by Robert Stucky
Even as a child I was captivated by the stories of St. Francis’ love for nature, and his ability to talk with birds, wolves, cicadas- with all creatures. It seemed like an enviable but supernatural ability beyond my grasp- but I discovered how natural it can actually be. After all, most of us talk to our pets and never think anything about it- but talking to creatures in nature, and having them respond, seemed like another matter altogether. Turns out, I was wrong.
In our center in Assisi, there is a flock of white doves that regularly congregates on the terrace and roof of our meditation hall. Though there are ordinary pigeons all around Assisi, our center seems to have attracted only white doves. They personify the Holy Spirit of that place- like the pair that still nests in the hands of the statue of St. Francis by the rose garden at Santa Maria degli Angeli.
One morning after breakfast, as I descended to the terrace to open the hall for meditation, the flock of doves had gathered, cooing happily. Rather than simply walking on and startling them away, as I often did, I decided to try Francis’ approach- so I spoke to them gently (in Italian, of course). “Good morning! You all look so beautiful this morning! Are you here to join us for meditation?”
To my surprise, the entire flock, instead of flying off as usual, started walking to the top of the stairs leading to the meditation hall, making it imposible for me to enter without shooing them away. So I said, “Well, if you want to join us, you need to let me by so I can open the hall.” To my utter amazement and delight, they trotted over to the side to let me pass. I thanked them, and they then flew up to the roof over the hall and continued their happy cooing!
Simply trying to experience life through Francis' heart revealed to me a whole new level of appreciation for his inspiration in the Canticle of the Creatures! His intimate connection to all creation was not mere poetry, but his lived experience! It can be ours too!