Parables are word pictures. They tell a story with a moral point that is left to the reader to interpret. Parables are a way of teaching without preaching.
One winter day St. Francis was coming to St. Mary of the Angels from Perugia with Brother Leo, and the bitter cold made them suffer keenly. St. Francis called to Brother Leo, who was walking a bit ahead of him, and he said: “Brother Leo, even if the Friars Minor in every country give a great example of holiness and integrity and good edification, nevertheless write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that.”
And when he had walked on a bit, St. Francis called him again, saying: “Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor gives sight to the blind, heals the paralyzed, drives out devils, gives hearing back to the deaf, makes the lame walk, and restores speech to the dumb, and what is still more, brings back to life a man who has been dead four days, write that perfect joy is not in that.”
And going on a bit, St. Francis cried out again in a strong voice: “Brother Leo, if a Friar Minor knew all languages and all sciences and Scripture, if he also knew bow to prophesy and to reveal not only the future but also the secrets of the consciences and minds of others, write down and note carefully that perfect joy is not in that.”
And as they walked on, after a while St. Francis called again forcefully: ‘Brother Leo, Little Lamb of God, even if a Friar minor could speak with the voice of an angel, and knew the courses of the stars and the powers of herbs, and knew all about the treasures in the earth, and if he knew the qualities of birds and fishes, animals, humans, roots, trees, rocks, and waters, write down and note carefully that true joy is not in that.”
And going on a bit farther, St. Francis called again strongly: “Brother Leo, even if a Friar Minor could preach so well that he should convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that perfect joy is not there.”
Now when he had been talking this way for a distance of two miles, Brother Leo in great amazement asked him: “Father, I beg you in God’s name to tell me where perfect joy is.”
And St. Francis replied; “When we come to St. Mary of the Angels, soaked by the rain and frozen by the cold, all soiled with mud and suffering from hunger, and we ring at the gate of the Place and the brother porter comes and says angrily: ‘Who are you?’ And we say: ‘We are two of your brothers.’ And he contradicts us, saying: ‘You are not telling the truth. Rather you are two rascals who go around deceiving people and stealing what they give to the poor. Go away]’ And he does not open for us, but makes us stand outside in the snow and rain, cold and hungry, until night falls-then if we endure all those insults and cruel rebuffs patiently, without being troubled and without complaining, and if we reflect humbly and charitably that that porter really knows us and that God makes him speak against us, oh, Brother Leo, write that perfect joy is there!
‘And if we continue to knock, and the porter comes out in anger, and drives us away with curses and hard blows like bothersome scoundrels, saying; ‘Get away from here, you dirty thieves-go to the hospital! Who do you think you are? You certainly won’t eat or sleep here’--and if we bear it patiently and take the insults with joy and love in our hearts, Oh, Brother Leo, write that that is perfect joy!
And if later, suffering intensely from hunger and the painful cold, with night falling, we still knock and call, and crying loudly beg them to open for us and let us come in for the love of God, and he grows still more angry and says: ‘Those fellows are bold and shameless ruffians. I’ll give them what they deserve.’ And he comes out with a knotty club, and grasping us by the cowl throws us onto the ground, rolling us in the mud and snow, and beats us with that club so much that he covers our bodies with wounds—if we endure all those evils and insults and blows with joy and patience, reflecting that we must accept and bear the sufferings of the Blessed Christ patiently for love of Him, oh, Brother Leo, write: that is perfect joy!
‘And now hear the conclusion, Brother Leo. Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ. For we cannot glory in all those other marvelous gifts of God, as they are not ours but God’s, as the Apostle says: ‘What have you that you have not received?’ But we can glory in the cross of tribulations and afflictions, because that is ours, and so the Apostle says: ‘I will not glory save in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’”
To whom be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
from The Little Flowers of St Francis, The “Fioretti”
Once upon a time, not so long ago, there was a lowly PAO (Peace Advocate Organizer) who invited all of his peacemaking friends to a large gathering; for it happened that there was going to be a black-tie-dinner at the local Christian University, which also happened to be the host to four departments of officer military training for the entire region of 14 colleges and universities. The PAO thought that this would be a grand opportunity for peacemakers throughout the land to educate the ‘powers that be’ at this local Christian University about the teaching of war that was taking place on their campus. Quite possibly the extent of this teaching was unknown to them, as it had once been to the lowly PAO and many of his peacemaking friends.
For days the PAO worked hard gathering names and addresses of all his peacemaking friends, especially those concerned with the militarization of society and the education system … and the unending wars throughout the land. He sent invitations to all of his peacemaking friends, made up flyers, and talked to many people about the event so that the participants could develop a strategy for the peace advocacy gathering at the black-tie-dinner that he knew would be attended by many of the ‘powers that be’. The PAO knew in his heart that this was going to be the kind of event that could make a difference in whether or not war was going to continue to be taught at the local Christian University. The PAO asked everyone invited to respond with a yes or no by a few days before the dinner, knowing that sometimes invitations are laid aside or forgotten about unless a commitment is made, or not, to participate.
Alas, days went by and the peacemaking invitations, which had gone out to many in the PAO’s peacemaking community, were responded to by only a few … two said no and one said yes! The PAO was saddened but undaunted and once again sent out invitations pleading with the peacemaking people not to be ‘indifferent’ but to either say yes or no to the invitation. He even included some wise words from the famed Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel that said: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” And still not one more responded.
Soon the day before the black-tie-dinner arrived, and still no response. It looked like just the one who said yes and the PAO would be present at this important event. There was no need for further planning, for it appeared that the event was going to be ignored by the entire community of peacemakers whom the PAO had invited to help educate the ‘powers that be’ regarding the teaching of war that was taking place on their campus. The lowly PAO was very disheartened for he knew that the nature of this event was such that a large gathering of peacemaking people, giving voice to their dissent that the local Christian University was hosting 14 schools and institutions of higher learning to participate in teaching war on its campus, would not be something to be ignored.
So it came to pass that the day of the black-tie-dinner had arrived. Unbeknownst to the lowly PAO, the one who had said yes had been busy earlier in the week gathering names and phone numbers and commitments from other groups of peacemaking friends who weekly prove themselves on the front lines. The friend had also made some hasty contacts the morning of the black-tie-event with phone calls and literally went out on the streets to invite other peacemaking people. Despite the indifference of the peacemaking people originally invited, a motley though decent group of peacemakers showed up to help educate the ‘powers that be’ regarding the teaching of war that was taking place on their campus.
Now it happened that the security officers at the local Christian University were better prepared than the new-found and ill-prepared peacemakers, and they obediently followed their orders to keep the message, about the local Christian University being a military training center for 13 other schools and institutions of higher learning, away from the guests at the black-tie-dinner so as not to spoil their well-planned and expensive event with the dirty realities of not only teaching war on their campus but also hosting the teaching of war for 13 other schools and institutions of higher learning — some of which refused to allow the teaching of war on their very own campuses.
However, the peacemakers who showed up, many of whom were alumni of the very same local Christian University, stood on the street late in the day in almost freezing temperatures at the main entrance to the parking lot of the local Christian University and were able to communicate the message with their bold sign-holding and by handing out dozens of flyers. On this very day, although many had been called to witness at this event but, because of their indifference, had not responded to the call with a yes or a no, the message went out thanks to the diligence of the few who did respond to the call.
In this moment, the lowly PAO’s initial disappointment at the indifference of his peacemaking friends turned into joy when he saw the results of the action of his friend, the one who said yes. The joyful PAO then took his friend who had said yes to his house for the dinner that had been prepared for them. The dinner was modest, not as fancy as the dinner the black-tie-event guests enjoyed, and not with the valet parking as at the local military Christian University, but was thoroughly enjoyed with enthusiasm well into the night, with joyful conversation discussing the success of their venture.
Recently, as it came to be, the joyful PAO’s spiritual director had sent him another Elie Wiesel quote that now came to mind: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Peace be to one and all.
Joe Radoszewski and Bob Graf