We spent July in Assisi, the land of Saint Francis. It is remarkable how much influence that great soul still continues to exert some eight centuries after his death. There are the obvious signs—brown-robed monks and nuns, groups of pilgrims walking to his shrines, and tourist shops selling not only the usual array of T-shirts and coffee mugs, but also crosses and prayers. But his deeper, more lasting influence is on a subtle level.
The holy vibrations and blessings of this great saint are still alive. There is a softness in the people and gentleness in the land that is unique in all of Italy, perhaps the world. The great love that St. Francis had for God and for all His creation is still vibrant. Of all the western saints, St. Francis was perhaps the greatest example of ahimsa, non-violence.
Many stories of this great saint are celebrated in legend and art. Once St. Francis began a talk to a crowd that was rather indifferent. The sound of his voice and the magnetism of his love, however, drew birds. Soon thousands of his “feathered flock” were gathered around him. There is also a famous story of St. Francis taming a ferocious wolf in Gubbio, a town near Assisi. It was his great love that gave Francis his supernormal influence.
There is a story of a saint who was taking his daily bath in the Ganges. A man sitting on the bank observed a scorpion crawl out on a limb of an overhanging tree and fall into the river. The saint placed the scorpion safely back on shore. In return for this act, it stung him. The scene repeated itself a short time later, and again the saint was stung for his efforts. After it happened yet a third time, the observer couldn’t contain himself any longer.
“Why do you keep saving that ungrateful creature when all it does it sting you?” he asked the saint.
The saint replied, “Don’t blame the scorpion. It is his nature to sting. He can’t help himself.”
“But why do you keep saving him if you know you will be stung?” remonstrated the observer.
“Ah,” said the saint, “I can’t help myself either. You see, it is my nature to save him.”
Every day we all have choices, great and small. If we choose non-violence toward nature, our neighbors, and even toward our detractors, we will become more saintly, and the world will respond by becoming our friend. Patanjali says that when one becomes perfected in non-violence, the whole world becomes peaceful around him.
Yet, even if we don’t yet have the strength of magnetism to change the world, our actions and thoughts always exert their influence on our own life. And, life is much more joy-filled when we treat everyone and everything as our “brother sun and sister moon.”
In divine friendship,
Jyotish and Devi Novak