The Deeds of Blessed Francis & His Companions (1328-1337) - 454 

difficulty that they found Orlando's castle. When they found him, he most willingly and charitably received them as though they were angels of God. With about fifty men, heavily armed for fear of wild animals, they were led to Mount La Verna. Looking for a place where they could prepare a home to live in, they finally found there a small piece of level ground where in the name of the Lord they decided to stay. Those laymen who came with the brothers built a hut of branches which they had cut from the trees with their broad swords. After they accepted the place there, they went for Saint Francis and told him that the place was very remote and suitable for divine contemplation.

23 When he heard this, Saint Francis gave praise to God. He then took Brother Leo, Brother Masseo and Brother Angelo, a former knight, and together they went to La Verna. When he was climbing the mountain with his blessed companions and was resting for a little while at the foot of an oak tree, a great number of different kinds of birds flew to blessed Francis with joy and song and a sportive flapping of their wings. Some of the birds settled on his head, some on his shoulders, some on his knees and some on his hands. Seeing this remarkable and unusual thing, blessed Francis said to his companions: "I believe, my very dear brothers, that our Lord Jesus Christ is pleased that we have accepted a place on this solitary mountain where our sisters, the birds, show such pleasure at our coming." Then rising totally joyful in spirit, he made his way to the place where there was yet nothing but the very poor little hut made from the branches of trees. And when he saw a solitary place where, separated from the others, he could pray, he made a poor little cell on the side of the mountain, and ordered that none of his companions should come to him, nor should they allow anyone else to come except Brother Leo, because he intended to keep a forty days' fast there in honor of Saint Michael.a He told Brother Leo not to come to him more than once a day with bread and water; and once at night at the time for matins; and at that time to approach him saying nothing but "Lord, open my lips." And if then Francis answered from within: "And my mouth shall declare your praise," Ps 51:17 [Vulgate, Ps 50:17] they would recite matins together. But if there was no immediate response, Brother Leo should leave. He ordered this because sometimes he was in such an ecstasy of spirit and so absorbed in God that he was not able to speak through-




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 454