A Sermon on the Feast of the Transferal of the Body, 1267 - 740 

loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king as his friend, and not merely an earthly king, but the everlasting King of glory whose friendship ensures that we will arrive at the eternal kingdom. For the Son of God who is the reflection of eternal light and untarnished mirror of God's active power, Wis 7:26 loves only the pure of heart. As the Book of Wisdom tells us: Wisdom will never make its way into a crafty soul nor stay in a body enslaved to sin. Wis 1:4 Saint Francis cherished innocence and purity and so he won the friendship of the everlasting King. Dear brothers, anyone who desires to preserve innocence and purity of heart has to fulfill two necessary conditions. First, he must do penance by willingly undertaking afflictions; and second, he must have patience in tribulations inflicted by others. These are two refining virtues which purify the soul: the first as by water, the second as by fire. We read in the Psalms: We went through fire and water and you have brought us out to a place of rest. Ps 66:12 [Vulgate, Ps 65:12] Just as it is impossible to clean dirty clothes without washing them, so the soul cannot be purified without passing through the refining fire of penance and patience. Because a friend is a friend at all times, he has to be pure of heart. Sirach reflects: If a man washes after touching a corpse, and then touches it again, what is the good of his washing?

Saint Francis was purified through penance in fasting, abstinence and afflictions. There is a remarkable similarity between him and Saint Benedict. Once when Saint Benedict was troubled by temptations of the flesh, he flung himself naked upon thorns and stinging nettles to drive the temptations away.a Saint Francis also when he was once in the Alps threw himself into thorns and freezing snow to curb temptations of the flesh.

Dear brothers, if from your earliest years, you have subdued the flesh, you will withstand its temptations all the more easily and be free of its lusts. I have an example to tell you about a young man who joined the Order of Lesser Brothers.b After he had been in the Order for a short time, he became troubled with temptations of the flesh. He was so aroused by lust that he was convinced he could neither withstand nor control it. He went to his provincial minister who was staying in the friary at that time, and confided to him how tormented he was with lust, and told him that he felt he ought to leave the friary, he was so plagued by the flesh. The provincial spoke many words of comfort to him, but to no avail. Subsequently, another brother told him how Saint Francis had overcome temptations of the flesh,




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 740