The Kinship of Saint Francis - 723 

death. And blessed would that brother be, he said, who would be found still faithful amid such trials. For their persecutors, stirred up by evil spirits, will say that they are offering great worship to God; thus these evil people will kill them and cast them from the earth."

34b "A time will come," blessed Francis used to say, "when the religion loved by God will have such a bad reputation because of bad examples that it will be embarrassing to go out in public. Whoever comes to enter the Order at that time will be led only by the working of the Holy Spirit; flesh and blood will put no blot on them; they will be truly blessed by the Lord. Although they will not do works of merit, for the love which makes saints work fervently will have grown cold, still they will undergo temptations; and whoever passes the tests of that time will be better than those who came before. But woe to them who congratulate themselves over the appearance of a religious way of living, those numbed by idleness, those who do not firmly resist the temptations which are permitted to test the chosen! Only those who are tested will receive the crown of life, those who, in the meantime, are disturbed by the malice of the wicked."

[A SYMBOL OF THE ORDER'S DECLINE]

35 The entire decline of the Order also was revealed to blessed Francis through a marvelous symbol. There appeared before him an immense statue similar to the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had seen in dream. It had a head of gold and a very beautiful face. Its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs bronze, its legs were of iron, its feet were partly of iron and partly clay, and its dress was of sackcloth, and this sackcloth seemed to embarrass it greatly. Blessed Francis, gazing at the statue, was thoroughly amazed by its almost indescribable beauty, its extraordinary size, and the embarrassment it seemed to have about the cheap sackcloth which it was wearing. And while he was looking in wonder at its very beautiful and lovely face, that very statue spoke to Saint Francis: "Why are you surprised? God has sent me as an example to you, so that in me you may learn what will happen to your Order.

"The golden head you see on me with its lovely face: this is the beginning of your Order, placed on the heights of evangelical perfection. And just as this element is more precious than other metals, the face more handsome than the rest, and the head's position more outstanding than the other members, so the beginning of your Order will be more precious because of its solid golden

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Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 723

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