from "Francis, The Journey and the Dream"
by Murray Bodo
       There is a large plain in the center of Italy in the province of Umbria that breathes the peace of one man, a perfectly free and unfettered spirit who was born in the small town of Assisi in the year 1182. The world knows him as the saint and poet and little poor man, Francis of Assisi. Even today, as you walk through the Umbrian countryside, the peace of St. Francis seeps into your soul and you begin to believe again that perfect joy is possible even for modern man on the same terms that Francis won it. Francis won peace and joy through perfect detachment.  

       The free life was not, as some thought, a selfish life, for to be free was to be totally available. And in that availability and readiness to respond, Francis saw the redemptive power of freedom. Because he was unattached, he was ever open and alert to the call of the present moment. Like Jesus Himself, he had nowhere to lay his head. He had not ties, no strings attached to him to keep him from saying, "yes," when the call came summoning him to ride out in the service of his Lord.
     
Francis believed that his brothers should be at the disposal of all men. Anyone, no matter what his color or creed or station in life, could come to the brothers as to those who care and who are free enough to give their time and their love with cheerful hearts. That kind of freedom did not come easily, for him or for his brothers. To open your arms to the whole world, you must first have withdrawn your grasping hands from the whole world. Detachment was the knightly initiation to the free life of service and love.
     
And being a Knight-Errant meant that you had no fixed home, no neat and ordered life. You lived instead in constant readiness to move on. That is why the Lesser Brothers couldn't put down permanent roots and claim a place as their own. That would be to dishonor their Lady Poverty, who moved about from place to place and who never stayed in one spot too long. For when she did, the honor and respect she soon received transformed her into Lady Ease or even Lady Elegance.
 
       As he looked back now upon the years, he knew that each of the early brothers had tried to be a man for everybody, and each, in his own way, had been a faithful knight of Lady Poverty. Their very closeness to one another had helped immeasurably to keep their common dream alive. Huddled together on the cold rock floors of Greccio or Fonte Colombo, they took encouragement from one another and Francis had seen in all the hermitages heroic examples of men who asked nothing of life except the freedom to give unselfishly and courageously of themselves. Their joy was real and untainted by sham, and in countless ways they tried to make one another happy.
     
Their mission was simply to be what they were and to let the light of their own peace and mutual love radiate to all who saw them. After a while the brothers didn't have to ride forth for Lady Poverty; the light of their lives shone so brightly from the mountain tops that people came to them. They came by the hundreds, trudging up the steep, rocky paths to the clear air of the brothers' lives. And Francis encouraged the brothers night and day to treat everyone who came with the kindness and love they would want shown to them when they were on the road.
     
Even in his own brief life, however, he had seen the luster of this part of the dream wear off. Some of the brothers began to enjoy the dream for themselves alone. They forgot their Lord's warning not to hide their lights beneath a bushel basket. And when they did, the light eventually suffocated and died.
     
One day when Francis was pondering these matters, a little wild canary perched upon the stone ledge of his hermitage window. The bird began to sing and carry on with such enthusiasm and lack of regard for Francis' presence that Francis, entirely captivated by the little bird, forgot his worries for the brotherhood. The little performer was so enchanting that Francis completely forgot himself, and the time, and the fact that some of the brothers were waiting for him on the road below.
 
    When the delightful bird finally winged away without so much as a "good-bye," Francis knew that he had just witnessed what men should see and hear from a little brother. No matter who was listening, he should sing and praise his Lord with such captivating abandon that whoever saw and heard him would forget himself for one short length of a song. It was a good goal for anyone who wanted to remain little, even in his ambition to serve his Lord. And who knows? That momentary distraction, drawing a man out of himself, may be as much as any little singer can do. It was, after all, a brief glimpse of the freedom of Paradise, and it meant being as available as a bird on everybody's windowsill.  


F a n t a s t i c !
      
Music: As the Deer Panteth
This page last updated July, 2017