Dominican Hagiography and Sermons - 788 

he administers, when he maintains a concubine and his hands are polluted from touching the flesh of a whore?"

The holy man, realizing the evil intent of the heretic, went up to the priest in the presence of all the parishioners, knelt down before him and said: "I do not know whether these hands are such as this man says they are. But even if they were, I know that they can in no way lessen the power and the efficacy of the sacraments of God. These hands remain the means through which many of God's benefits and graces flow to the people. That is why I kiss them, out of respect for the things they administer and out of reverence for Him by whose authority they do so." Having said this, he knelt down in front of that priest and kissed his hands, to the confusion of the heretics and their adherents who were present.

Further on, Stephen gives another version of the same story:a

I have heard that one day blessed Francis entered a certain village in Lombardy where the fame of his holiness preceded him. Now a certain heretic, knowing him to be a simple man, wanted to demonstrate the truth of his own sect and increase those who believed in it, for all the people had run out to meet Francis. Therefore, seeing that the priest of the village was also hurrying out to greet Francis, the heretic called out: "Look, good man, what do you think about this fellow who has the care of this parish? He keeps a concubine, and it is clear to all of us that he is guilty of many sins. Can such a man administer or do anything which is not tainted?"

The Saint, realizing the heretic's malice, said: "Is this man here the priest of this village about whom you are saying such things?" When they said: "It is," Francis fell down on his knees in the dust and, kissing the priest's hands, said: "These hands have touched my Lord. No matter what kind of hands they may be, they are not able to make Him impure nor lessen His power. For the honor of the Lord, I will honor his servant. For himself, this man might be evil, but he is good for me." And at this the heretics were confounded.

In the same tract Stephen tells about a sermon which Francis gave in the presence of the prelates:b

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Fontes Franciscani, p.


et factis eius aliqua reverentia exhibenda, qui concubinam tenet et manus habet pollutas, carnes meretricis tractando?"

Attendens autem vir sanctus haeretici malitiam, coram parrochianis venit ad sacerdotem ilium, [et] flectens genua ante eum ait: "Si tales sunt manus illius, quales iste dicit, nescio; et si etiam tales essent, scio quod non possunt inquinare virtutem et efficaciam divinorum sacramentorum. Sed, quia per manus istas multa beneficia Dei et carismata populo Dei fluunt, istas osculor ob reverentiam eorum, quae ministrant, et cuius auctoritate administrant ea." Et hoc dicens et flectens genua coram sacerdote illo, manus eius osculabatur, çonfundens haereticos et eis credentes, qui aderant

 

Audivi, quod, cum beatus Franciscus intraret quamdam villam in Lumbardia, et opinio esset ibi de eius sanctitate, quidam haereticus, cogitans eum hominem simplicem, volens confirmare sectam suam et credentes suos in ea qui occurrerant, videns sacerdotem villae ei occurrere, clamavit: "Ecce, bone homo, quid dicis de isto, qui villae istius parrochiam tenet et concubinam habet et multis criminibus omnibus nobis patet obnoxius? Quid mundum potest ab eo dari vel trattari ?".

Advertens Sanctus dolum haeretici: "Estne, inquit, iste sacerdos huius villae, de quo talia dicitis?". Cum dicerent: "Est," flexis genibus in luto, ait osculando manus eius: "Istae manus Dominum meum tetigerunt, nec, qualescumque sint, immundum eum facere potuerunt nec virtutem eius imminuere. In honore Domini honora ministrum; sibi malus esse potest, mihi bonus est." Ad quod sunt haeretici confutati.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 788