St Francis once was living at the Convent of the Portiuncula, with Brother Masseo of Marignano, a man of great sanctity and great discernment, who held frequent converse with God; for which reason St Francis loved him much. One day, as St Francis was returning from the forest, where he had been in prayer, the said Brother Masseo, wishing to test the humility of the saint, went forth to meet him exclaiming: “Why after thee? Why after thee?” To which St Francis made answer: “What is this? What meanest thou?” Brother Masseo answered: “I mean, why is it that all the world goeth after thee; why do all men wish to see thee, to hear thee, and to obey thy word? For thou art neither comely nor learned, nor art thou of noble birth. How is it, then, that all the world goeth after thee?”
St Francis, hearing these words, rejoiced greatly in spirit, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, remained for a long space with his mind rapt in God; then, coming to himself, he knelt down, returning thanks to God with great fervour of spirit, and addressing Brother Messeo, said to him:
“Wouldst thou know why all men come after me? Know that it is because the Lord, who is in heaven, who sees the evil and the good in all places – because, I say, his holy eyes have found among men no one more wicked, more imperfect, or a greater sinner than I am; and to accomplish the wonderful work which he intends to do, he has found no creature more vile than I am on earth; for which reason he has chosen me, to confound all strength, beauty, greatness, noble birth, and all the science of the world, that men may learn that every virtue and every good gift cometh from him, and not from any creature, that none may glory before him; but if any one glory, let him glory in the Lord, to whom belongeth all glory in eternity.”
Then Brother Masseo, at such a humble answer, given with so much fervour, was greatly impressed, and learned of a certainty that St Francis was well grounded in humility.
From “The Little Flowers of St. Francis,” Chapter X