Love the story of how St. Francis took shelter from a sudden storm in a little ramshackle fallen-down country chapel, as he was winding his way happily walking through the fields of Tuscany (I’m assuming Assisi is in that part of Italy), doubtless talking to the assembled birds and creepy crawlies in their own animal lingo.
While trying to keep as dry and warm as was feasible in the chapel, which didn’t have much more to offer in the way of shelter, sanctuary or succour than a few half broken down walls and some parts of the roof that hadn’t as yet collapsed entirely, St. Francis – a sincere, uncomplicated man – apropos of nothing all of a sudden heard the thunderous voice of God saying, “Rebuild my church.”
Francis, Bless him, returned to the hovel over the following days, brandishing carpenters’ tools, timber and nails, paints and what-have-you.
Because, after all, God had told him to rebuild the church. In life, even when we can actually hear His voice or feel vaguely confident we can correctly discern which way the cosmic winds might be blowing, all too often we fail to grasp the mind-blowing, perplexing intricacy and simplicity of even our very own life trajectory as perceived from His vantage point.
Unless one happens to have a head start, so to speak, and all acceptable and societal pretence, pride and petty posturing is but a distant memory and one has been shocked by life events into deploying that infamous Big Picture Thinking as second nature and a matter of fact, it’s generally beyond our limited human scope, at least for those ‘this side of the looking glass’ to perceive through that dusty glass darkly on just how many seemingly paradoxical levels this type of ultimate missive may well be playing out, provided of course we are still able to muster a listening ear to begin with, needless to say.
Little did Francis realise that as a simple, earnest man of the poor, he would one day be honoured around the world as the founder of an Order that, among many other things, sought to refocus the spiritual GPS towards the core tenets and determined to just start again by putting themselves last, live simply and modestly and just help the poor, the sick, the needy without counting the cost or for any other reason whatsoever than the desire to do the Lord’s Work.
‘Rebuild My Church,’ indeed.
Next time, I might expand a bit on this kind of arcane lore or incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo.
Let’s have some light relief to underscore the fact that the author remains merely a foible-filled follower of the Nazarene with only a few faded minor delusions of grandeur.
I never quite know how this key aspect of yours truly comes across, even to my close friends. Whenever I dare to ruffle the Zuckerbergian feathers by posting anything overtly Catholic/Christian no one ever touches it – not even with a barge pole.
And while this doesn’t greatly bother or surprise me, it’s nice to be in touch with my natural father’s family again, as I have noticed my Aunt once or twice liking or commenting on such ‘outlandish’ FB contributions.
More importantly, it was so soothing to chat to my Uncle and Aunt recently. I learnt lots of new things about my birth family that delighted, worried, astounded, engrossed, uplifted and inspired me.
And no matter what I tried to convey with my crisis-addled speech impediment on full display in the lunch time cafe – drawing the usual inane stares and cares – they both instantly and intuitively seemed to pick up what I meant – with nearly every single nuance intact. This in itself was such a welcome relief for me, moreover given the fact that for one reason or another I have only been able to catch up with them a few times since making landfall at Kingsford Smith in 2008.
For instance, a resigned knowing smile told me I was, after all, very much like my birth father in some of my more colourful Celtic ways.
I also shared how last year, just a few yards from where we were sitting sipping our coffees, I had knelt at the tomb of Australia’s first saint, having just read about a recent visitor and fellow PD pilgrim from the US who had indeed been cured thanks to Mary McKillop’s intercession.
However, I went on to explain that my prayer had not been to ask to be healed. Rather, completely subconsciously I had found myself asking for a purpose in life other than merely being enabled somehow to stick around just for the sake of it – with or without this sinister affliction – and most likely an epilogue characterised by slowly fading away in not so splendid isolation.
While I know deep in my heart and am now sadly starting to accept that I will live out my life alone, I do require a sustainable reason to keep wanting to do so.
Or, as I thought to myself the other day when my local barista told me in a wonderfully encouraging and concerned way – “Sie sollen stark bleiben, aber ich weiss das Sie stark sind.”
– Da kann man stark bleiben, aber fuer wen?
At the time, I tried to tell one or two kind friends about this experience, who said, ‘Well, whatever helps you can’t be a bad thing.’ This sentiment, while loving and caring, misses the point completely.
Last week, I had to dash back Blitzkrieg-style to my lodgings on the Mount. As I never know when my meds may all of a sudden stop working, I can get caught out and stopped in my tracks in a hundred different embarrassing ways.
I had already managed to order a coffee and a sausage roll from the kind staff in the cafe while literally not daring to stand still for a moment. Pacing up and down, reassuring them it was sort of completely normal in PD world, I tried to make it back to the flat without grinding to a halt, knowing also that before long the corner of the street would be humming with the Shore Grammar School mummies and daddies collecting their precious boys in their daily parade of shiny new Mercs, Audis, Beamers, Lexi ..
It wasn’t to be and I crashed on the bench in front of the Museum. Luckily, I was able to reach into my pocket and take my fail-safe Kinson just before my movements completely froze up.
But my anxiety only increased until I got a message from my Butterfly Princess saying she would be busy until early evening and then would probably be heading home having been offered a lift by a colleague as her own car was in the shop as our American friends say, with a new tyre being fitted.
For a moment no longer thinking about my own worries and desperate desire to head back up the Coast as soon as possible, I thought perhaps it would make sense to do one or two useful chores while in town and then at least offer to drive my lovely one home.
The very next moment, a wave of the deepest reassurance rolled over me. I looked up and saw a bleak and feeble sun on this chilly day suddenly growing intense and appear larger and larger as it peered at me through the thin branches of a small tree in front of the bench where I was sitting/treading water.
It’s always such a funny feeling just a split-second before you sense something significant is about to happen.
Still a bit frazzled, thinking about life and death, my Mother’s recent passing, my own dip in the Abyss still so raw and painful, I felt pleased at least it wouldn’t be such a hurried haphazard visit to the big smoke if I managed to hang on a bit longer.
The sun grew big and insistent again and somewhere deep within as well as outside of me, I heard or rather ‘felt with my ears’ ever so clearly:
“Make it last, make it worthwhile ..”
And well before the Larrikin in me could wax irreverent and bawdy:
“There is no need to worry, everything is taken care of ..”