The Deeds of Blessed Francis & His Companions (1328-1337) - 496 

on your knees in front of them and humbly confess your fault of being cruel to them. Then ask them on my behalf not to do evil anymore, but to fear God and not to offend their neighbors. And if they do this, I promise to provide them constantly with the things necessary for their bodies. And when you have humbly told them these things, return here."

16 In the meantime Saint Francis prayed to the Lord for them, that He soften their hearts to do penance. So it happened that when the robbers ate the alms sent by Saint Francis, they began to discuss with each other saying: "What miserable and unhappy men we are! The hard pains of hell are waiting for us. We go on robbing our neighbors and wounding people, even killing them, but we're not moved by fear of God or remorse of conscience over such horrible crimes. And here comes this holy brother to us, humbly accusing himself in front of us over some very just words he blurted out because of our wickedness. And besides this, with the bread and wine he brought us a gift of charity and relayed the very generous promise of the holy father to provide for our needs. They really are holy men of God who deserve the heavenly homeland. We are sons of eternal perdition, daily amassing avenging flames for our abominable crimes! I don't know; with the crimes we've committed can we find mercy from God?" One of them said these or similar words and the other two said: "What do we have to do?" But the first one said: "Let's go to Saint Francis. If he gives us hope that we can find mercy from God for our great sins, whatever he says, we'll do, to free our souls from the pit of hell."

23 All three together agreed with this suggestion, so they went quickly to Saint Francis and said: "Father, because of our many evil crimes, we don't believe we can find the mercy of God. But if you believe God will accept us into His mercy, then here we are, ready to do penance with you." Saint Francis received them kindly and charitably, and by encouraging them with many examples he assured them of finding the mercy of God. Moreover, he bound himself to obtain mercy for them from the Lord Jesus Christ. And he taught them that the immeasurable greatness of God's mercy would far exceed all our sins, even if they were infinite, and that, as the Gospel and Saint Paul the Apostle testify, Christ came into this world to redeem sinners.

27 Because of this healthy encouragement, the three robbers renounced the world and were received by the holy father, binding themselves to him in habit and in spirit.a Two of them lived only a




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 496