The second miracle happened in the kingdom of Castile. A man who was devoted to St. Francis was hurrying off to compline one evening when he was set upon by an assassin who had mistaken him for someone else. He was mortally wounded and left half dead. As he lay there, the brutal murderer drove his sword so far into his throat that he was unable to pull it out again, and had to leave it and go. People came running from every direction, and there was a great hue and cry, everyone weeping and wailing as if the man were dead. But at midnight, when the monastery bell sounded for matins, the man’s wife called out, “Up you get, sir, off to matins, the bell is calling you!” At once the man raised his hand as if he were gesturing to someone to pull the sword from his throat, and as people looked on in amazement, the sword came out and flew through the air into the distance as if flung by the hand of some prizefighter. Immediately the man was perfectly well again, and he got to his feet and said, “Blessed Francis came to me and held his stigmata to my wounds, and their sweetness soothed all the pain away, and my wounds closed miraculously at their touch! He was on the point of going, but I gestured to him to draw out the sword, because otherwise I could not speak. He grasped it, gave a mighty pull and set it flying away; then he gently brushed the wounds on my throat with his holy stigmata and at once they were completely healed.”
Blessed Francis was full of dovelike simplicity and exhorted all creatures to love their Creator; he preached to the birds and they listened to him; they allowed him to touch them and never left him until he gave them his permission. Once when he was preaching, some swallows were twittering, and at his command they instantly fell silent. At the Portiuncula church, a cicada used to perch on a fig tree by his cell and sing incessantly, so the man of God held out his hand and called to her, “Sister cicada, come here to me.” At once the cicada obediently hopped on to his hand. “Sing, sister cicada,” Francis said, “and give praise to your Lord!” And the cicada immediately began to sing and flew off only when Francis gave her leave.
Once Francis came upon a great flock of birds and greeted them as if they were endowed with reason. “My brother birds,” he said, “you really ought to sing the praises of your Creator, who has clothed you with feathers, given you wings to fly with, granted you the clean, fresh air, and directs your lives so that you have no care at all.” The birds began to stretch their necks toward him, to spread their wings, open their beaks, and look at him intently. Francis walked through their midst and, as he did so, brushed them with his cloak, yet not a single one of them moved until he gave his permission,and then they all flew away together.
© 1998 Christopher Stace. Used with permission of Penguin Books Ltd.
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