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His highest aim, foremost desire, and greatest proposal was          

to pay heed to the holy gospel in all things and through all things,

to follow the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ       

and to retrace His footsteps completely        

with all vigilance and all zeal,          

all the desire of his soul        

and all the fervor of his heart.           

Francis used to recall with regular meditation the words of Christ 

and recollect His deeds with most attentive perception.      

Indeed, so thoroughly did the humility of the Incarnation   

and the charity of the Passion           

occupy his memory   

that he scarcely wanted to think of anything else.   

We should note then, as matter worthy of memory and something

to be recalled with reverence, what he did, three years       

prior to his death, at the town of Greccio, on the birthday  

of our Lord Jesus Christ. There was a certain man in that  

area named John who had a good reputation but an even better     

manner of life. Blessed Francis loved him with special affection,  

since, despite being a noble in the land and very honored  

in human society, he had trampled the nobility of the flesh

under his feet and pursued instead the nobility of the spirit.           

As usual, blessed Francis had John summoned to him some          

fifteen days prior to the birthday of the Lord. “If you desire

to celebrate the coming feast of the Lord together        

at Greccio,” he said to him, “hurry before me and carefully           

make ready the things I tell you. For I wish to enact the     

memory of that babe who was born in Bethlehem: to see   

as much as is possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort    

of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how,        

with an ox and an ass standing by, he rested on hay.” Once the     

good and faithful man had heard Francis’s words, he ran quickly  

and prepared in that place all the things that the holy man  

had requested.


Finally, the day of joy has drawn near,        

the time of exultation has come.       

From many different places the brethren have been called.

As they could,

the men and women of that land with exultant hearts         

prepare candles and torches to light up that night    

whose shining star has enlightened every day and year.      

Finally, the holy man of God comes 

and, finding all things prepared,       

he saw them and was glad.   

Indeed, the manger is prepared,        

the hay is carried in,  

and the ox and the ass are led to the spot.    

There simplicity is given a place of honor,  

poverty is exalted,     

humility is commended,       

and out of Greccio is made a new Bethlehem.         

The night is lit up like day,   

delighting both man and beast.         

The people arrive, ecstatic at this new mystery of new joy.

The forest amplifies the cries

and the boulders echo back the joyful crowd.         

The brothers sing, giving God due praise,    

and the whole night abounds with jubilation.          

The holy man of God stands before the manger,     

filled with heartfelt sighs,     

contrite in his piety,   

and overcome with wondrous joy.

Over the manger the solemnities of the Mass are celebrated          

and the priest enjoys a new consolation.      

The holy man of God is dressed in the vestments of the Levites,   

since he was a Levite, and with full voice sings the holy    

Here is his voice: a powerful voice, a pleasant

voice, a clear voice, a musical voice, inviting all to the      

highest of gifts. Then he preaches to the people standing   

around him and pours forth sweet honey about the birth of

the poor King and the poor city of Bethlehem. Moreover,  

burning with excessive love, he often calls Christ the “babe          

from Bethlehem” whenever he means to call Him Jesus. Saying   

the word “Bethlehem” in the manner of a bleating sheep,   

he fills his whole mouth with sound but even more with sweet      

affection. He seems to lick his lips whenever he uses the   

expressions “Jesus” or “babe from Bethlehem,” tasting the

word on his happy palate and savoring the sweetness of the          

word. The gifts of the Almighty are multiplied there and   

a virtuous man sees a wondrous vision.†c For the man saw a

little child lying lifeless in the manger and he saw the        

holy man of God approach the child and waken him from a           

deep sleep. Nor is this vision unfitting, since in the hearts  

of many the child Jesus has been given over to oblivion.    

Now he is awakened and impressed on their loving memory          

by His own grace through His holy servant Francis. At length,      

the night’s solemnities draw to a close and everyone went 

home with joy.


The hay placed in the manger there was preserved afterwards       

so that, through it, the Lord might restore to health the       

pack animals and the other animals there, as He multiplied

his holy mercy. It came to pass in the surrounding area      

that many of the animals, suffering from various diseases, 

were freed from their illnesses when they ate some of this 

hay. What is more, women who had been suffering with long       

and hard labor had an easy delivery after they placed some

of this hay upon themselves. Finally, an entire group of people of both sexes          

obtained much-desired relief from an assortment of afflictions.     

At last, the site of the manger was consecrated as a temple

to the Lord. In honor of the most blessed father Francis,     

an altar was constructed over the manger, and a church was          


This was done

so that where animals once ate the fodder of the hay,         

there humans henceforth       

for healing of body and soul 

would eat the flesh    

of the immaculate and spotless lamb,           

our Lord Jesus Christ,

who gave Himself for us       

with supreme and indescribable love,          

who lives and rules with the Father and the Holy Spirit as God,    

eternally glorious forever and ever.  


Alleluia, Alleluia.


Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano 30 (