From the Works of the Seraphic Father
St. Francis of Assisi, 1882
The Saint Prophesies great Schisms and Tribulations in the Church.
A short time before the holy Father’s death, he called together his Children and warned them of the coming troubles, saying: ‘Act bravely, my Brethren; take courage, and trust in the Lord. The time is fast approaching in which there will be great trials and afflictions; perplexities and dissensions, both spiritual and temporal, will abound; the charity of many will grow cold, and the malice of the wicked will increase. The devils will have unusual power, the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who will obey the true Sovereign Pontiff and the Roman Church with loyal hearts and perfect charity. At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavour to draw many into error and death.
Then scandals will be multiplied, our Order will be divided, and many others will be entirely destroyed, because they will consent to error instead of opposing it. There will be such diversity of opinions and schisms among the people, the religious and the clergy, that, except those days were shortened, according to the words of the Gospel, even the elect would be led into error, were they not specially guided, amid such great confusion, by the immense mercy of God. Then our Rule and manner of life will be violently opposed by some, and terrible trials will come upon us. Those who are found faithful will receive the crown of life; but woe to those who, trusting solely in their Order, shall fall into tepidity, for they will not be able to support the temptations permitted for the proving of the elect.
Those who preserve their fervour and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth, will suffer injuries and persecutions as rebels and schismatics; for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits, will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men from the face of the earth. But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted, and will save all who trust in Him. And in order to be like their Head, these, the elect, will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life; choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing, and they will prefer to perish rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy. Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it, for in those days Our Lord Jesus Christ will send them not a true Pastor, but a destroyer.
Against Mortal Sin
My Brethren, let us above all things avoid mortal sin. Consider how foul and horrible a dead body appears, deprived of the spirit of life; and understand how much more foul and unclean is a soul without God, Who is its life, when it is plunged in mortal sin. If creatures have so much need of each other, how much more has the creature need of his Creator! Grace is further removed from sin than glory is from grace; for the distance is infinite between grace and sin, whereas death alone stands between grace in holy souls and glory. He, therefore, who sins mortally, withdraws from God and draws near to hell, between which and the sinner life only is interposed, and this is often extinguished by an unforeseen and instantaneous death. How many have we not seen retire to bed at night in perfect health, and the next day carried to their grave! Let us humbly beg of God to preserve holily in His grace those who are now refreshed with it, and mercifully to restore it to unhappy sinners. O most strong and loving God, how ready Thou art to pardon the penitent–how powerful and severe in punishing the obstinate!
Of the Love of our Enemies
Listen, my Brethren, to the message which the Most High sends you from heaven, by means of the least of His servants. Love all, both your neighbours and those from whom you suffer anything. The former are manifestly your friends, the latter are by no means your enemies. Those who love you, who serve you, who give you food and clothing, do good indeed to your bodies; but those who persecute you, who are angry with you, who injure you, do much more good to your souls. All men are therefore your friends, and no one is to be called an enemy; all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves. If therefore you desire to hate your enemies, begin by hating your body and your sensual appetite. If you wish to be avenged of your adversary, scourge your body, and bring it into subjection to the spirit. May God Who created you, and Christ Who redeemed you, be with you, and keep you from all adversity!
Those brothers to whom God has given the ability to labour, shall labour faithfully and devoutly; in such way that idleness, the enemy of the soul, being excluded, they may not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion; to which other temporal things should be subservient. As a reward, moreover, for their labour, they may receive for themselves and their brothers the necessaries of life, but not coin or money; and thus humbly as becomes servants of God and the followers of most holy poverty. The brothers shall appropriate nothing to themselves, neither a house nor a place nor anything; but as pilgrims and strangers in this world, in poverty and humility serving God, they shall go confidently seeking for alms. Nor need they be ashamed, for the Lord made Himself poor for us in this world.
(Rule of St. Francis)