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 The Versified Life of Saint Francis (after 1283) - 83 

243His foe, and no longer crave for transient things.a
Upon a certain day, while deeply absorbed in his prayers
And totally engaged in contemplating godly things,
Christ Jesus appeared to him as though He were nailed to a cross.
As he gazed upon the vision, the love he felt for Him
And for His cross, the Passion now imprinted on his heart
And firmly fixed even to the very marrow of his soul,
Were such that, as often thenceforth the crucifixion of Christ
Came to mind, with difficulty could he restrain his tears.
He now knew this to be the form of the gospel given him
By Christ, who taught that whoever had a mind to come after
Him, to deny himself and, having taken up the cross,
His undeviating footprints with devotion follow. Mt 16:24

Thence his chief concern was to discern the cross within
Himself and to be more personally humble, poor, and pious.
There was a time when in horror from lepers he would recoil
And even from a long way off could scarcely bear their sight;
But now that he was humbled for the sake of Christ crucified,
Who Himself became leper-like, as the prophet testified,
Despised and rejected, he would minister to lepers,
To them be bountiful, and to other needy merciful.
Moreover, his own garments he took off to give away,
And unstitched or tore them for others, not himself, to have.
With reverence he came to the aid of churches and of priests,
Lavish was he with all that worship of the altar lacked,
And in those sacred mysteries his longing was to share.

To Saint Peter's in Rome around that time he made his way,
And saw, on his devotional visit to that holy abode,
A multitude of paupers sitting at the temple's doors.
At that moment, poverty and pity both stirring his love,
He delivered his garments to one he saw to be poorer
Than the rest, and in their stead the other's torn and wretched
Rags he put on; a pauper in a pauper's company.
So, he spent the day the happiest of men among the poor,
Hoping that, thus scorning mundane pride, he might by degrees
Up to those levels of greatest loftiness be transported.
From middle courses to summit is progress wont to be made,
And step by step does heightened virtue receive its vigor;
The mightiest of rivers originate as humble streams.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 83

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