The Little Flowers of Saint Francis (after 1337) - 611 

eternal perdition, who deserve the pains of hell; and daily we increase our perdition, and we don't know if we'll be able to return to the mercy of God from the sins we have done up to now." As one of them was saying these and similar words the other two said: "What you're saying is really true, but what do we have to do?" The first one said: "Let's go to Saint Francis and if he gives us hope that we can turn from our sins to the mercy of God, we'll do what he commands us, and we can free our souls from the pains of hell."

This suggestion pleased the others, and so all three agreed and went quickly to Saint Francis and said to him: "Father, because of the many horrible sins we have done, we do not believe we can return to the mercy of God. But if you have any hope that God will receive us into His mercy, we're prepared to do what you tell us and to do penance with you." Then Saint Francis, receiving them charitably and kindly, encouraging them with many examples and assuring them of the mercy of God, promised them as certain that he would obtain this from God for them, showing them that the mercy of God is infinite: "And if we had infinite sins, the divine mercy is still greater than our sins, according to the Gospel; and the Apostle Saint Paul said, 'The blessed Christ came into this world to redeem sinners.'" 1 Tm 1:15 Through these words and similar teachings, those three robbers renounced the demon and his works and Saint Francis received them into the Order, and they began to do great penance. And two of them lived only briefly after their conversion and went to Paradise. But the third survived and, thinking over his sins, gave himself to doing such penance that continually for fifteen years, except for the common Lents which he made with the other brothers, at other times he always fasted three days a week on bread and water, always going barefoot and wearing only one tunic; and he never slept after Matins.

During this time Saint Francis passed from this miserable life. And that brother, having continued such penance for many years, one night after Matins was overcome with such a temptation to sleep that he could in no way resist sleep and keep awake as he usually did. Finally, unable to resist sleep or to pray, he went to bed to sleep. As soon as he put down his head, he was caught up and led in spirit to the top of a very high mountain, where there was a very deep ravine, with broken boulders here and there and jagged rock formations coming out of the boulders, so that it was a frightening sight to look into that ravine. And the angel who was leading this brother pushed him and threw him down into that ravine. Falling headlong and striking rock after rock, and boulder after boulder, he finally came to the bottom of this ravine, all his limbs broken and torn, as it seemed




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 611