I never was a fan of Saint Francis. I dismissed him as a self-punishing, wimpy, ethereal saint who talked to birds and was best suited to stand in the small gardens of Italian grandmothers.
How little I knew.
I did recall one incident in his life that nagged at me. Before Francis’ conversion, he dreamed of becoming a knight. When war broke out between the towns of Assisi (his home) and Perugia, Francis in armor charged into the battle. His side lost and Francis was taken prisoner. So obviously, he wasn’t just standing on the sidelines.
Did the saint kill someone? In his zeal to become a knight, did he shed blood?
And so began my journey of discovery as I researched all I could find on the life of Saint Francis to write a novel I hope will take him down from the birdbath pedestal and stand once again on earth.
Nevertheless, as I write, there is a conflict. I get caught between conveying the earthly, determined and sometimes foolish aspects of the saint with the ‘sanctified’ image so many people love. I already know that some readers will think I’ve made up things he said and did; like the time he told a troubled brother being tormented by a demon telling him lies. Francis advised that the next time the demon appeared, he should say, ‘Open your mouth one more time and I will shit in it.’
A very different image of the saint, indeed.
The purpose of my writing is not to destroy anything but the pedestal. I want Francis to stand with the reader of the book, to bring sainthood, holiness and the light of the soul to be within easy reach for all who struggle to embrace it.