The Deeds of Blessed Francis & His Companions (1328-1337) - 520 

the faithless, the foolish, and the heretics by using irrational animals, that is, by using fish, just as the ass rebuked the foolishness of Balaam.

2 For when blessed Anthony was in Rimini, where a great number of heretics lived, wishing to bring them back to the way of truth and to the light of the true faith, he preached to them for many days from the Catholic Scriptures. But they had become like stone in their stubbornness, and they not only would not agree to his holy words, but even refused to listen.

4 Inspired by the Lord, Saint Anthony went one day to the mouth of the river near the sea, and standing on the bank near both river and sea, he began as if for a sermon by calling the fish on behalf of the Lord, saying: "Listen to the Word of God, you fish of the sea and the river, because the faithless heretics refuse to listen." And suddenly, such a multitude of small and large fish immediately came to Saint Anthony that nothing like it had ever been seen in that place, and all held their heads a little above the water.

6 You would have seen large fish there side by side with small ones, and the small ones resting peacefully under the fins of the large ones. You would have seen all different kinds of fish, each hurrying to those like themselves, and lining up facing the saint like a painted field marvelously decorated in a variety of colors. You would have seen there schools of large fish like an orderly line of troops, taking their places to hear the sermon. You would have seen there medium-sized fish take the middle places and, as if instructed by the Lord, they stayed in those places without any splashing. You would have seen all around there a very great multitude of small fish, rushing like pilgrims to an indulgence, trying to draw closer to the holy Father as if under a tutor. So for this sermon, by heavenly arrangement, there were first the smaller fish; second the medium-sized ones; and third, where the water was deeper, the very large fish: all awaiting Saint Anthony.

10 When all the fish were arranged in this way, Saint Anthony began to preach solemnly: "My brother fish, you have a great obligation to give thanks in your own way to your Creator, who has given you such a noble element for your home. You have fresh or salt waters according to your need. He has given you many shelters that you may avoid the discomfort of storms. Moreover, he has given you an element that is transparent and clear, ways to travel, and food to eat so you may live. Your kind Creator also prepares necessary food for you even in the depths of the abyss. At the creation of the world you had from the Lord a command to multiply with His blessing. In the Flood, when other animals perished, you were preserved without

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Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 520

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