On the feast of St. Francis…
One legend about St. Francis that is worth retelling is a conversation he had with Brother Rufino, one of Francis's companions.
Brother Rufino had visions of a demon disguised as Christ who was tormenting him with thoughts that he was damned:
"Oh Brother Rufino, why do you afflict yourself with penance and prayer, since you are not among those predestined to eternal life? Believe me, because I know whom I have chosen and predestined....you are certainly among the number of the damned."
These temptations caused Brother Rufino to lose faith and to isolate himself from others, especially Francis.
But the Holy Spirit told Francis about Rufino's temptations, so Francis summoned his companion and confronted him saying:
"But the next time the demon tells you, 'You are damned,' you tell him: 'Open your mouth and I'll shit in it.' This will be a sign for you that he is the devil and not Christ, that once you give this reply, he will flee immediately.
"You still should have recognized that he was the devil because by this he hardened your heart to all good: that is his special work. But the blessed Christ never hardens the heart of a faithful person; in fact, He softens it, as He says through the mouth of the prophet: 'I will take away your hearts of stone.'"
I have three takeaways from this legend:
1. Hope and trust in God's goodness, even about our own salvation or the salvation of a loved one, isn't presumption, but is precisely what God desires of us. It is the devil who wants us to doubt God's goodness.
2. In spiritual discernment, the Good Spirit always softens our hearts. In my experience, when the Lord is asks me to do something, His request is accompanied with a new desire, a change of heart, for me to follow through.
3. It is truly a tragedy that St. Francis isn't widely remembered as the saint who told the devil to eat shit.
The story is from the "The Little Flowers of Saint Francis," a compilation of stories and legends about Francis put together shortly after his death.
Image credit: Wikipedia commons, this is the oldest surviving depiction of St. Francis, painted within a few years of his death.