Monday, October 3, 2011
an extraordinary man
Today,the Church celebrates the life of one of the best known men to walk the planet.His appeal is extraordinary considering that he lived over 800 years ago and died in his forties.
I didn't really "get" Francis of Assisi until I saw what he wore and where he slept.Hanging in the lower church of the Basilica that bears his name in Assisi is his robe.If you can call it that.We were there in 2004, in June and it was stifling hot with a breeze nowhere to be felt.And there it hung, a patched burlap looking brown thing that one could see plainly would be scratchy,especially in the heat I was feeling.I had on a white, light, soft shirt that let the air flow and I shuddered to think what that patched,hole-ridden shirt must have felt like.
In Cortona, we hiked down to Le Celle,a hermitage,which was another place that Francis stayed in occasionally.Behind the church altar was his plain cell and in the corner his wooden slatted bed and the rock that was his pillow.
In the small bare church at Le Celle ,I knelt to pray.The hike to this place was long and tiring and my feet were screaming for mercy.We had gone downhill the whole way and I knew there was no way I could walk back up so I told my husband he would have to get a cab.He scowled at that demand as we spoke no Italian and he was envisioning a nightmare coming.As the quiet enveloped me, I heard this,"Walk back."Clear as a chapel bell was this request.The Shepherd had spoken and I nodded.As we left I told John that I would walk and he was surprised.We weren't a quarter of a mile up the road when a car stopped to gave us a ride.
I think of this when I contemplate the life of deprivation Francis chose.He owned nothing,gave every morsel of food away, lived out in the elements and tended the people who had once most repelled him,lepers.
In the silence of the Tuscan hills, Francis was given his tasks and he did what he was asked.This is why we fear quiet and neglect to pray.