Did The Little Flowers give the common man confidence regarding life beyond the grave?

The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi had several stories about the afterlife of some friars in the Franciscan order. One of the stories describes a devout friar named John Della Penna. He joined the Franciscan Order as a child, expecting to go to heaven at once. He did not go to heaven as soon as he joined the Order, but stayed on earth for 55 years. The story also said that he had the spirit of prophecy and worked many miracles while he was on earth.

After this period of time the legend said that an angel appeared to him and told him that he would die and go to heaven, but that he would first have to spend seven bad days on earth or one day in purgatory. He gave John the choice, and he chose the seven bad days on earth. For those seven days he was sick with various illnesses and was tempted by the devil. Then, he died and went to heaven. Even though John was much holier than the common man, he still had to either go to purgatory, which is described as a place of terrible fiery torment or an earthly equivalent. This would not have made the common man feel like he could go straight to heaven, because even one of the most devout people on earth could not do so without suffering in some way.

The book also said that a friar named Brother Pacifico saw his friend Brother Umile go straight to heaven when he died. Years later, he washed Brother Umile’s bones in wine. The other friars thought that this was a bad example, because Pacifico showed specific attention to the remains of one dead friar and did not do so to another. Pacifico told them about his vision, at which the other friars said it was okay. The friars obviously thought that a brother who went straight to heaven without going through the fiery purgatory or going to hell forever was unique, making that person special.

Another friar, James Della Massa was said to have knowledge equal to the bible. He had a vision of the entire Franciscan order as a tree, with roots of gold. In his vision, Christ gave St. Francis a chalice of the spirit of life for the friars in his order. Francis offered the chalice to his friars, most of whom rejected it. Those few who did shone like the sun, and those who rejected it became dark and deformed. Those who drank some of it and threw the rest away became partly dark and partly light. Those few who drank the contents of the chalice went to heaven, and the others were taken by demons to dark regions full of pain and anguish. James himself went to purgatory, but eventually went to heaven because of the prayers of a friar named Brother John. Brother John was so holy that sometimes when he when he said mass, souls went to heaven from purgatory.

For the common man, these stories would probably terrify him. If most of the friars, who were considered some of the most holy men, would go to hell or purgatory when they died, then the common man might very well consider it impossible to get to heaven unless through purgatory. Many of the friars also expressed fear of hell, which would make the common man reading this believe that he would have a high probability of going to hell, or at best a long time suffering in purgatory. The Little Flowers would not give the common confidence in his eternal destination, except that he would not make it to heaven, except with the possibility of making it after a long time of suffering in purgatory.

The bible does not make mention of purgatory as far as I can see, but only mentions two destinations: heaven and hell. The bible says in Genesis that the first man, Adam sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit, sin entered the world. Death also came through sin, and the world, which God created good and perfect, was filled with sin and death. God sent his son Jesus to save the world from their sins by dying on the cross. He became the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, and everyone who believes in him will be saved. Unlike the message of The Little Flowers, the Bible says that we are not saved by our works, but by the grace of God. Works are also important, but they are not what saves us.

This article from Living Waters Ministries about salvation according to the Bible: http://www.livingwaters.com/save-yourself-some-pain.


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