THE COMMANDS OF FRIENDSHIP

The Little Flowers of Saint Francis
Francis & Bernard Learn About Obedience

Francis was that most devout servant of the Crucified Christ. Through the rigor of his penance and because of his ongoing weeping, he had almost lost the sight from his eyes. Indeed, he was nearly blind. In order to speak with him about divine subjects, Francis went to visit Brother Bernard, his first companion. Upon his arrival, Francis found his friend in the woods and called out: “Come! Speak with me, a blind man!”

Because Brother Bernard was deep in prayer, he did not answer; his mind was suspended above the earth and raised up the heavens. But Bernard possessed a singular grace in speaking about God, Francis deeply desired to speak with him. So, after a period of patience, Francis called to Bernard a second time, then a third time. Once again, Bernard did not hear him, he did not answer. Therefore, Francis departed with disappointment. He fretted because Bernard had been called three times but did not respond.

Departing with these thoughts, Francis said to another brother: “Wait here for me.” Francis left for a solitary place, prostrated himself in prayer, and begged that God would explain why Bernard did not respond to his repeated calls. As Francis prayed, God said: “You poor and miserable little man! Why are you so troubled? Should a man leave God for a creature such as you? When you called him, Brother Bernard was communing with me. Therefore, he could not hear you and he was not able to speak with you.” Having received an answer from God, Francis returned to Brother Bernard solitary place with great grief and humility, determined to accuse himself of such negative thoughts about his devoted friend.

Seeing Francis coming toward him, Bernard eagerly approached and dropped to his knees. Francis begged him to rise, told him about his negative thoughts, explained about God’s response, and said these words: “By holy obedience, I command you to do as I say.” Fearing that Francis would command him to do something extreme, which was his habit; and hoping to escape from this obedience, Brother Bernard said: “I am ready to do what you command if you promise to do what I ask of you.” Francis readily agreed to this condition and said: “By holy obedience, I command you to punish my impatience and rash behavior. I will cast myself upon the ground; I command you to place one foot on my throat and another foot on my mouth. I then command you to rock back and forth three times and say: ‘Lie low, little man and miserable son of Pietro Bernadone! When it comes to the sin of pride, you are a most vile creature!'”

Hearing these commands, Brother Bernard complied as gently as possible. When Bernard completed his holy obedience, Francis said: “Command me now to do what you will command me to do.”  Bernard replied: “By holy obedience, I command you to correct my wrongs and scold me whenever we are together.” At these words, Francis marveled at Bernard’s holiness and humility even though his friend did not seem blameworthy in any way.

From this time onward, Francis took care not to spend much time with his old friend so that no words of correction would pass his lips toward someone of such great holiness. Whenever Francis wished to see Brother Bernard or whenever he heard him speak about God, he would depart quickly and quietly. So, it was then with only with words of charity, humility, and reverence that Francis spoke with Bernard, his beloved first companion. Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

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The Assisi Project
A Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit
Pilgrimage & Retreat Ministry

Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with members, friends, and followers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Our team of certified and experienced spiritual directors are available for days of prayer and retreats for your parish, fraternity, or organization. Recent offerings include:

  • The Joy & Power of the Rosary
  • Joy & Suffering with Padre Pio
  • Prayer & Healing with the Children of Fatima
  • Rebuilding the Church with Saint Francis
  • Mary, Mother of God & Mother of the Church
  • Living Scripture with Saint Francis & Saint Clare
  • The Little Flowers of Saint Francis & Pope Francis
  • Light & Darkness: Workshop on Spiritual Combat
  • Everyone’s Vocation to Everyday Holiness
  • Sharing the Wisdom of Time with Pope Francis

Since our founding, the Assisi Project has led thirteen pilgrimages (to Assisi, Fatima & Lourdes, and the Holy Land); twelve weekend or week-long parish retreats or missions; and dozens of days of prayer for adult disciples of all ages. For more information about how we can help you deepen your community’s life of prayer, please contact Cliff Garvey at cgarvey@assisiproject.com. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us! Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us! Our Lady of Angels, pray for us! May the Lord give you peace!

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About Us

Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with members, friends, and followers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. For more information about the Assisi Project and upcoming opportunities for faith formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at cgarvey@assisiproject.com. May the Lord give you peace!

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