"The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi," 1476
A certain young man having caught one day a great number of doves, as he
was to sell them he met St Francis, who always felt a great compassion for
such gentle animals; and, looking at the doves with eyes of pity, he said
to the young man: "O good man, I entreat thee to give me those harmless birds,
emblems in Scripture of humble, pure, and faithful souls, so that they may
not fall into cruel hands, which would put them to death."
And the young man, inspired by God, immediately gave them to St Francis,
who, placing them in his bosom, addressed them thus sweetly: "O my little
sisters the doves, so simple, so innocent, and so chaste, why did you allow
yourselves to be caught? I will save you from death, and make your nests,
that you may increase and multiply, according to the command of God."
Then St Francis made nests for them all, and they began to lay their eggs
and hatch them in presence of the brethren, and were as familiar and as tame
with St Francis and the friars as if they had been hens brought up amongst
them, nor did they ever go away until St Francis had given them his blessing.
Then said St Francis to the young man who had given them to him: "My son,
thou shalt become a friar in this Order; and shalt serve most fervently the
Lord Jesus Christ"; and so it came to pass, for the young man became a friar,
and lived in the Order in great holiness.