Praise be to Thee my Lord, with all thy creatures.
Especially for Master Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him,
and Thee, Most High, he manifests.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
He opened his eyes. The sun stood straight above him. He was outstretched on the ground, face to the sky, and raised his hand to shade himself from the brilliant sun. He began to smile. A low chuckle made its merry way up from his belly to the back of his throat, until he found himself laughing with the deepest joy. He lifted himself onto his elbows, and winced as a shock of pain came from his side.
Ouch. That would be where they were kicking me.
He laughed again, which sent another stream of pain, and which, in turn, made him laugh all the more. He found the strength to stand, and inspected his wounds. His hands were badly scraped from the fall when they had thrown him into the ditch. He lifted his tunic and inspected his side. Bruises were forming where they had kicked him, and he winced as he touched them tenderly. The pain went deep, but to him it seemed these bruises were stained with a purple worthy of a prince, and he couldn’t help but smile.
I give up everything to follow you, strip naked before the bishop and my father, renounce all my worldly possessions, and this is how you reward me. Thank-you, King Jesus. I’m honoured. It’s perfect.
If the men who had tried to rob him had known whom they had chosen to rob, if they’d seen what had just taken place in the town square, they wouldn’t have bothered. They would have known just how much nothing he had. But they hadn’t seen what had happened, and they didn’t know the poor soul in the brown robe from Adam. He had simply been walking along the wrong road at the wrong time. They accosted him, demanded his possessions, and, when they realized he was penniless, they were sorely disappointed. Now Francis was simply sore. They had beaten him badly and thrown him in the gutter.
Francis rose slowly from the roadside, and stared into the distance of the path before him. It ascended and wound and fell and rose again through the hills of Umbria until it fell out of sight. He had nowhere in particular he had to go, but it was a good road, and the sun was shining, so he walked and limped and surveyed the world around him. All of it was new, and all of it seemed to know him. He lifted his face to the sun, and it seemed to come to him as a new friend, an elder brother. He felt the sharp gaze of a squirrel in her tree as if it were the look of a big sister, inspecting her new sibling. The trees rustled in the wind a gentle applause of welcome. Even the ground beneath his feet seemed alive with maternal affection.
He recalled the prison cells and secret places that had been like a womb to his soul, the darkness in which he had been formed. The night was over. The day had come. Light, in all its colours, shone brilliantly now upon his head, his heart, his soul. He lifted his hands, his palms scraped and scratched and tender, and he began to sing. In his newborn ears, he heard every chirrup and birdsong sing with him. He was, to his utter contentment, one voice in the choir as his prayer poured forth:
“My God, and my All!”