Pope Gregory I.

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Little Flowers of St Benet

A Companion Volume to " Little Flowers of St Benet."

ASSISI. With 8 Illustrations by Paul Woodroffe.
Crown 8vo. 6s. net.
Also to be had bound in vellum and in French morocco.

Edition de Luxe of Thomas a Kempis.

THE IMITATION OF CHRIST. With a Frontispiece to
each Book, and Title-page, by Laurence Housman. All the
Illustrations engraved upon wood by Clemence Housman.

Printed at the Chiswick Press, on Arnold & Foster's hand-
made paper, and bound in vellum. Narrow Demy Svo.
15s. net.

Edition de Luxe of St Augustine.

to X. With Four Illustrations by Paul Woodroffe, and a
Title-page by Laurence Housman, all engraved upon wood
by Clemence Housman.

Printed at the Chiswick Press, on Arnold & Foster's hand-
made paper, and bound in vellum. Narrow Demy Svo.
15s. net.













Introduction .... 3
I. How Benet made a broken sieve whole

and sound .... 5
II. How he overcame a great temptation

of the Flesh . .11

III. How Benet, by the sign of the Cross,

brake a drinking-glass in pieces . 15

IV. How Benet reformed a monk that

would not stay at his prayers . 25

V. Of a fountain that sprang forth on the
top of a mountain, by the prayers of
the man of God .28

VI. How the iron head of a bill from the
bottom of the water returned to the
handle again . . -31

VII. How Maurus walked upon the water . 33

VIII, How a loaf was poisoned, and carried

far off by a crow 3^

IX. How venerable Benet, by his prayer,

removed a huge stone . 45

X. Of the fantastical fire which burned

the kitchen . , , -47




XL How venerable Benet revived a boy
crushed to death with the ruin of a
wall . . -49

XII. How, by revelation, venerable Benet
knew that his monks had eaten out
of the monastery . . • 5^

XIII. Of the brother of Valentinian the monk,
whom the man of God blamed for
eating on his journey . . 53

XIV. How the dissimulation of King Totila
was discovered and found out by
Venerable Benet . . 56

XV. How Venerable Benet prophesied to
King Totila, and also to the Bishop
of Canosa, such things as were after-
wards to fall out . . -59

XVI. Of a certain clergyman, whom Vener-
able Benet for a time delivered from
a devil . . . .62

XVII. How the man of God, Benet, did
foretell the suppression of one of his
own Abbeys . . .68

XVIII. How blessed Benet knew the hiding

away of a flagon of wine . . 70

XIX. How the man of God knew that one
of his monks had received certain
handkerchiefs ^ . . -72


XX. How holy Benet knew the proud

thought of one of his monks . 74

XXI. Of two hundred bushels of meal found

before the man of God's cell . 76

XXII. How, by vision, Venerable Benet dis-
posed the building of the Abbey of
Terracina . . . -79

XXIII. Of certain nuns absolved after their

death . . . -83

XXIV. Of a boy that, after his burial, was

cast out of his grave . . .88

XXV. How a Monk, forsaking the Abbey,

met with a dragon in the way 90

XXVI. How holy Benet cured a boy of the

leprosy . . . -92

XXVII. How Benet found money miraculously

to relieve a poor man . 93

XXVIII. How a cruet of glass was thrown upon

the stones, and not broken . 95

XXIX. How an empty barrel was filled with

oil . -97

XXX. How Benet delivered a Monk from

a devil . . . -99

XXXI. Of a country fellow, that, with the
only sight of the man of God was
loosed from his bonds .102



XXXII. How by prayer Venerable Benet

raised up a dead child . . io6

XXXIII, Of a miracle wrought by his Sister

Scholastica .... 109

XXXIV. How Benet saw the soul of his Sister

ascend into Heaven . . • "3

XXXV. How he saw the whole world repre-
sented before his eyes ; and also the
soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua,
ascending to Heaven . .114

XXXVI. How holy Benet wrote a rule for his

monks . . .119

XXXVII. How Venerable Benet did prophesy

to his monks the time of his own
death .... 120

XXXVIII. How a mad woman was cured in his

cave ..... 123

List of Illustrations


How St Benet passed away in his oratory Frontispiece

How St Benet made a broken sieve whole f^"ng 6

How Brother Maurus walked on the water and

saved Brother Placidus . . . ,, 34

St Benet commands the crow to carry away the

poisoned loaf . . . • ?> 38

How St Benet quenched the fantastical fire . ,,48

How St Benet discovered the deception of King

Totila . . . . . ,, 56

How the devil disguised as a physician met St

Benet . . . . . ,, 100

How St Benet discoursed for the last time with

St Scholastica . . . . ,, no

Publisher's Note

St Benedict was born at Nursia, near Spoleto, in 480,
and died on March 21, 543. His biography, as here
printed, is taken from the second of the four books of
"The Dialogues of S. Gregorie, sumamed the Great,
Pope of Rome, and the first of that name. Translated
into our English tongue, by P. W. Printed at Paris,
1608." The translator, P. W., has not been identified,
though his version was twice reprinted during the last
century. The present text follows that of the 1608
Edition, with which it has been collated, except in its
spelling and the correction of one or two misprints.

Little Flowers of St Benet


There was a man of venerable life, blessed
by grace, and blessed in name — for he was
called Benedictus, or Benet — who, from
his younger years, carried always the mind
of an old man ; for his age was inferior to
his virtue. All vain pleasure he contemned ;
and though he were in the world, and might
freely have enjoyed such commodities as it
yieldeth, yet did he nothing esteem it, nor
the vanities thereof. He was born in the
province of Nursia, of honourable parent-
age, and brought up at Rome in the study
of Humanity.

But, forasmuch as he saw many by
reason of such learning to fall to dis-
solute and lewd life, he drew back his
foot, which he had, as it were, now set


Little Flowers

forth into the world, lest entering too
far into acquaintance therewith, he like-
wise might have fallen into that danger-
ous and godless gulf. Wherefore, giving
over his books and forsaking his father's
house and wealth, with a resolute mind
only to serve God, he sought for some
place where he might attain to the de-
sire of his holy purpose : and in this
sort he departed, instructed with learned
ignorance, and furnished with unlearned
wisdom. All the notable things and acts
of his life I could not learn ; but those few
which I mind now to report, I had by the
relation of four of his disciples, to wit, of
Constantinus, a most rare and reverend
man, who was next abbot after him ; of
Valentinianus, who many years had the
charge of the Lateran Abbey ; of Simpli-
cius, who was the third General of his
Order; and lastly, of Honoratus, who is
now abbot of that monastery in which he
first began his holy life.

of St Benet

Chapter I

How he made a broken sieve whole
and sound

Benet, having now given over the school,
with a resolute mind to lead his life in the
wilderness, his nurse alone, which did ten-
derly love him, would not by any means
give him over. Coming, therefore, to a
place called Enside, and remaining there
in the Church of St Peter in the company
of other virtuous men, which for charity
lived in that place, it fell so out that his
nurse borrowed of the neighbours a sieve
to make clean wheat, which, being left
negligently upon the table, by chance it
was broken in two pieces ; whereupon she
fell pitifully aweeping, because she had
borrowed it. The devout and religious
youth Benet, seeing his nurse so lament-
ing, moved with compassion, took away

Little Flowers

with him both the pieces of the sieve,
and with tears fell to his prayers ; and
after he had done, rising up, he found it so
whole that the place could not be seen
where before it was broken ; and coming
straight to his nurse, and comforting her
with good words, he delivered her the
sieve safe and sound ; which miracle was
known to all the inhabitants thereabouts,
and so much admired that the townsmen,
for a perpetual memory, did hang it up at
the Church door, to the end that not only
men then living, but also their posterity,
might understand how greatly God's grace
did work with him upon his first renouncing
of the world. The sieve continued there
many years after, even to these very
troubles of the Lombards, where it did
hang over the Church door.

But Benet, desiring rather the miseries
of the world than the praises of men, rather
to be wearied with labour for God's sake
than to be exalted with transitory com-
mendation, fled privily from his nurse, and
went into a desert place, called Subiaco,

of St Benet

distant almost forty miles from Rome, in
which there was a fountain springing forth
cool and clear water, the abundance where-
of doth first in a broad place make a lake,
and afterwards, running forward, cometh
to be a river. As he was travelling to
this place, a certain monk, called Romanus,
met him, and demanded whither he went ;
and, understanding his purpose, he both
kept it close, furthered him what he might,
vested him with the habit of holy con-
versation, and, as he could, did minister
and serve him.

The man of God, Benet, coming to this
aforesaid place, lived there in a strait cave,
where he continued three years, unknown
to all men except to Romanus, who lived
not far off, under the rule of Abbot Adeo-
datus, and very virtuously did steal certain
hours, and likewise sometimes a loaf given
for his own provision, which he did carry
to Benet. And because from Romanus'
cell to that cave there was not any way,
by reason of an high rock which did hang
over it, Romanus, from the top thereof

8 Little Flowers

upon a long rope, did let down the loaf,
upon which also with a band he tied a little
bell, that by the ringing thereof the man of
God might know when he came with his
bread, and so be ready to take it ; but the
old enemy of mankind, envying at the
charity of the one and the refection of the
other, seeing a loaf upon a certain day let
down, threw a stone, and brake the bell ;
but yet, for all that, Romanus gave not
over to serve him by all the possible means
he could.

At length, when Almighty God was de-
termined to ease Romanus of his pains, and
to have Benet's life for an example known
to the world, that such a candle, set upon
a candlestick, might shine and give light
to the Church of God, our Lord vouchsafed
to appear unto a certain priest dwelling a
good way off, who had made ready his
dinner for Easter Day, and spake thus unto
him : " Thou hast provided good cheer for
" thyself, and My servant in such a place is
" afflicted with hunger ; " who, hearing this,
forthwith rose up, and upon Easter Day

of St Benet

itself, with such meat as he had prepared,
went to the place, where he sought for the
man of God amongst the steep hills, the
low valleys, and hollow pits, and at length
found him in his cave, where, after they
had prayed together, and sitting down, had
given God thanks, and had much spiritual
talk, then the priest said unto him : " Rise
" up, brother, and let us dine, because to-day
" is the feast of Easter." To whom the man
of God answered, and said : " I know that
" it is Easter with me, and a great feast,
" having found so much favour at God's
" hands as this day to enjoy your company "
(for by reason of his long absence from men,
he knew not that it was the great solem-
nity of Easter) ; but the reverend priest
again did assure him, saying : " Verily, to-
" day is the feast of our Lord's Resurrec-
" tion ; and therefore meet it is not that
" you should keep abstinence ; and besides,
" I am sent to that end that we might eat
" together of such provisions as God's good-
" ness hath sent us." Whereupon they said
grace and fell to their meat ; and after they

10 Little Flowers

had dined, and bestowed some time in
talking, the priest returned to his Church.
About the same time, likewise, certain
shepherds found him in that same cave :
and at the first, when they espied him
through the bushes, and saw his apparel
made of skins, they verily thought that it
had been some beast : but after they were
acquainted with the servant of God, many
of them were, by his means, converted from
their beastly life to grace, piety, and devo-
tion. And thus his name in the country
thereabout became famous, and many, after
this, went to visit him, and for corporal
meat, which they brought him, they carried
away spiritual food for their souls.

of St Benet U

Chapter 11

How he overcame a great Temptation
of the Flesh

Upon a certain day, being alone, the
tempter was at hand : for a little black
bird, commonly called a merle, or an
ousel, began to fly about his face, and
that so near as the holy man, if he would,
might have taken it with his hand : but
after he had blessed himself with the sign
of the cross the bird flew away : and forth-
with the holy man was assaulted with such
a terrible temptation of the flesh as he
never felt the like in all his life.

A certain woman there was, which some
time he had seen, the memory of which
the wicked spirit put into his mind, and by
the representation of her did so mightily
inflame with concupiscence the soul of
God's servant, which did so increase, that

12 Little Flowers

almost overcome with pleasure he was of
mind to have forsaken the wilderness. But,
suddenly assisted with God's grace, he came
to himself; and seeing many thick briers
and nettle-bushes to grow hard by, off he
cast his apparel, and threw himself into the
midst of them, and there wallowed so long,
that when he rose up all his flesh was piti-
fully torn : and so by the wounds of his body
he cured the wound of his soul, in that he
turned pleasure into pain, and by the out-
ward burning of extreme smart, quenched
that fire which, being nourished before with
the fuel of carnal cogitations, did inwardly
burn in his soul : and by this means he
overcame the sin because he made a change
of the fire. From which time forward, as
himself did afterward report unto his dis-
ciples, he found all temptation of pleasure
so subdued, that he never felt any such

Many after this began to abandon the
world, and to become his scholars. For
being now freed from the malady of temp-
tation, worthily and with great reason is

of St Benet J 3

he made a master of virtue : for which
cause, in Exodus, commandment is given
by Moses, that the Levites from five-and-
twenty years and upward should serve,
but after they came to fifty that they
should be ordained keepers of the holy

Peter. — Somewhat I understand of all
this testimony alleged : but yet I beseech
you to tell me the meaning thereof more

Gregory. — It is plain, Peter, that in
youth the temptation of the flesh is hot :
but after fifty years the heat of the body
waxeth cold, and the souls of faithful
people become holy vessels. Wherefore
necessary it is that God's elect servants,
whilst they are yet in the heat of temp-
tation, should live in obedience, serve, and
be wearied with labour and pains. But
when, by reason of age, the heat of temp-
tation is past, they become keepers of holy
vessels ; because they then are made the
doctors of men's souls.

Peter. — I cannot deny but that your


Little Flowers

words have given me full satisfaction :
wherefore, seeing you have now explained
the meaning of the former text alleged,
prosecute, I pray, as you have begun, the
rest of the holy man's life.

of St Benet 15

Qiapter III

How Benett by the sign of the holy-
Cross^ brake a drinking-glass in

Gregory, — When this great temptation
was thus overcome, the man of God, like
unto a piece of ground well tilled and
weeded, of the seed of virtue brought forth
plentiful store of fruit : and by reason of
the great report of his wonderful holy life,
his name became very famous. Not far
from the place where he remained there
was a monastery, the Abbot whereof was
dead : whereupon the whole Convent came
unto the venerable man, Benet, entreating
him very earnestly that he would vouch-
safe to take upon him the charge and
government of their Abbey : long time he
denied them, saying that their manners

16 Little Flowers

were diverse from his, and therefore that
they should never agree together; yet at
length, overcome with their entreaty, he
gave his consent. Having now taken upon
him the charge of the Abbey, he took
order that regular life should be observed,
so that none of them could, as before they
used, through unlawful acts decline from
the path of holy conversation, either on
the one side or on the other : which the
monks perceiving, they fell into a great
rage, accusing themselves that ever they
desired him to be their abbot, seeing their
crooked conditions could not endure his
virtuous kind of government: and there-
fore when they saw that under him they
could not live in unlawful sort, and were
loath to leave their former conversation,
and found it hard to be enforced with old
minds to meditate and think upon new
things, and because the life of virtuous
men is always grievous to those that be
of wicked conditions, some of them began
to devise how they might rid him out of
the way : and therefore, taking counsel

of St Benct \7

together, they agreed to poison his wine :
which being done, and the glass wherein
that wine was, according to the custom,
offered to the Abbot to bless, he, putting
forth his hand, made the sign of the cross,
and straightway the glass, that was holden
far off, brake in pieces, as though the sign
of the cross had been a stone thrown
against it : upon which accident the man
of God by-and-by perceived that the glass
had in it the drink of death, which could
not endure the sign of life : and therefore
rising up, with a mild countenance and
quiet mind he called the monks together,
and spake thus unto them : " Almighty
" God have mercy upon you, and forgive
"you: why have you used me in this
" manner ? Did not I tell you beforehand,
"that our manner of living could never
" agree together ? Go your ways, and seek
" ye out some other Father suitable to your
" own conditions, for I intend not now to
" stay any longer amongst you."

When he had thus discharged himself,
he returned back to the wilderness which

18 Little Flowers

he so much loved, and dwelt alone with
himself, in the sight of his Creator, Who
beholdeth the hearts of all men.

Peter. — I understand not very well
what you mean, when you say that he
dwelt with himself.

Gregory. — If the holy man had longer,
contrary to his own mind, continued his
government over those monks, who had all
conspired against him, and were far unlike
to him in life and conversation, perhaps he
should have diminished his own devotion,
and somewhat withdrawn the eyes of his
soul from the light of contemplation ; and
being weary daily with correcting of their
faults, he should have had the less care of
himself, and so haply it might have fallen
out that he should both have lost himself,
and yet not found them : for so often as
by infectious motion we are carried too
far from ourselves, we remain the same
men that we were before, and yet be not
with ourselves as we were before : because
we are wandering about other men's affairs,
little considering and looking into the

of St Benct 19

state of our own soul. For shall we say
that he was with himself, who went into a
far country, and after he had, as we read
in the Gospel,^ prodigally spent that por-
tion which he received of his father, was
glad to serve a citizen, to keep his hogs,
and would willingly have filled his hungry
belly with the husks which they did eat ?
who notwithstanding, afterward when he
thought with himself of those goods which
he had lost, it is written of him, that return-
ing into himself, he said : " How many hired
"men in my father's house do abound with
"bread ! " If, then, before he were with him-
self, from whence did he return home unto
himself? and therefore I said that this
venerable man did dwell with himself,
because, carrying himself circumspectly
and carefully in the sight of his Creator,
always considering his own actions, always
examining himself, never did he turn the
eyes of his soul from himself to behold
aught else whatsoever.

Peter. — Why, then, is it written of the

1 St Luke XV.

20 Little Flowers

Apostle, St Peter, after he was by the
Angel delivered out of prison, that return-
ing to himself, he said : " Now I know
" verily, that our Lord has sent His Angel,
"and hath delivered me from the hands
"of Herod, and from all the expectation
" of the people of the Jews ? " ^

Gregory. — We are two manner of ways,
Peter, carried out of ourselves : for either we
fall under ourselves by sinful cogitation, or
else we are, by the grace of contemplation,
lifted above ourselves : for he that kept
hogs, through wandering of his mind and
unclean thoughts fell under himself: but he
whom the Angel delivered out of prison,
being also rapt by the Angel into an
ecstasy, was in truth out of himself, but yet
above himself. Both of them, therefore,
did return unto themselves ; the one when
he recollected himself, and forsook his lewd
kind of life ; and the other from the top of
contemplation to have that usual judgment
and understanding which before he had :
wherefore venerable Benet in that soli-

^ Acts xii.

of St Bcnet 2J

tary wilderness dwelt with himself, because
he kept himself, and retired his cogitations
within the closet of his own soul : for
when the greatness of contemplation rapt
him up aloft, out of all question he did
then leave himself under himself.

Peter. — Your discourse doth very well
content me, yet I beseech you to answer
me this question ; whether he could in
conscience give over those monks, whose
government he had now taken upon him ?

Gregory. — In mine opinion, Peter, evil
men may with good conscience be toler-
ated in that community where there be
some good that may be holpen, and reap
commodity. But where there be none good
at all, that may receive spiritual profit,
oftentimes all labour is lost that is bestowed
in bringing of such to good order, especi-
ally if other occasions be offered of doing
God presently better service elsewhere : for
whose good, then, should the holy man
have expected, seeing them all to persecute
him with one consent ? and (that which is
not to be passed over with silence) those

22 Little Flowers

that be perfect carry always this mind, that
when they perceive their labour to be fruit-
less in one place, to remove straight to
another, where more good may be done.
And for this cause, that notable preacher
of the world, who was desirous to be dis-
solved, and to be with Christ, unto whom
" to live is Christ ; and to die is gain," ^ and
who not only desired himself to suffer per-
secution, but did also animate and en-
courage others to suffer the same, yet being
himself in persecution at Damascus, got a
rope and a basket to pass over the wall,
and was privily let down. What then ?
shall we say that Paul was afraid of death,
whenas himself said that he desired it for
Christ's sake ? No so : but when he per-
ceived that in that place little good was to
be done by great labour, he reserved him-
self to further labour, where more fruit
and better success might be expected : and
therefore the valiant soldier of Christ would
not be kept within walls, but sought for a
larger field where he might more freely

^ Philipp. i. 21.

of St Benet 23

labour for his Master. And so, in like
manner, you shall quickly perceive, if you
mark well, that venerable Benet forsook
not so many in one place, that were un-
willing to be taught, as he did in sundry
other places raise up from the death of
soul many more that were willing to be

Peter. — It is so as you say, and plain
reason teacheth it, and the example of St
Paul doth confirm it. But I beseech you
to return unto your former purpose, and to
prosecute the life of the holy man.

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