Q. Who was the young boy that followed St. Francis into the woods and witnessed his interaction with Christ and the saints?
— Shawn Brikerd
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The young man in this story is an unnamed friar in Francis’ community, who witnesses him conversing with Jesus, Mary, John the Baptist and a host of angels. The man is overcome and faints. Francis carries him back to their dwelling and makes him promise not to reveal what he has seen, a promise the friar keeps until Francis’ death.
St. Francis died in 1226. Father Augustine Thompson, O.P., author of the 2013 biography “Francis of Assisi: The Life” cannot identify a source for the story, and says it does not appear in any of the biographies or legends of the saint written before 1310.
Father Thompson remarks that the image of a holy person communing with Christ and the saints is common in medieval literature. This is not to say the incident did not occur, but to suggest the possibility that one of Francis’ followers may have borrowed (and added) details to the acknowledged fact of Francis’ devout life to illustrate his intimacy with God.