By Denise Trull
"I AM THE HERALD OF THE GREAT KING" - St. Francis
Francis has been my friend forever, it seems. When I first met him, he kept whispering “Come and See” - until I did. He lured me into the Beauty and Wonder that is Christ with his talk of Lady Poverty, his Canticle of the Sun, his bursting joy and energy at simply being a son of God. He showed me the romance and poetry in prayer - that God is my ‘Beloved’, that it is okay to converse with Him through nature and receive His answers in flowers, trees, skies. That poets were allowed in the Kingdom of Heaven because God Himself was a poet. That it was okay to be exuberant and to break into song for the sheer joy of being loved by such a King.
Francis can be seen as the very stuff of fairy tales. That is why he is the special friend of writers, actors, and musicians. He speaks like them. He knows their hearts for his is quite the same. The language he draws them with - in his Pied Piper way - is splendid! Poverty is a Lady that must be served as a knight would serve. Poverty takes two sticks and turns them into a fiddle. There is still dancing and singing in God’s service, though there is no wine and pheasant on the table. There is laughter and ample room for eccentricity as long as it is given to the Good Lord for his service. But, most importantly, Francis models to them the virtue of physical and spiritual poverty, self emptying, perseverance in prayer, all those qualities that are not easy or appealing to poets, writers, actors, and musicians. Francis teaches by his very life how to sing through suffering.
A wonderful, little priest once told me that "A monk should own nothing but his harp". I think this must have been Francis's motto as well. That we should be nothing but grateful and full of praise for everything. And Francis was. It is a difficult thing to do sincerely. But he excelled at it. And he was no fair weather lover. No mere “bunny hugger” this one, though he is often portrayed as one.
At the end of his life he had the stigmata, he was nearly blind, he had painful and depleting tuberculosis, he was emaciated with fasting, he was utterly heartsick at the in-fighting he was already witnessing among the brothers of his order. And yet, still he played his "harp" with pierced hands, praising and grateful to the end. This is the greater lesson. The romance of suffering - the song of a heart broken open. The beautiful union it brings between our souls and the Most High King.
I can't help but think that there MUST be in addition to the martyrs, virgins, Holy Doctors, Apostles, and Prophets in Heaven....a group simply known as the Troubadours, with Francis at the head, dancing as David danced in abandon before the Ark, with the sound of their harps giving joy to the Most High King.
I would like to be among their number.