Why do you love St. Francis? Kazant Zakis replies “because of two reasons: first of all he is one of the greatest pre-renaissance poets. Secondly by his look he did not steal the virginity of a flower even” Kazant Zakis ‘God’s Pauper’ is a fiction on St. Francis which is very much true to his spirit. GK Chesterton’s ‘St Francis of Assisi’ is an another book that grasped the overwhelming spirituality of Francis. He writes in it, “Francis was shipwrecked in God”. With this book Chesterton’s literary genius reaches to the core of St Francis’ vision.
These are the inspirations I found in St Francis:
When we walk away we are fulfilling our inner need for an exile. Walking makes you a bystander in your own body, thus making you an observer of your inner moves. It is a way of spying yourself. There is something in walking which dissolves our sexual desires. In walking it is body that is walked over. It is a means of abandoning too; you give away your love to the flowers and children you meet on the road.
Francis was a walker. He walked miles and miles. He knew that it was the best way to imitate Jesus; being on the road. Francis walked on the peripheries and reached God.
Lover of Ruins
No one watches the ruins except the sky; the only eternal cupola. Ruins remain when man leaves and retreats. The ruin is a sad act. Nothing is sadder than a forsaken God and a ruined temple. A dilapidated church shows our dilapidated destiny.
Francis was a builder of dilapidated churches. He might have heard Jalaluddin Rumi, the great Sufi poet singing from another time and another culture: “where there is a ruin there is a treasure”. Francis found God among ruins and he wanted to house him. But does God fit in to any church? Cathedral? Other than ruins?
Francis was a Catholic like Jesus was a Jew. He was not a Catholic like Jesus was not a Jew. Sometimes a non-Catholic is the best Catholic and obedience is the best rebellion.
You must be a either a fool or a seer. If you stand in between you will get only a half vision. A half vision is a dangerous or a doomed vision. Only a seer of Greek tragedy and fool of Shakespearean tragedy escape from the tragic; the seer and fool ascend from tragic by their access to a comprehensive vision.
Francis chose to be a fool.
Poetry is not some sort of literature but it is an intention. It is an intention to renew the world. We all carry the vestiges of a lost paradise but a poet alone names it. We stumble upon power and riches while a poet stumbles upon words.
Francis was a poet of a lost paradise. Poems are the best way to honor him. Reiner Maria Rilke did it well:
“For all things on earth knew him
And found their fruitfulness in him”
“And when he died quietly, as though unknown
he was dispersed: in brooks his seed ran
and sang among the trees to see him shine
upward from the flower’s open span”
“I always know what is truth. But I never lived it because it is damn hard!” says Al Pacino in one of his movies. It is the paradoxical nature of truth: we cannot live it by knowing. But we can know it by living. Heidegger had great visions of truth when he said, “Truth is to walk on peripheries” But he never lived it instead he became a supporter of Nazi regime and even betrayed his master Husserl to the hands of Nazis.
Francis walked on peripheries knowing the truth that he never occupied cities, cathedrals and center places but only fringes of society. He called his community, “minority”. It is the another characteristic of truth. Truth is always a minority. The moment it becomes a majority, it is no more truth. When thousands of people begin to shout a truth, it becomes a mere slogan. Truth always recedes to a whisper.
Francis was a minor.