A Knighthood Perfected by Defeat

August 3, 2015

To Francis’s ardent nature, knighthood seemed the supreme goal of life. It would be the light that would lead him from the disconsolate shadows into which he had fallen. It would liberate and defend him from life’s seamy side—cruelties, brutalities, vulgarities, lies, deceptions, weaknesses, betrayals, miseries—all the dirtiness of life.

To make himself worthy of it, he would wander from country to country, travel over all roads, throw his heart on roaring bonfires, spill his blood to the very last drop. To the final measure of his heart and his blade, he would avenge infamies, redeem shames, subdue cowardice. “My soul to God, my life to the king, my heart to my lady, honor for me.” This was the knight’s motto. This had been his soul’s desire since childhood, since the days he had sat on the steps of the atrium of San Giorgio.

He would go up one day, with a great retinue, on the mountain of the Archangel” crowned with olive trees beside the Apulia sea. He would kneel at the foot of the altar in the diffused glow of lamps, and for him Gautier would repeat the formula of consecration: “In the name of God, of Saint George, and of Saint Michael, I make you knight. Be proud, courageous, faithful.”

So writes biographer, Arnaldo Fortini. But alas Francis did not return to Assisi riding on a white charger and dismount amidst cheers at the threshold of the cathedral. He returned defeated. A defeat that perfected his knightly desire and transformed it into a true service to the King of Kings.

The Three Companions tell the story of this miraculous event in these words:
“Now it happened that, after the start for Apulia, Francis felt unwell on arriving at Spoleto; and thinking with apprehension about the journey, he went to bed, but, half asleep, he heard a voice calling and asking him whither he was bound. He replied, telling of his plan. Then he, who had previously appeared to him in sleep, spoke these words:
‘”Who do you think can best reward you, the Master or the servant?’
” ‘The Master,’ answered Francis.
“‘ ‘Then why do you leave the Master for the servant, the rich Lord for the poor man?’ “

Suddenly, in a great flash that illuminated his soul, Francis understood who it was that had spoken to him. And in an instant much of the old Francis burned away: the turmoil of his ambitious dreams, his greed for marvelous victories, his mania for military glory, his need to be first, his day-dreaming about unknown roads and unexpected encounters.

Biographers say that the miracle of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus had been repeated, that a mortal soul had been caught up in an experience of the divine that sublimated worldly traits into an overwhelming desire to offer himself to God.

Francis of Assisi | https://www.amazon.com/Francis-Assisi-Arnaldo-Fortini/dp/0824500032


worshipping God



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