how much easier to understand…

how profound it was for Francis to stop
in the land outside the safe-walls of his village
get off his high-horse
draw near
to a man
— to this man who was made to scream
‘unclean! i am unclean! stay away from me!’
bound to scream it as the only way to get a dime
or a bread-crust thrown at him as his daily bread —

how Francis not only drew near to this man with leprosy
(thought to be contagious in their time,
and a quick path to never, ever, being part of society again)

but Francis drew near
moved with compassion for the man
and bathed his nasty-smelling wounds
and loved this man
like no other —

not anywhere near like how he ‘loved’ the young women-prostitutes
Francis’ rich father had bought for Francis’ parties with his friends

not anywhere near like the ‘love’ Francis knew from anyone —
not even his chums, maybe not even including his parents

— how Francis came to know a love so great
that he stopped
got off his high-horse
never to get on another high-horse again

this sick man inspired in Francis such love
for Francis
to leave the safe-walls of high-society
to build a rock-house in the valley
with the lepers
where other healthy young men like himself
would soon join him
and a woman too — Clare! —
whose rich family would come to ‘claim’ her
and wrestle her back home
to be married off for wealth/power
but when they saw that Francis had cut off her long
beautiful hair
her family realized she no longer had value
in society’s eyes
and left her behind

the courage to leave the old ways
the inherited ways
and begin anew
through love…

and maybe you too?

(please know I’m not encouraging people to go out and hug people infected with COVID19! please stay home, sick or well…for the good of those we love who are at great risk! and to not overwhelm the health care system that will care for those of us who might get ill! though while at home, let’s do reflect on Francis’ and Clare’s bold, bold visions, and begin again…may our walls grow bigger, our arms especially too) — Brian Shircliff

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