Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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Preface of a Franciscan, The


A FRANCISCAN friar was travelling on business of his order when he was overtaken by three brigands, who stole from him his ass, his saddle, and his doubloons. Moreover, they told him that if he informed any man of what they had done they would certainly come after him again and take his life; for they could only sell the ass and the saddle that were known to be his by representing that he had sold them to them, otherwise no one would have bought them.

               The friar told no man what had happened to him, for fear of losing his life; yet he knew that if he could only let his parishioners know what had occurred, they would soon retake for him all that he had lost.

               So he hit on the following expedient: next Sunday, as he was saying Mass, when he came to the place in the Preface where special additions commemorative of the particular festivals are inserted, after the enumeration of the praises of God, he added the words, 'Nevertheless, me, Thy poor servant, evil men have robbed of my ass and her saddle, and all my doubloons; but to no man have I declared the thing, save unto Thee only, Omnipotent Father, who knowest all things, and helpest the poor;' and then he went on, 'et ideò cum angelis et archangelis,' &c. [1]

               The parishioners were no sooner thus informed of what had occurred, than they went after the brigands and made them give up all they had taken. The next time, therefore, the father was out in the Campagna, the brigands came after him and said:

               'Now, we take your life; last time we let you off, saying we would spare you if you told no man what we had done; but you cannot keep your own counsel, so you must die like the rest.'

               But the good monk showed them that he had not spoken to man of the thing, but had only lamented his loss before God, which every man was free to do. And the brigands, when they heard that, could say nothing, and they let him go by uninjured, him and his beast.


Such stories are the result of a household familiarity with sacred matters, and are told with genuine fun without the least infusion of irreverence. Just as out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaks, even so we make jokes on whatever subject we are most occupied with. Religious offices are so much a part of the daily life of the Catholic poor that it would be impossible to banish the language of them from their simple jokes. I have had numbers of such told me without the least expression that could be called scoffing in the teller; but I forbear to give more than the two or three in the text by way of specimens, lest the spirit of them should be misjudged.


[1] The merit of this story consists much in the mode of telling. The narrator should be able to imitate the peculiar tone to which the 'Preface' is sung, and to supply the corresponding notes for the additional insertion. It was very effectively done by the person who told it to me.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Preface of a Franciscan, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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