In those most sacred moments of meditation, wedged into one of the massive clefts of the mountain, Francis felt at the mercy of nature’s wildness. Would the rocks shift some day and squash him between the granite folds of Mount La Verna? Would he slide into a crevasse, never to be found again? Or would Christ’s care for him keep the mountain quiet and immobile in God’s own embrace? He did not know until one summer’s evening at La Verna.
He had been praying and suffering temptation all day long. At La Verna Satan seemed always at hand, ready to fill every void with his own suggestions and visions of the Dream. Sometimes it was terrible and the Dream became a nightmare. Then it would change and the Devil’s Dream would look more beautiful than Christ’s, and Francis could not tell the difference.
That particular evening the Devil’s Dream was especially beautiful. There was about it the halo of the sun setting over La Verna itself. In the dream there were great golden fields of grain and red hillsides of poppies and the brothers were running through the fields toward a little stream. Then suddenly the whole scene froze and the brothers stood still in midair. They panted for the life-giving stream, but they could not move. Then Satan himself began to walk across the field with a long scythe. The brothers began to back up, but behind them was the large flaming pit of hell itself. They could move backward but not forward.
Francis watched in horror as the Devil cut to pieces those who would not back up. Some from fear and panic backed into Hell itself. And when all were gone, Francis realized he was in the field himself, the last one facing Satan. The scythe was lifted and aimed at his face. Then Satan swung with all his might. Francis screamed; and whirling about, pressed his face and body into the stone face of La Verna, groping for something to cling to.
The sudden movement had caused him to lose his balance and he would have been dashed to bits on the rocks far below, had not Jesus saved him. The rock suddenly became soft as wax and Francis melted into it. Then there was a great calm and a warm gentle breeze. Francis lifted himself from the rock bed and saw the deep imprint of his body in the cold stone. Jesus had made a mold of La Verna from the fire of his temptation and spiritual trial, and he understood that the furnace one must pass through is hot enough to melt granite and yet in Christ one survives it. And never again did he fear the wildness of nature.