All the ‘Little Flowers’ that follow concern events in the last two years of Francis’s life. As this one opens, he is travelling from Mount Alvernia, where he had received the stigmata, back to Assisi, a weakened man. We first read of his encounters on the road, he had to travel in easy stages and might have been forgiven for keeping himself to himself; it did not happen.
Saint Francis went to Città di Castello; and behold, many of the citizens brought to him a woman, who had been possessed of a devil for a long time, and humbly besought him for her deliverance; because, with her dolorous howlings and cruel shrieks and dog-like barkings, she disturbed all the neighbourhood. Then Saint Francis, having first prayed and made over her the sign of the most holy Cross, commanded the demon to depart from her; and he straightway departed, leaving her sane in body and in mind.
And, when this miracle was noised abroad among the people, another woman with great faith brought to him her sick child, who was afflicted with a cruel sore, and besought him devoutly that he would be pleased to make the sign of the Cross upon him with his hands.
Then Saint Francis gave ear unto her prayer, and took the child and loosed the bandage from off his sore and blessed him, making the sign of the most holy Cross over the sore three times, and thereafter with his own hands he replaced the bandage, and gave him back to his mother; and, because it was evening, she forthwith laid him on the bed to sleep.
Thereafter, in the morning, she went to take her child from the bed, and found the bandage unloosed, and looked and saw that he was as perfectly whole as if he had never had any sickness at all; save only that, in the place where the sore had been, the flesh had grown over after the manner of a red rose; and that rather in testimony of the miracle than as a scar left by the sore; because the said rose, remaining during the whole of his lifetime, often moved him to devotion toward Saint Francis who had healed him.
In that city, then, Saint Francis sojourned for a month, at the prayer of the devout citizens, in the which time he wrought many other miracles.
Health was precarious in those days. We should be as grateful as these good people for safe drugs, sterile equipment and the unprecedented blessings of modern surgery and nursing care, never taking these gifts for granted.