Friday, March 25, 2011


As I've noted I've been reading Fr. Murray Bodo's meditative biography of St. Francis of Assisi, Francis:  the journey and the dream.  A lovely book, and a powerful one.  Much of what I've read has moved me deeply.

Here, for instance, is a portion of the chapter titled, "Barefoot in the Dirt":
One of the hardest trials of poverty, that sometimes made Francis forget how glorious was the service of his Lady Poverty, was the inconvenience of the poor life.  To be poor was to be subject to countless little annoyances that the lords, or even the rich merchants like his father, could buy their way out of.

To be poor was to take the road on foot while the rich rode.  To be poor was to wait long hours in the shops while the rich went before you.  To be poor was to beg and eat what was placed before you, and that monotonously the same gruel, while the rich ate at tables ever varying their fare.  To be poor was to mingle with those who were petty, narrow-minded and whose conversation was dull and uninspired, while the rich chose companions with care and welcomed the educated, the artist, the entertainer.  To be poor was to live among those who had given up hope and whose lives were lived from moment to moment with no star to lead them on, while the rich still had ambition and the will to accomplish something in life. . . .

[It was] the sacred penetration of dirt when you wanted to be clean, of a cold stone slab when you wanted a warm bed, of sleeping alone when you wanted someone beside you, of the will of others when your own was wiser and more efficient, of routine when you longed for variety."
There is so much in there to reflect on.  How many of us could willingly accept such a life?  I was especially struck by the emphasis on the inconvenience of it -- how contrary that is to our modern preocupation, perhaps even obsession, with making all things ever-more convenient?  And the thought of choosing the companionship of the "dull and uninspired" -- how would that play in a religious tradition such as Unitarian Universalism which tends to draw more people with advanced degrees than any other (even while we affirm the principle of "the inherent worth and dignity of every person")?  And what about choosing to follow the will of someone else "when [my] own was wiser and more efficient" -- what might that do to our experiences in our work places or our homes?  What a commitment to peace.

Inconvenience.  As Modo puts it, "The earthiness of it all, the gritty, day-to-day reality of poverty was what would kill the Dream for many."  Perhaps we could muster the energy to mount a glorious campaign of some kind, but to willingly accept a life of mundane inconvenience? 

There is so much here to reflect on.  Lent might just be a good time to do so.

In Gassho,

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