BROTHER MASSEO AND THE FRIENDS OF GOD DRESSED IN WOOLdi Franco Cardini
We know that Francesco danced when he was filled with the Holy Spirit. As to his good disciple, Brother Masseo, Chapter XXXII of The Little Flowers tells How Brother Masseo obtained from Christ the virtue of humility. It says: “The first companions of St. Francis set themselves with all their might to follow holy poverty with regard to earthly things, and to acquire every other virtue, as the sure means of obtaining celestial and eternal riches.
It happened, therefore, that one day, as they were assembled together to speak of things divine, one of them related the following example: "There was a man, a great friend of God, to whom had been given the grace of a life contemplative as well as active. He was at the same time so humble, that he looked upon himself as a very great sinner; and his humility was to him a means of sanctification, and confirmed him in the grace of God; for it caused him to increase in virtue, and saved him from falling into sin."
And Brother Masseo, hearing such wonderful things of humility, and knowing it to be one of the greatest treasures of life eternal, was so inflamed with a love and desire of this virtue of humility, that he lifted his eyes to heaven with much fervour, and made a vow and firm resolution never again to rejoice until he should feel the said virtue to be firmly established in his soul.
From that moment he was constantly shut up in his cell, macerating his body with fasts and vigils and prayers, weeping before the Lord, and earnestly imploring him to grant him this virtue, without which he felt that he was only worthy of hell, and with which the friend of God of whom he had heard was so richly endowed.
Brother Masseo having passed several days in this state of mind, as he was entering the forest and asking the Lord, who willingly listens to the prayers of the humble, with cries and tears to grant him this divine virtue, he heard a voice from heaven, which called him twice: "Brother Masseo! Brother Masseo!" And he, knowing in his spirit that it was the voice of Christ, answered: "My Lord." Then Christ answered: "What wilt thou give in exchange for this virtue which thou askest for?" And Brother Masseo answered: "Lord, I will willingly give the eyes out of my head." Then Christ answered: "I grant thee the virtue, and command at the same time that thou keep thine eyes."
And having said these words, the voice was silent; and Brother Masseo was so filled with the grace of humility, that from thenceforward he was constantly rejoicing. And often when he was in prayer he was heard to utter a joyful sound, like the song of a bird, resembling "U-u-u", and his face bore a most holy and happy expression. With this he grew so humble that he esteemed himself less than all other men in the world.”
This is the story of the sufis, the Order of Mendicant Friars dressed in wool. And this is the “sufic story” of Francis and Masseo, “friends of God”. The italics are mine.
Professore ordinario di storia medievale presso l'Università di Firenze