Now as they went along this way, Brother Masseo marvelled within himself, wherefore Saint Francis had made him do as do the children, before the worldly folk that passed that way: howbeit for reverence sake he dared say naught to the holy father.
As they drew nigh unto Sienna, the people of the city heard of the coming of the saint and hied them out to meet him ; and of their devotion bore him and his companion right to the bishop’s house, in such wise that they touched not the ground at all with their feet.
Now at that same hour certain folk of Sienna were at strife with one another, and already two of them lay dead. Saint Francis having won there preached to them in so devout and saintly a fashion, that he brought them one and all to peace and close unity and concord together. For the which cause the bishop of Sienna, hearing of the holy work that Saint Francis had wrought, bade him to his house and received him with high honour that day, and eke the night.
And the next morn Saint Francis, who with true humility sought naught in all his works save only the glory of God, rose up betimes with his companion, and without the bishop’s knowledge was away. Whereat the said Brother Masseo went by the way murmuring within himself.
The Angel of Mercy joins the other angels to explain why mercy is needed:
We see the world of men seizing and slaying,
Lusting for wealth, destroying and betraying,
With neither hope nor peace,
Save greed, between their darkness and decaying.
They come out of a darkness; they awaken
To the Blood’s storms, they tremble, they are shaken,
With neither hope nor peace,
They war in bloody blindness until taken. (pp 4-5)
Seizing and slaying – what changes? Greed is encouraged, consumption to keep the economy growing, so that we can earn more money and lust for more wealth. And whether it is people or the environment, we go on slaying or others do so in our name.
We need God’s mercy to live, and our sisters and brothers need us to live God’s mercy in hope and peace, whatever bloody blindness infects our society.
Star from the walls of Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury. MMB.
Blackthorn opens at the end of Winter, but never one flower alone, always a constellation of Hope.
… waiting, as at the end
of a hard winter
for one flower to open
on the mind’s tree of thorns.
I could not shake off yesterday’s image of a fleshly body, hanging on that tree. Waiting for a flower to open in my mind, I recalled this tree of thorns, the lynchings of black men in America: Strange Fruit:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
While the song was written in response to lynchings in America, we are more than aware that the sudden smell of burning flesh could appear on any breeze, anywhere in the world.
Bitter crops come from bitter seeds. Let us pray for the insight to see how to relieve whatever bitterness we encounter in our neighbours, and the courage to reach out to do so.
 Waiting SP p137