It’s too easy to sugar coat any of the saints to make the medicine they offer us more palatable. Stories we’ve read in the Little Flowers tempt us to do the same to Saint Francis. Here’s a corrective from GKC. Happy Feast Day to all Franciscans!
I ask the reader to remember and realise what the story really looked like, when thus seen from the outside. Given a critic of rather coarse common sense, with no feeling about the incident except annoyance, and how would the story seem to stand?
A young fool or rascal is caught robbing his father and selling goods which he ought to guard; and the only explanation he will offer is that a loud voice from nowhere spoke in his ear and told him to mend the cracks and holes in a particular wall. He then declared himself naturally independent of all powers corresponding to the police or magistrates, and takes refuge with an amiable bishop who is forced to remonstrate with him and tell him he is wrong. He then proceeds to take off his clothes in public and practically throw them at his father; announcing at the same time that his father is not his father at all. He then runs about the town asking everybody he meets to give him fragments of buildings or building materials, apparently with reference to his old monomania about mending the wall.
It may be an excellent thing that cracks should be filled up, but preferably not by somebody who is himself cracked; and architectural restoration like other things is not best performed by builders who, as we should say, have a tile loose. Finally the wretched youth relapses into rags and squalor and practically crawls away into the gutter. That is the spectacle that Francis must have presented to a very large number of his neighbours and friends. How he lived at all must have seemed to them dubious; but presumably he already begged for bread as he had begged for building materials.
From “Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis, by G. K. Chesterton.
We return to the Little Flowers tomorrow.