Stories & Legends
Br. Ruffino and the False Apparitions
Unlike our days where we witness all kinds of charismatics, pentecostals and new-age phenomena, the Saints were always cautious about apparitions and visions, fearful that they could be preternatural spirits who wanted to disturb the peace of good souls or stir up doubts about Catholic doctrine.
Br. Ruffino, one of the noblest men of the city of Assisi, was a companion of St. Francis and a man of great sanctity. One day, however, he was violently tempted on the subject of predestination, so that he grew quite melancholy and sorrowful.
In this story from The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, composed at the end of the 14th century, we see how St. Francis of Assisi foiled the attempt of the Devil to convince Br. Ruffino that he was among the condemned and to turn him against the great Saint.
For the Devil put it into his heart that he was damned, and not of the number of those predestined to eternal life, making him believe that all he did in the Order was of no avail. And as this temptation increased, he lacked the courage to reveal it to St. Francis, although he never ceased to pray and to fast.
The enemy of his soul added sorrow to sorrow, not only fighting inwardly but likewise outwardly, taking various forms in order better to deceive him. One day he appeared to him under the form of a crucifix, and said to him: “O Br. Ruffino, why do you inflict on yourself a life of penance and prayer, since you are not of the number of those predestined to life eternal? Believe me, for I know the ones I have chosen and predestined. Believe not the son of Peter Bernardoni [St. Francis] if he tells you the contrary, do not take his advice in this matter. For neither he nor any man knows the truth but only I, who am the Son of God. Know for certain that you are among the number of the damned, and the son of Peter Bernardoni, your [spiritual] father, and his father likewise, are damned, and whoever follows them is damned also.”
On hearing these words, Br. Ruffino was so blinded by the spirit of darkness that he lost all the faith and love he had felt for St. Francis hitherto, and would not even communicate to him what was passing in his soul. But what Br. Ruffino did not reveal to his saintly Father was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, when the Saint learned to what dangers his son was exposed, he sent to him Br. Masseo. But Br. Ruffino refused to listen to him, saying: “What have I to do with Br. Francis?” And Br. Masseo, enlightened by the Spirit of God and knowing the deceits of the Devil, answered: “Br. Ruffino, you know that St. Francis may be compared to an angel of God, who has revealed the truth to many souls in the world, and through whom we have received the grace of God. Therefore, I will insist that you come with us to him, for I clearly see that you are deceived by the Devil.”
On hearing these words, Br. Ruffino arose and went to St. Francis. And the Saint, perceiving him at a distance, cried out: “O Br. Ruffino, foolish one, who is it that you have believed?”
Then, coming up to him, he related to him one by one all the temptations, both internal and external, to which he had been exposed, showing him clearly that the one who had appeared to him was the Devil and not Christ, and that he should by no means listen to his suggestions. Rather, if he appeared to him again and said to him “You are damned,” he was to say to him these words: “Open thy mouth!” By this sign he would clearly know that he was the Devil and not Christ; for no sooner should the words be uttered than he would immediately disappear.
“You should have known,” added the Saint, “with whom you were dealing when he hardened your heart against all that was good, for such is his special office. But Christ, the Blessed One, never hardens the heart of the faithful. On the contrary His office is to soften the heart of man, according to the words of the prophet: I will take away from thee the heart of stone, and will give thee a heart of flesh.
Then Br. Ruffino, seeing that St. Francis was acquainted with all his temptations in the order they had come to him, was deeply touched by his exhortations. Beginning to weep bitterly, he humbly confessed his guilt in concealing his trouble from him. He was greatly consoled and comforted by the admonitions of his saintly Father. St. Francis ended by saying: “My son, go to confession, and do not give up the practice of your accustomed prayers. Know with certainty that this temptation will be for you a source of great consolation and humility, as you will shortly see.”
Then Br. Ruffino returned to his cell in the woods. As he was praying and weeping bitterly the enemy approached, bearing in his exterior the semblance of Christ himself. He thus addressed him: “O Br. Ruffino, did I not tell you not to listen to the son of Peter Bernardoni, and not to weary yourself with prayer and fasting, inasmuch as you are damned? What is the use of inflicting on yourself privations in this world, seeing you have no hope of salvation after death?”
And immediately Br. Ruffino said, “Open thy mouth!” With this the Devil left him in so great rage and fury that all Monte Subasio, which was close by, was shaken to the very foundation, and large stones rolled down the sides, knocking against each other as they fell, and producing a great fire in all the valley. The noise they made was so terrible that St. Francis and all his companions went out to see what had taken place, and even to this day those large stones are to be seen lying in great confusion.
Then Br. Ruffino saw plainly that it was the Devil who had deceived him, and returning to St. Francis he threw himself at his feet, acknowledging his fault. St .Francis comforted him with kind words, and sent him back to his cell full of consolation.
As he was praying there most devoutly, Christ, the Blessed One, appeared to him, and filling his soul with the fire of divine love, He thus addressed him: “You did well, my son, to believe in St .Francis. For the one who made you so unhappy was the Devil. But I am Christ, your Master; and in order to prove to you that I am He, I promise you that you shall never again be troubled in this way.”
Having said these words, He departed, leaving the brother so happy, and enjoying such peace and sweetness of spirit, with his mind so raised above the things of this world, that for a whole day and night he was rapt in God. And from that moment he had no doubts as to his salvation, and became quite a new man. Most willingly would he have remained day and night in prayer and in the contemplation of divine things, had he been permitted to do so. Wherefore St. Francis said of him that he had been canonized during his lifetime by Christ, and that, save in his presence, he would not hesitate to call him St. Ruffino, even though he were still on earth.
From the The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi,
NY: Heritage Press, NY, Chap. XXIX
Posted on January 7, 2012
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