Tuesday, December 10, 2013
When Bernard saw young Francis practice the poverty and humility of Christ in such an admirable manner, he felt impelled to follow his way of life. He wished, however, to determine whether it was just sentimentality or sincere love of God that moved Francis, and so he invited him to his home. At their evening repast, Bernard conversed with Francis and begged him to remain for the night. A comfortable bed had been prepared for Francis. When everything grew quiet in the house, Bernard observed how Francis arose and, casting himself upon his knees, continued in prayer throughout the night. Sometimes he heard him sigh: “My God and My All!”
At daybreak Bernard told his saintly guest that he had decided to forsake all things of earth and to become his disciple. It was a source of great joy for Francis to receive so distinguished a man as his first companion in the perfect service of God. But he said to Bernard; “Concerning this matter we must determine what is the will of God. Let us go to church, that His will may be made known to us.”
Having assisted at holy Mass and spent some time in devout prayer, they asked the priest to open the book of the Gospels for them three different times. At the first opening they read the words: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor” (Mt. 19, 21). The second opening revealed the following: “Take nothing for the way” (Mk. 6, 8). The third: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Mt. 16, 24). Then St. Francis said: “This will be the rule of life which we and all those who will join us shall follow.”
Bernard went forth and sold all his goods and divided the proceeds among the poor. Then he returned to Francis. He was never happier than when he had a cross to carry. And many such opportunities presented themselves. When several other associates had gathered around Francis, he sent Bernard and a companion to Florence and then to Bologna. Because of their poor garments and the strange life they were observing, they were subjected to much ridicule and persecution in both these cities. This gave Bernard cause for rejoicing. He accepted all with perfect calmness and interior joy for love of Christ.
When St. Francis went to France and Spain in 1213-1214 to preach to the Mohamedans in Africa, he took Brother Bernard with him. On the way, however, they encountered a poor sick man, and Francis directed Bernard to remain and attend to the man’s wants. Bernard did so willingly and cheerfully until Francis called for him again on the return journey. Before his passing, the holy Founder gave Brother Bernard a special blessing and again charged all the brethren, superiors as well as subjects, to respect him. After the death of St. Francis, Bernard associated little with others. He was indeed sociable, and rated everybody higher than himself, but the spirit of prayer drew him to solitude, where he kept united with God in contemplation and conversed with the angels.
He died on July 10, between 1241 and 1246, and was buried in the church of St. Francis next to his spiritual father.
~ excerpted, in part, from The Little Flowers of St. Francis.