The Little Flowers of Saint Francis (after 1337) - 632 

Chapter 40

The blessed Christ, wishing to show the great holiness of his most faithful servant, Sir Saint Anthony, and how devoutly his preaching and holy teaching should be heeded, refuted the foolishness of unbelieving heretics by using irrational animals, one time among others, by using fish, just as in ancient times in the Old Testament He had refuted the foolishness of Balaam by the mouth of the ass. For once when Saint Anthony was in Rimini, where there was a great number of heretics, and wishing that they return to the light of the true faith and the way of truth, he preached to them for many days and discussed the faith of Christ and the Holy Scriptures. But as they not only did not agree with his holy speeches, but actually became hardened and obstinate, and did not want to hear him, by divine inspiration Saint Anthony went one day to the mouth of the river close by the sea, and standing on the bank between the river and the sea, he began, as if preaching, calling the fish on behalf of God: "Listen to the Word of God, you fish of the sea and the river, because the unbelieving heretics refuse to listen." And as soon as he said this, immediately such a multitude of large fish came to him at the bank that such a great multitude had never been seen there. They all held their heads above the water, all turned to face Saint Anthony, and all in great peace and meekness and order: in front of the bank and closer in were the little fish, and behind them the medium fish, and then behind them, where the water was deepest, the biggest fish.

When all the fish were arranged and lined up in this way, Saint Anthony began to preach solemnly and said: "My brother fish, you have a great obligation, according to your ability, to give thanks to your Creator, who has given you such a noble element for your home. You have fresh or salt water, as you like. And he has given you many shelters to avoid storms. Moreover, He has given you an element that is clear and transparent, and food to eat by which you can live. God, your courteous and kind Creator, when He created you, gave you a commandment to increase and multiply, and He gave you His blessing. Then when there was the Flood over everything, and all the other animals died, God preserved only you without harm. Furthermore, He has given you fins so you can go anywhere you please. By the command of God you were allowed to preserve Jonah the prophet, and after the third day to spit him onto the land, safe and sound. You presented the tax-coin to our Lord Jesus Christ when, as a little poor man, he did not have any way to pay. You were the food




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 632