drink enough cold water to satisfy himself. He often used the naked ground as his bed for his weary body, a stone or a piece of wood for his head. The clothes covering him were simple, wrinkled, and rough. Established experience had taught him that malignant spirits are put to flight by using things difficult and harsh, but they are more strongly animated to tempting by things luxurious and delicate.

Second Lesson

Unbending in discipline, he kept an exceedingly attentive watch over himself. Is 21:8 He took particular care in guarding the priceless treasure in a vessel of clay, that is, chastity, which he strove to possess in holiness and honor through the virtuous purity of both body and soul. For this reason, around the beginning of his conversion during the winter cold, he would plunge himself many times, strong and fervid in spirit, into a ditch filled with icy water or snow. He did this to subjugate the enemy within and to preserve the white robe of modesty from the flames of voluptuousness. Practices such as these enabled him to use his bodily senses in an appealing, modest manner. His mastery over the flesh was now so complete that he seemed to have made a covenant with his eyes; he would not only flee far away from carnal sights, but also totally avoid even the curious glance at anything vain.

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Legenda Minor, Fontes Franciscani, p. 979-981


III
De praerogativa virtutum.

Lectio prima.

1 1Insignis sectator crucifixi Iesu, vir Dei Franciscus a suae conversionis primordiis tanta disciplinae rigiditate carnem crucifigebat cum vitiis motusque sensuales tam stricta frenabat modestiae lege, ut vix necessaria sumeret sustentationi naturae. 2Nam coeta cibaria sanitatis tempore vix admittebat et raro, admissa vero aut commixtione cineris interdum faciebat amara aut aquei superinfusione liquoris ut plurimum reddebat insipida. 3Quam vero districtam in potu parcitatem servaverit, carnem suam a vino abstrahens, ut transferret animum ad sapientiae lucem, hinc liquido valemus advertere, quod et de aqua frigida cum sitis aestuabat ardore, vix audebat ad sufficientiam bibere. 4Nuda humus ut saepius lectus erat lassato corpusculo, cervical lapis vel lignum, vestisque simplex, rugosa et hispida tegumentum, pro eo quod experientia certa didicerat, hostes malignos duris et asperis in fugam converti, delicatis autem et mollibus ad tentandum fortius animari.

Lectio secunda.

2 1Rigidus in disciplina super custodiam suam invigilabat attentius, curam gerens praecipuam de impretiabilis custoditione thesauri, castitatis videlicet, in fictili vase, quod et possidere studebat in sanctitudinis honore per utriusque hominis integerrimam puritatem. 2Quapropter circa suae conversionis principia tempore hiemalis algoris, spiritu fortis et fervidus, in foveam glacie aut nive repletam se ipsum plerumque mergebat, ut et domesticum hostem sibi perfecte subigeret et candidum vestimentum munditiae a voluptatis incendio praeservaret. 3Tanta quoque per exercitationes huiusmodi fulgere coepit in sensibus venustate pudoris, ut plenum iam carnis assecutus dominium, foedus cum oculis pepigisse videretur, quod non solum carnalem aspectum procul refugeret, sed et curiosum vanitatis cuiuscumque contuitum omnino caveret.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 694

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